ANTA, Kyrie Irving score big with new signature shoe

I’ve often looked at the game of basketball as art. The ebbs and flows are the brush strokes. The personalities running up and down the court personify the game’s soul. The court is the canvas, but the unpredictability is where the true beauty lies.

There are many outstanding mediums of art, but if you think of hooping as painting, then Kyrie Irving must be Picasso.

On a 94-foot hardwood the eight-time NBA All-Star is a magician, constantly making the impossible look possible in ways that walk the thin line between creativity and insanity.

Fans are amazed by his demigod-like ability to navigate traffic. Opposing coaches fear his resourcefulness with a leather ball, whether when by bouncing it in multiple patterns to leave adversaries in the dust or flipping it up in the air for acrobatic finishes. NBA players revere his abilities, with Kevin Durant once calling him “the most skilled to ever play the game.”

All that genius warrants a signature shoe to complement the fizz. Kyrie’s move to Anta has been received with plenty of excitement for their products’ quality, look, and detail. Their latest collaboration – the ANTA KAI I ‘Playoffs Pack’ – is no exception.

Members of Philippine sports media had the distinct privilege to give the new headline-grabbing shoe in the market a test run during a hot and feisty Thursday morning at the San Beda Gym. Walking even just five minutes without a shade to cover the sun could have left a burn, but the action within the four walls was even more intense.

Red Lions head coach Yuri Escueta and Ateneo Blue Eagles lieutenant Sandy Arespacochaga trained us by teaching drills which were designed after the fundamentals of Irving’s overall package. Thankfully, the long-time mentors were aware that we aren’t in shape quite like the student-athletes they drill every single day – let alone a future Hall of Famer – and made enough time for constant hydration breaks courtesy of Gatorade.

The training session started with a warm-up to get the juices flowing. The succeeding minutes involved working on lay-ups the way Irving would convert them against taller defenders: finishing with the hand opposite of the leg used to launch off the ground, reverse lay-up packages to elude shot-blockers, and deceleration maneuvers to use defenders’ momentum against them.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Kyrie-inspired session without ball-handling work. Escueta was kind enough to share the developmental procedures that help make San Beda’s guards the best in the collegiate game, specifically pound, in-and-out, and crossover dribbles.

Defensive drills focused on honing laterals in all directions: north, south, east, and west, plus some extra laterals to prepare for an aggressive attack in transition. At this point, the coaches were enjoying barking out orders at the media who for years have asked them tough questions.

One-on-one situations, a halfcourt contest of four against four, and a shooting competition made up the rest of the session. It was all-encompassing to test the durability and performance of the new KAIs, and the early returns look promising.

It doesn’t take long to break into the new shoe. The cushioning is comfortable. As someone who occasionally suffers post-basketball pain due to a Haglund’s Deformity on my left heel, I was surprised by the lack of affliction when I got home. I twisted my right ankle a few days later during my second-go with the ‘Playoffs Pack’, but was able to play the rest of the game and didn’t feel side effects the morning after.

The traction is good. The durability is superb. The style is substantial. Anta and Kyrie have nailed a home run together.

The ‘Playoffs Pack’ comes in two editions: white and navy, the fourth and fifth colorways of the KAI I series. In a press release the global shoe brand said that “Inspired by ANTA Chief Creative Officer and global basketball icon Kyrie Irving’s ethos, the latest ANTA KAI 1 iteration is rooted in a foundation of symbolism, with each element representing the lifestyle and process of everything from the physical to the mental to the spiritual, derived from Irving’s lineage and heritage.

Design Director Jared Subawon, Color Design Director Shaneika Warden, and Senior Graphic Designer Astin Davis worked with Irving to get him ready with new signature footwear for his Dallas Mavericks’ playoff run in 2024. The Mavericks have arguably their best team in the Luka Doncic era, and Irving’s addition is a major reason why. After defeating the Los Angeles Clippers in round one of the NBA Playoffs, Oklahoma City is Dallas’ next target in sight.

The different colors have representations: red is for strength, yellow is for speed, green is for focus, and purple is for agility.

The “Playoff White” has a Papyrus White upper. The accented lace loops are Neon Lotus Pink. Kai’s code accents throughout the shoe are in green grass. The ANTA and KAI logos on the tongue is metallic gold in honor of the Larry O’ Brien NBA championship trophy Irving and his Mavericks are gunning after. The top cap features iconic Native American-inspired weaving from “Artists on Court,” highlighting colors of secret green, deep sea blue, and green grass.

The “Playoff Navy” features a Deep Sea Blue Upper. Kai’s code accents throughout the shoe are neon lotus pink. The toe cap has a Neon Lotus Pink, grass green, and secret green.

The heel graphic, hieroglyphic alphabet, “master your craft” statement, and war marks, adding up to Irving’s jersey number of 11, is motivated by Irving’s desire to narrate a true tribal story, according to ANTA.

Every warrior needs his or her own Mjölnir.

Kyrie has his ‘Playoffs Pack’ that is now on sale for 7,995 pesos per pair (sizes 6.5 to 14).

Photos courtesy of Anta (Vyn Radovan)

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