Saruj Kaufman Details How He Established His Friendship With Kyrie Irving

Source: Jason Miller / Getty

Quiet as kept, Kyrie Irving has one of the best sneaker silhouettes in Nike’s enormous stable of kicks, that’s thanks in large part to his fantastic collaborations. 

Irving, keeping that same energy, the part-time hooper and “voice of the voiceless” linked up with Suraj Kaufman, owner of Sneaker Room for a special version of his Kyrie 7 sneakers. In an interview with NiceKicks, Kaufman touched on many topics, including how the latest sneaker collab came to fruition, his friendship with the polarizing Brooklyn Nets superstar, and the design process behind the sneakers.

When asked how the “Mom” pack became a reality,  Kaufman spoke on his start in the sneaker world as a reseller first, detailing the struggle before the resale business got hijacked and took off. He did that job for two years before linking up with someone who had a Nike account, and he was able to establish his own connections from there. “So I did it for two years, and then I closed up shop because I made no money. And then, basically, I went to work for somebody else that had a Nike account. I met the right people, pitched them this idea that I had, and then it started,” Kaufman told the website.

When asked about his relationship with the baller, Kaufman revealed that the passing of their mothers helped connect them.

“And one of our homies that has moved up at Nike but who was the EKIN at that time, Sadat Kinley, heard me and Jeff, our creative director talking. And he said, “That’s cool, but you’ve got to tell a better story. Dig deep. You don’t know Kyrie. He doesn’t know you. But what are you guys have in common?” We’re both from Jersey, we both made it out, made it out to do something, and then thinking about it, my mom passed. His mom passed. And there it is. That’s the connection. It wasn’t about just doing a shoe about our state. It was something that had to be personal. And that’s where the Mom project came together. They went to Kai even though at the time he didn’t know who I was or my story, and he was like, “I like the idea. Let’s do it.”

Kaufman and Irving have collaborated on several versions of the Nets superstar’s signature shoe. This latest one which again honors Kaufman and Irving’s late mothers, features some touching details that he spoke on in the interview.

It’s two things. It’s always having my mom’s name on a shoe, on the tongue, but what’s really, really big for me was writing messages. It started on the insole of the Kyrie 3 and the 5, and then we put it on the back of the tongue on the 6. And I always write, “Love and miss you mom”, and I was writing “SK” for my initials. Somebody at Nike said, “Take your initials off and put your signature.” And they were like, “You’re on your fourth shoe, put love and miss you mom, Suraj Kaufman.” So and it’s on both feet even though the left foot is from my mom, the right foot is for Kai’s, the message is on both feet because the message is mutual. And to me, that’s my favorite part, because I don’t know that many people that can say they got their signature, never mind their name, on a Nike shoe. So it’s kind of crazy.

Both the “Air & Earth” and “Fire & Water” have entirely sold out, so your best bet on finding a pair would be through GOAT, StockX, eBay, or a brick-and-mortar spot Flight Club. There were precisely 1,996 pairs of the “Air & Earth” model. That number signified the year that Elizabeth Irving, Kyrie’s mom passed away, and they sold for $175. 525 pairs of the “Fire & Water” were produced retailing for $250. 100% of the proceeds went to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to which Elizabeth Irving belonged.

To read the entire interview, head here. 

Photo: Jason Miller / Getty