ESPN’s basketball shoe expert, Nick DePaula, took a close look at the hand-written messages Irving and other NBA stars have scribbled onto their soles. The subtle notes — from acronyms to quotes to mysterious references — have increasingly become a trend in the NBA, according to DePaula, who also “decoded” the messages on the shoes of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and others.
Here’s the meaning behind the scribbles on Irving’s shoes:
Irving has opened up in the past about why the name of the acclaimed 2014 film can be seen in cursive on his shoes. The 25-year-old All-Star says he watched Whiplash for the first time in 2015 while recuperating from a broken kneecap he suffered in the NBA Finals that year.
In a podcast interview last fall with UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, Irving said that watching the movie — which features an ambitious, young drummer being pushed to perfection by a ruthless instructor — was a “turning point” in his approach to the game.
“You have to sacrifice relationships, you have to sacrifice a ton of your focus,” said the Celtics guard, who said he watched the film about six times after seeing it mentioned in Kobe Bryant’s Muse documentary.
“No one gets to see the things you do behind closed doors,” Irving told Auriemma. “The sleepless nights and staying up late and bleeding, basically bleeding for your craft because you want to be that great. I took all that from that movie, and I started loving it more and more.”
According to DePaula, the three-letter acronym is a tribute to Irving’s 2-year-old daughter, Azurie. However, according to her father’s Instagram, Azurie’s middle name is Elizabeth, so it seems unclear what the “K” stands for, if not his own name. KI is the logo for Irving’s signature Nike shoes.
As DePaula reported in December, Irving has also worked in personal touches — such as the initials of his late mother, Elizabeth, and the mantra of his father, Drederick — into the actual design of some models in his sneaker line.
‘Mi Amor, Te Amo’
As recently as last fall, Irving began accompanying the letters AKI with the words “Mi Amor, Te Amo,” which means “My love, I love you” in Spanish.