Tennis fashion has long transcended the sport and influenced what society has worn on their backs and their feet. The first sneakers were descendants of early tennis shoes—featuring a rubber outsole and a canvas upper—born in the 1800s. It'd be a few decades before Chuck Taylor and Converse would introduce the world to the first basketball-centric shoes in the early part of the 20th century.
Now, in the still-early stages of the 21st century, the worlds of tennis and basketball are colliding with Nike's new Vapor X "Kyrie 5," a tennis sneaker designed with input from Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving and Nick Kyrgios, currently the 35th-ranked tennis player in the world.
Both Australian-born, Irving and Kyrgios have become stars in their respective fields of expertise as much for their unique styles of play as for their distinct personalities off the court. And the two have a common bond: the Boston Celtics. Kyrgios is a deeply committed Celtics fan, and when Irving found his way to Boston before the 2017-18 season, "the stars aligned, if you will," NikeCourt Senior Footwear Designer Michael Hui told Bleacher Report.
Hui approached the Nike Basketball team with an idea to pair the two stars for a new sneaker, explaining why it made sense based on the rich storytelling history of their Australian heritage and their mutual respect and love for each other's sport. Beyond the cultural connection, Hui felt the stylistic movements inherent in both basketball and tennis made for a good design match.
"There's actually a lot of similarities with the cutting and stopping, side-to-side movements that basketball players have to go through that are similar to a tennis player," said Hui, who designed the shoe.
So in the Vapor, the Kyrie 5 flytrap system has been modified for a tennis shoe, to meet Kyrgios' needs.
"[Kyrie] feels like his product is most similar to a tennis product than it is to a basketball product," Alex Restivo, Global Footwear Product Director for NikeCourt, said.
Irving, for one, is pleased with the result. "I loved the Vapor X 'Kyrie 5' from the moment I first saw them," Irving said in an email statement via Nike. "The connection of Australian roots and that we have respect for one another's games makes the blending of these two shoes a perfect match."
While Irving wore a "Lava" Kyrie 5 PE on Monday night, Kyrgios will get the honor of debuting the Vapor X, which will be released January 14, during the Australian Open. "I'm going out in front of my home crowd in Australia while wearing the tennis shoes that share the name with my favorite basketball player," Kyrgios said via an email from Nike. "It will probably be the biggest moment in my career. Representing Kyrie and myself at the same time, in front of such a big stage is pretty crazy."
It's also about time, considering the sport's place in sneaker history.
"[Tennis] is so OG that a lot of these true brands look to tennis as an authenticator for fashion," Restivo said. "Tennis is a stage for fashion. The bright lights are on you, it's an individual sport. You're not wearing a uniform. There's a lot of creative freedom and expression allowed on court, which is very unique in an athletic sport."