Interview: Nick Kyrgios Talks Basketball, Sneakers and Pre-Game Fits

Nick Kyrgios tells us how he and Kyrie Irving will be rocking co-branded sneakers during 2019

Nick Kyrgios with the Nike Court Vaop X 'Kyrie 5'

Nick Kyrgios with the Nike Court Vaop X 'Kyrie 5'

Nick Kyrgios with the Nike Court Vaop X 'Kyrie 5'

Despite all the hand-wringing, furrowed brows and generational anxiety of your old-ass aunts, uncles and racist former Olympians, Nick Kyrgios is actually a throwback. The outspoken tennis star, with the hectic serve and flashy baseline game, is reminiscent of the sport’s glory days of the '80s and '90s. The days when tennis transcended sport and began to cross over into pop culture.

Kyrgios combines the outsized talent and convention-challenging personality of John McEnroe with the personal style of Andre Agassi. Where Agassi flexed the illest mullet in the game, Kyrgios now has the cleanest lineup on the circuit.

It wasn’t just the stars that had tennis truly poppin in that era though, as McEnroe’s Air Trainer 1 and, later, Agassi’s Air Tech Challenge brought tennis to the forefront of footwear.

In 2019, Kyrgios is bringing fire sneakers back to tennis. The Court Vapor X ‘Kyrie 5’ meshes the tennis-specific tech of the Court Vapor with the look and feel of the Kyrie 5, to combine Nick’s two loves; tennis and basketball. 

We spoke to Nick and Nike Tennis product director Alex Restivo about Kyrie, pre-game fits and how to combine the best of basketball and tennis in one sneaker.

You're a basketball fan, but more specifically a Celtics fan. This must be a really exciting experience for you.

Nick Kyrgios: It’s a dream come true. I was excited when Kyrie came to the Celtics, let alone to be able to have this collaboration with him, and be able to walk out and compete in these shoes, is arguably the biggest moment in my career and I'm super excited for it. I've heard that Kyrie is pretty excited as well, he wore them the other night against Brooklyn. I watched every minute of it.

When I was seeing the prototypes and I was wearing them, putting them on, it was a special moment, and when they finally got here I was mind-blown. I'm obsessed with the shoe, and I just wanna make sure I'm playing well in it. I want to play some of my best tennis in it.

Alex Restivo: I think we started this concept about a year and a half ago. Everytime we met with Nick he was talking shop about basketball, talking about the Celtics, and when the Vapor X initially came out, we created a Celtics colourway of the true Vapor X for tennis, as a birthday gift, and he was really excited about it. 

Our product manager Jay had an idea to collaborate with the Nike basketball team because of Nick's Australian roots and Kyrie's Australian roots, and the product similarities between basketball footwear and tennis footwear. He approached the basketball team and they were really excited about the concept just because it wasn't just about one athlete or the other, it was this really unique and really natural connection between both athletes, their footwear, their interest and their roots. 

So where does this love for the Celtics come from?

NK: In 2004, I got my first PlayStation game and I picked the Celtics. That's when they had Paul Pierce – Garnett and Ray Allen hadn't come yet – and they were really, really bad. I guess The Truth was the reason I became a Celtics fan. I loved Paul Pierce, and then KG came, and Ray Allen, and that was it. 

You mentioned that Kyrie wore the sneaker, but when we think about it, that's like an NBA2K moment. You create your own player and put whatever sneaker you like on him. 

NK: Yea it's insane, you know, my friends are messaging me saying 'bro one of our favourite players of all time is wearing your sneaker!’ He's one of the most exciting players, so to see him in that shoe, playing well, it makes me feel pretty good, and when I'm wearing the shoe as well, it makes me want to play harder and win more matches. It gives you that vibe like you're representing him as well, and not only yourself. 

Nick Kyrgios

Would you say the way Kyrie moves is actually similar to a tennis player?

NK: Definitely, the way he moves on an NBA court is so unique, he almost slides around the court, getting into different angles with his feet that no other player is doing. It's very relative to someone on a tennis court, we're moving multi-directional, we're sliding on a hard court. His movements are actually very relative to a tennis player, and I think he's the most unique ball handler and mover on the court for sure.

AR: This started with Nick's interest in basketball and Kyrie's interest in tennis. [But] as we chatted with the basketball team, they saw that Kyrie's movement on the basketball court is more similar to a tennis player than a basketball player because of his explosive lateral cuts and movement at all angles. He's looking for speed at all angles and so is Nick, so that common design theme allowed us to really run with this concept. 

It reminds me of the Kobe 4, which famously went low-cut because of Kobe’s love of football and his observation of the way footballers required 360 degree movement on the pitch.

AR: Yea this has opened our eyes to working together more in the future and really seeing what we can do beyond this project. We'll definitely be linking up with that team more and more moving forward and sharing innovation ideas. It was a great learning experience internally for us. 

I feel like if I can hit that shot, it may be unconventional, but I'm gonna go for it. 

The best example of that tennis-basketball hybrid is fitting the flytrap containment system from the Kyrie line on to the Vapor X

NK: I really like it. Obviously I haven't been in the shoe for too long, but every time I've been on court it feels like my foot's locked in, I feel like I can move, I actually feel like I've been moving really well for the last two weeks and I think, I just feel good in the shoe. It looks unbelievable but the actual feeling in the shoe feels really good and i feel like I'm moving quite well. 

AR: Tennis footwear and basketball footwear have so many similarities in terms of what aesthetics you need and what properties you need so the flytrap containment system provides ultimate lockdown and that's something our tennis players look for in every shoe that they lace up. That technology was perfect for the sport of tennis as well. and it worked out in a really nice way.

Nick, you’ve got a nice looking rotation. What is your favourite sneaker?

NK: Jordan 1s are my favourite sneaker, and I also love the Jordan Eclipse. I like shoes that, no matter where I am, if I see a basketball or tennis court I can tie them up and play. I love any shoe that I can do that with. Jordan 1s are perfect. People today still wear them in NBA games.

Still on the 1s, you wear them when you come out, which is unique to you. When we talk about hybridising basketball and tennis, do you think that culture of the pre-game outfit, could that ever happen in tennis?

NK: I think it should be happening. I would love to see it. You know, I'm on League Pass watching the NBA, I love seeing what the players are wearing to the games; it gives you a hint as to what they're about off the court and their personality. For me, when I wear Jordan 1s out to the court, it's a routine I've had since I was 12. I loved wearing my casual shoes out to the court and when I played, I'd take them off. It gives you a bit of a hint that I love basketball, a bit of insight into my personality. I think tennis could take some notes from basketball for that, for sure.

AR: I think as style becomes more and more a part of tennis, that's a possibility, I don't think you have a pre- and post-match interviewing like basketball, because a lot of the athletes get interviewed on court, but Serena had that really nice Off-White leather jacket that she put on after her match, I think that was an example of how tennis players can do it similar to basketball athletes.

Nick, if pre-game fits became a trend, would you be the best-dressed player on the circuit?

NK: I don't know about best dressed, but I'm probably the most swaggy for sure [laughs]