Kyrie Irving pays tribute to her late mom with the latest charity sneaker – The Undefeated
When Kyrie Irving stepped onto the floor of the United Center on Wednesday night, he was carrying a piece of his family with him, honoring his late mother Elizabeth Irving with the latest “I Love You Mom” edition of his signature Nike series.
As part of a collaboration with Jersey City, New Jersey-based boutique Sneaker Room and owner Suraj Kaufman, the annual tribute shoes pay homage to Irving’s mother and Kaufman’s mother, Ellen. Each year, 100% of proceeds from the sneaker’s launch are donated to New Jersey community programs and organizations in honor of their late mothers.
On the Kyrie 3, 5, and 6, the shoes often had a white, red, and black color scheme, with a floral pattern and heart-shaped icon graphics throughout the design. The first pair also incorporated a polka dot collar lining, inspired by a blouse worn by Elizabeth Irving in a portrait.
For this year’s Kyrie 7, the band wanted to take a fresh approach.
“We had chosen the look of gold and love and white, and those natural colors when you think you love your mother and your flowers,” Kaufman said. “This year, we wanted to take it to another level. Kyrie, being part of the Native Americans and doing so much with Standing Rock, the tribe her mother was from, we were talking about mothers and how we become: Mother Nature. Mother Earth.”
Two different pairs of “I Love You Mom” Kyrie 7 will be released on the SnkrRoom.com website next week, both in red, blue, green and yellow mismatched colors inspired by the four elements of fire, water, earth and air. On Wednesday night, Irving launched an even more limited “Friends & Family” edition – only a handful of pairs were made – in light purple, teal and purple to unveil the new theme. The start date was chosen because it is the birthday of Irving’s sister, Asia. It should don the mismatched editions on Monday.
“Elizabeth isn’t just Kyrie’s mother, she’s Kyrie and Asia’s mother. That really tells part of the story,” Kaufman said. “It’s not just about Kyrie Irving , it is not just about [me], it is a family project.
Over the years, the four launches are estimated to have generated over $500,000 which has been donated to Jersey City Medical Center, local Boys & Girls Clubs and several other organizations. This year’s launch will also benefit the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the Dakotas to which Elizabeth Irving belonged.
After signing with the Brooklyn Nets as a free agent in 2019, Irving, who lives in New Jersey, opened up about how impactful a return to his home region could be.
“It’s always been more important than basketball to me. And it always will continue to be that way,” he said. The undefeated. “I represent so many diverse communities, and because of that, I knew a lot of my connections, resources, and connections were going to have even greater impact here at home.”
When Kaufman was initially approached by Nike brand specialist Sadat Kinley to work on a sneaker collaboration, his first thought was to tie his New Jersey roots to those of Irving.
“We were making a Jersey-based shoe. Flag of Jersey, colors and environment of Jersey. Jersey landmarks,” Kaufman said. “Sadat was like, ‘Suraj, take it further.’ He said to me, ‘You always talk about losing your mother. Ky also lost his mother. It’s the tie.’ ”
With that connection serving as inspiration, a key part of the donation was to provide resources for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Jersey City Medical Center. Specifically, a series of “Girafe” devices, a specialized incubator for premature babies, were acquired for the unit.
“I’m a project kid, and I’m on the hospital board now!” Kaufman said with a smile. “We brought a different touch. When they think of fundraising and they think of projects for the hospital and the community, it’s always the same thing, like a golf outing. … They like that we come up with a new idea.
Each year, the shoes have become Irving’s favorite for games. Ahead of his midseason return to the Nets on Jan. 5 in Indiana, Irving released the Kyrie 3 “I Love You Mom” for pregame warmups, a nod to the starting point. 2017 series.
Across the league, the shoes have been spotted on players such as Sacramento Kings goaltender Tyrese Haliburton, who wore them to honor his mother’s birthday. In the sneaker community, the theme has become a coveted collectible due to its added significance.
“It’s not the NBA guys, because they have access to shoes,” Kaufman said. “For me, it’s more the stories we get in our DMs [direct messages], on my personal page or on the store page, of people reaching out to me and saying, “That’s why I bought the shoe.” ”
For this year’s shoe, the left heel reads “In Honor Of”, with a blank line along the right heel for the wearer to add a personalized tribute. For the first time, shoes will be made in expanded sizes beyond the typical men’s 7.5 to 15. Pairs will be made in unisex sizes up to a size 3.5, to allow moms, kids and complete families to wear them.
As Kaufman proudly points out, people buy the shoes with the enthusiasm to contribute to the cause.
“What’s really crazy about these shoes is that we don’t sell them at the actual retail price they are,” he said. Irving’s signature Nike line is usually priced at $130 a pair.
This year, 1,996 pairs of the mismatched green and yellow edition will be released for $175, a reference to the year in which Elizabeth Irving died of organ failure when Kyrie was 4. Another 525 orange and blue pairs will be released for $250 each.
“When you buy these shoes, really understand that you are part of the process. You are part of the impact,” Kaufman said.
Since launching the “I Love You Mom” program in 2017, Sneaker Room has now branched out to also launch its own nonprofit, the Sneaker Room Foundation. The store’s website is preceded by a banner image that reads: “Uniting the world one sole at a time”.
“This shoe is something that gives hope. It’s so much bigger than a shoe, and so much bigger than any individual,” Kaufman said. “The impact is to see more things grow from our city and to our young people.”