The comparisons between two of the Eastern Conference’s top point guards, Kyrie Irving and John Wall, are neverending. Drafted a year apart, Wall in 2010 and Irving in 2011, the two ball-handlers’ NBA paths have followed similar routes.
Both players struggled to find team success early on in their careers, but have settled in nicely with their current teams. Last year, Wall led the Wizards to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, bowing out to the Indiana Pacers in the second round. Irving is now playing alongside LeBron James and Kevin Love and is fresh off dropping 37 points in Madison Square Garden.
When Dion Waiters announced that he and Irving formed like Voltron to create the best backcourt in the NBA, Wall turned up his nose and refuted it. Irving and Wall will always be pitted against each other, but the true reckoning of success between the two will come not by their play, but by what’s on their feet.
Wall has already been through a signature shoe line with Reebok, a group of kicks that featured Reebok’s pretty hideous Zig technology and that ultimately fizzled out. Wall left Reebok for adidas in 2013, and his signature shoe was revamped, resulting in the adidas J Wall 1, which Wall has been rocking all season.
It took Irving slightly longer to receive the honor of having a shoe in his name; Nike finally gave it to him just a few weeks ago. So, naturally, there’s only one thing left to do: Compare the two. Let’s begin.
Each point guard uses an anagram of their initials to form their branded logo. Wall’s is in the shape of a “W” intertwined with a “J.” Irving’s features a “K” splitting the “I,” which has been broken into two distinct lines. The logo appears on the tongue of their respective shoe. It’s a tough call here, as both logos are well done and don’t feel forced, but we’ll give the edge to Wall. The seamless transition of the “J” into the “W” almost feels like it was meant to be.
Edge: J Wall 1
Nike KYRIE 1 designer Leo Chang took a lot of what makes up Kyrie’s life and put it into his shoe. The zig-zag pattern around the forefoot was inspired by the Sydney Opera House in Australia, the country where Irving was born. The spikes above the heel are a call to Irving’s love of high-fashion sneakers. On the sole, the acronym “JBY” appears, a reference to Irving’s life motto of Just Be Yourself. It has the name Elizabeth, Irving’s hometown in New Jersey, and his late mother’s birthday written into the sole as well.
The J Wall 1 is a little simpler. Wall’s logo appears on the tongue, while his last name is sewn into the mesh upper just below it. His last name is also spelled out across the sole of the left and right shoe of every pair. adidas’s iconic three stripes run down each side of the shoe. The best design aspect of the shoe is the map of the United States woven into the shoe’s sole. Washington D.C. is front and center, and lines are drawn to a handful of NBA cities across the country.
Stories are told with both shoes, but Nike went a little bit deeper into Irving’s life for inspiration than adidas did with Wall.
Edge: KYRIE 1
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The J Wall 1 features a mesh upper, which helps ventilate your foot and keeps things lightweight. The shoe sits atop what adidas calls its adiPrene+ cushioning, an offshoot of the phenomenal Boost technology found in its running shoes, which makes it feel like you’re moving on a cloud. The traction has caught some slight flack from several reviews. It appears to need frequent wiping with your hand to prevent slippage.
We know the technology in the KYRIE 1—the Hyperfuse upper and the Nike Zoom cushioning—but since the shoe won’t become available until Dec. 23, only Irving knows how it handles on the court. For that, we’ve got to give a slight edge to the J Wall 1.
Edge: J Wall 1
The J Wall 1 dropped on Halloween in two initial colorways—a red, white and gray “Home” version to match the Washington Wizards uniforms, and a black, white and gray iteration. Since then, a predominantly red “Away” colorway, offset by blue accents and red speckles on the white midsole, has also turned up, along with the upcoming green, volt and black “Christmas” colorway. A muted gray “Woven Paisley” colorway has dropped as well.
The KYRIE 1 will initially drop in the vibrant “Dream” colorway, which features a myriad of oranges, reds, blacks and greens. A few weeks later, a “Deceptive Red” colorway will be available. Irving has also been spotted wearing a wine and gold PE to match the Cleveland Cavaliers uniforms, and he rocked a Nike ID version (that he created) the other night against the Brooklyn Nets.
While colorways of the J Wall 1 have been clean, they’ve also been relatively simple and without risk. And while Irving has already taken the court in multiple PE iterations of his shoe, Wall has stuck to the traditional colorways of his kicks so far. The colors of the KYRIE 1 are brighter, riskier, and in this case, just better.
Edge: KYRIE 1
Though the J Wall 1 is an infinitely better shoe than the Reebok models he was given early in his career, the apathy consumers once felt toward his kicks had to be in play, at least a little bit. Wall really came into his own last season, making the All-Star game for the first time and getting a lot of national television publicity through two rounds of the NBA playoffs. Wall, and therefore his shoes, are certainly on the rise and should continue to increase in popularity as the Wizards, and Wall, improve.
Irving had the misfortune of playing for some pretty awful Cleveland Cavaliers teams during his short career, and his time on national television has been limited. But now that Irving is the face of both the Nike Hyperdunk and the Nike HyperRev, fans have been checking for the point guard’s shoes for some time now. Irving has been an All-Star for two straight years, and playing alongside James and Love will give him plenty of opportunities to show off his new kicks in front of a national audience. Heck, he debuted his sneaker at Madison Square Garden. There doesn’t seem to be much of a competition here.
Edge: KYRIE 1
Winner: Nike KYRIE 1
The Nike KYRIE 1 squeaks out a close victory over the J Wall 1 by a score of 3-2. The J Wall 1 is a solid shoe, but the KYRIE 1’s vibrant colors, intricately detailed design and high potential for marketability give it the edge.
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