If you’re a follower of Kentucky basketball, you have probably noticed some of the players wearing bright, mismatched, multi-colored sneakers. They are the Nike Kyrie 4 in the “Confetti” colorway, created as a reminder of the 2017 NBA Finals, when Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Golden State Warriors in five games.
“As the confetti rained down on Kyrie’s shoulders at the conclusion of last year’s Finals, he didn’t feel a sense of elation and joy like he did in 2016. To this day, he carries around a piece of the confetti from the postgame celebration as a constant reminder of what it took to get to the Finals, and how it felt to fall short of the goal. Kyrie 4 “Confetti” honors Kyrie’s win-or-learn mentality and the memento that reminds him of the incredible experience he can learn from.” [Nike]
Irving’s “win or learn” mentality sounds familiar; John Calipari has said it many times this season, although I doubt that’s why the Kyrie line of shoes are seen so regularly in UK games. Irving’s shoes are one of Nike’s most popular collections, along with the Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and now Paul George signature lines.
Many versions of the Kyrie 4 have appeared on the court this season, including a customized University of Kentucky version of the shoe that was given to each player for Christmas. The special UK edition was hand-painted by True Blue Customs and presented to the team after their annual holiday party.
But it is the ‘Confetti’ colorway that really catches the eye and has many fans up in arms about players wearing shoes that do not match their teammates’ shoes or the school’s official colors — or even matching the left to the right.
Keldon Johnson was the first to break them out in a home game against VMI, then again in a three-game stretch against Utah, North Carolina and Louisville, and again in back-to-back games against Vanderbilt and Georgia. Once Johnson began to wear them, three of his teammates also caught on and have worn them in multiple games throughout SEC play.
Realizing he was the pioneer of the trend, Johnson acknowledged he was the first to wear the Confettis but doesn’t consider himself a trendsetter within the UK locker room.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a trendsetter, but everybody’s wearing them now,” he said, when I asked if he is a leader in fashion. “I don’t really mind. It’s just a shoe, to be honest.”
Johnson downplayed any deep thought process, strategy or superstition behind picking his game shoe, saying he simply decides on a shoe based on however he’s feeling that day, and that the shoe doesn’t make the player.
“The shoe is not going to give you powers or nothing like that,” he said. “You still gotta go out there and get it done.”
However, when asked specifically about the eye-catching Kyrie 4 Confetti and if they possess any magical powers, he told KSR, “It’s a little bit of magic on them. It’s something about them.”
Let’s look at the numbers to see if the shoes really possess special powers or if Johnson is right in saying it doesn’t matter.
To do so, I split Johnson’s game log into two different charts: games without and with the Kyrie 4 Confetti on his feet:
His overall scoring is about the same, but his three-point shooting is much better in the six Confetti games, rising from 32.5 percent to an astounding 54.2 percent from outside. Rebounding is way down, but it’s worth noting Kentucky is 6-0 when Johnson wears the Confettis and 10-3 when he does not.
Now let’s take a look at Johnson’s roommate, Tyler Herro, who has worn the Confettis in three games.
Herro’s overall scoring is up by a little more than a point, but his three-point shooting did not change. And like Johnson, Kentucky is undefeated when Herro wears the Confettis with two of those wins coming against ranked teams.
Nick Richards and Ashton Hagans are the only two other players who have worn the Confettis this season. Richards wore them in consecutive road games at Georgia and Auburn, while Hagans wore them in the following game against Mississippi State in Rupp Arena. Overall, Kentucky is 9-0 when the Confettis appear in a game and 7-3 when they do not.
So will others join the trend?
Not Reid Travis. That’s for sure.
Travis said, “That’s not really my style, but I like them on Keldon. I know a few guys that have kind of rotated those in and out. I like them, but not for me.”
Now let’s get your opinion on the shoes.