It’s kind of remarkable that both Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving are playing in their third signature sneaker for the third straight time their teams are playing one another in the NBA Finals.
No longer the last basketball player to be added to Nike’s signature shoe roster (now that Paul George has a sneaker), Kyrie Irving’s third signature shoe has the lowest cut in his line so far. An exaggerated herringbone traction pattern creeps up the midsole all around the toe in what has come to be the defining performance feature of the line. A multi-textile upper is supported with Flywire cables and sits atop a single Zoom Air unit in the heel.
Irving has been faithfully wearing the Nike Kyrie 3 since its debut during the regular season. Priced at $120, this is Nike’s most affordable signature basketball sneaker. Kyrie Irving is building with young, developing basketball talent through exclusive colorways earned by coming through the Nike EYBL program. Combine that with the sheer number of Kyrie 3 colorways—both general release and Player Exclusive—and you have a sneaker line with too many variations to ever become boring.
On the other side, Curry had his 2016-17 NBA season sneaker, the Under Armour Curry Three, updated specifically for the post-season. This is the second year in a row that UA made a “.5” version of Steph’s shoe.
Named the Curry 3Zero, this performance basketball upgrade is basically the same shape that Steph has been playing in all season. The biggest change comes from Curry’s direct input and is seen in the heel. Semi-attached to allow for an adjustable & independent fit, it is designed to allow players the option of wearing ankle braces/wraps without the added restriction that comes with occupying added space in one part of a shoe.
Charged Cushioning, which was introduced three years ago when the Curry One was released, has provided the cushioning in all of Curry’s sneakers until now. With the Curry 3Zero came the introduction of Under Armour’s plush MicroG foam cushioning into the Curry signature series. However, not all of the midsole is made entirely of MicroG foam. Now made from a more firm compound, this new MicroG midsole actually encapsulates a Charged Cushioning pod in the heel above the outsole.
Those are the sneaker’s specifics, but perhaps you care less about which foam these guys are using for their midsole and more about whether their kicks are giving them an advantage on the court this post-season. Let’s look at the numbers.
Wearing a new Nike Kyrie 3 colorway in nearly every NBA playoff game so far this postseason, Irving had brought out a total of 12 different sneakers leading up to the NBA Finals.
April 17 and May 5 against the Pacers and Raptors, respectively, are the only two games in the playoffs so far that Irving wore the same colorway (a Kyrie 3 with a yellow upper and maroon seen on the Swoosh branding and in the camo design on the toe). This was not a lucky pair, however, as Game 3 of the Cavaliers vs. Raptors series saw Irving’s numbers dip to nearly half of the 37/2/3 he recorded when debuting the colorway during Game 2 against the Pacers.
For his only pre-Finals loss, Irving broke out another yellow Kyrie 3, this time with silver branding and a white outsole. He also recorded four turnovers, tying his playoff high.
Yellow must be one of Irving’s favorite colors as the most memorable Kyrie 3 of the playoffs so far was his “Bus Driver” edition. Inspired by “The Bus Driver” nickname that Irving gained by “taking players to school,” the shoe is full of actual school bus details such as the stop sign branding and black stripes to complement the bright yellow upper. (This is actually the second year in a row the ‘Bus Driver’ colorway was used on a Kyrie sneaker.)
As the Golden State Warriors swept thru the Western Conference post-season, Curry laced up seven different colorways of the Under Armour Curry 3Zero before debuting the Curry 4 during the Finals.
There is a grey/blue Player Exclusive colorway of the Curry 3Zero with a gradient design from the heel-to-toe that seemed to bring out the best in the two-time MVP. Scoring a combined 69 points the two times he wore them, he drained seven treys in Game 1 against the San Antonio Spurs and six in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. This is also the colorway that propelled Curry to a postseason high of 40 points. His efficiency while in the grey/blue sneaker was also high as he kept his turnovers low (three and two, respectively) as well. Put bluntly, Curry recorded two his best playoff games of the postseason in the grey Curry 3Zero PE.
Game 2 against the Trailblazers was the only game Steph wore two different Curry 3Zero colorways, and that also happened to be his lowest-scoring and the least efficient game of the NBA playoffs. Don’t count on a mid-game change happening again.
Showcasing a white/gold colorway of the Under Armour Curry 4 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Warriors broke the NBA record for consecutive wins in a postseason with their victory. Without being able to factually speak on the performance tech of the yet-to-be-released Curry shoe, we can’t say for sure that his new offering is superior to the last version. But one very noticeable design change is the minimal UA branding, something many sneakerheads have been pushing for.
Playing the same position, having their sneakers priced the same and facing off for the third consecutive NBA Finals, the comparisons between Curry and Irving come naturally. Just as their games have evolved, so have the kicks bearing their names. The performance tech incorporated in the shoe for each player reflects a lot of their on-court games—Steph wants a custom fit complemented by a stable ride that will hold as reliable as his shooting form, Kyrie wants excessive traction as his style of play has him constantly moving in all directions.
Just as their games have evolved, so have the kicks bearing their names. The performance tech incorporated into each player’s signature shoe reflects a lot of their on-court games—Steph wants a custom fit complemented by a stable ride that will hold as reliable as his shooting form, Kyrie wants excessive traction as his style of play has him constantly moving in all directions.
Sneaker-wise, both appear able to get what they want. Which shoe will translate to a championship in 2017, however, still remains to be seen.
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