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Kyrie Irving (Standing Rock Sioux), a star point guard for the NBA Dallas Mavericks, sported a unique iteration of his Anta Kai 1 sneakers in the Mavericks’ Game 1 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference Finals on May 22. 

For the game, Irving laced up his latest signature sneaker, the Anta Kai 1 “Chief Hélà,” a special edition created in collaboration with Chinese athletic brand Anta Sports. 

The moccasin-inspired sneaker is adorned with suede tassels and features a tonal brown color scheme, with additional tassels hanging from the collar. A honey-yellow sole complements the design, paying homage to Irving’s Native American heritage.

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This is not the first time Irving has blended his heritage with his athletic gear. He wore a similar fringe pair of Nike Kyrie 8s during the 2023 All-Star game, partially to obscure the Nike logo after the brand dropped him from its roster following remarks perceived as antisemitic. 

Irving’s mother, Elizabeth Larson, was a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and lived on the reservation before being adopted by a family of Lutheran ministers. Both his grandparents and great-grandparents also hailed from the Standing Rock reservation.

Irving first publicly acknowledged his connection to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe during a Christmas 2016 interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. Prior to this, most members of the tribe were unaware of his affiliation, as Irving did not grow up on the reservation and had never publicly disclosed his relation

In 2018, he made his first visit to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, a visit that was more about honoring his mother and connecting with his heritage. The visit prohibited video or photography, aiming to deepen his understanding of his Native American culture and honor his late mother.

Irving didn’t know his mother well. His parents separated when he was a child, and his mother passed away when Irving was just four years old. 

During his visit to the Standing Rock reservation, Irving was honored with a naming ceremony, a significant tradition in Lakota culture. Irving was given the name “Little Mountain” or “Hélà” in the Lakota language, which reflects his family’s White Mountain lineage from the South Dakota portion of the Standing Rock Reservation. 

“There was a certain point in my life where I had come almost at a crossroads with my dad, my sister, my friends, my grandparents, and I had no idea what direction to go in because I had lost the sense of a foundation,” Irving shared in an interview with ESPN in 2018.  “Knowing my mom passed and left me such a powerful, empowering family such as Standing Rock... to be a part of it now, this is family for life.”

Over the course of his career, Irving has helped the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, sending them millions of dollars in aid to battle COVID-19 during the early months of the pandemic. 

In August 2021, Irving revisited the Standing Rock Sioux Nation to formalize his affiliation with the tribe and enroll as a member.

As reported by KFYR TV, Irving’s enrollment application received approval from the tribal council and administration at the Standing Rock Lakota/Dakota Tribal Headquarters. This approval officially recognized Irving as a Native American. To commemorate his tribal enrollment, he was honored with a star quilt. 

The Anta Kai 1, Irving’s first signature sneaker from the Chinese brand, debuted in March this year. Six colorways have been released so far, all selling out, with many designs inspired by Irving’s Native American ancestry. 

He signed with the Chinese brand in July of 2023, in the wake of his departure from Nike, joining fellow NBA players Spencer Dinwiddie of the Los Angeles Lakers, Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors, and Gordon Hayward of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Anta Kai 1 “Chief Hélà” is set for a general release later this summer, with a retail price expected to be $125.

The Dallas Mavericks lead the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA Western Conference finals 3-1. Game Five will be played Friday night at 8:30 p.m. - EDT.

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About The Author
Kaili Berg
Author: Kaili BergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.