Kyrie Irving, alter ego Uncle Drew have big presence at NBA All-Star weekend; movie in works

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By Chris Fedor,

NEW ORLEANS — On Thursday afternoon, the day when many were arriving for NBA All-Star festivities, Pepsi unveiled the latest short in the Uncle Drew series featuring Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving.

That was just the beginning of Uncle Drew’s New Orleans takeover.

“With fresh and exciting content, Pepsi will look to reignite the courtside excitement around Uncle Drew and continue its legacy of rewarding fans with fun, exciting and authentic moments in pop culture and sports,” said Aziel Rivers, Director of Pepsi Marketing. “With the availability of brand new Uncle Drew merchandise on, we are really able to show the evolution of the Uncle Drew brand which keeps fans connected at multiple touch points both on and off the screen.”

In large part because of fans demanding Uncle Drew gear, the website launched Friday, an ideal tipoff to All-Star weekend.

The site, which is now the digital one-stop-shop for all things Uncle Drew, gives fans a chance to purchase merchandise, get behind-the-scenes footage of the cast’s character transformations and watch all the Uncle Drew episodes.

In New Orleans, as Irving prepares for the 3-Point contest Saturday night and also Sunday’s game, fans were able to stop by the pop-up shop at famed restaurant Daisy Dukes on Chartres Street for the ultimate Uncle Drew experience, courtesy of Pepsi.

The space, modeled after the pizza joint from the recent ads with JB Smoove (“Angelo”) and Baron Davis (“Louis”), had a number of items available to buy, including the leather brim snapback hat, the “fundamentals” tee and “it’s all about buckets” hoodie — all items that reference memorable quotes from the ads.

There was a special menu, featuring Uncle Drew’s pizza (pepperoni, mushrooms and olives), the Drew burger, Louis’ shrimp po’ boy combo and Angelo’s gumbo.

So what’s next for Uncle Drew? What’s next for Irving, as his brand continues to grow?

A starring role in a full-length feature film.

“Seeing the response that it’s gotten has been awesome, not only from kids but just across the world, it has been awesome,” Irving said in an interview on ESPN Radio. “Really a fun-filled environment when I’m doing that and I enjoy every minute of it.

“Now that we’re coming out with a movie I’m just thinking about the possibilities. We’re just trying to create history and become a great basketball movie that it just won’t be as cliche of Uncle Drew is getting back on the court and going to find his players. It will be some twists in there, which I’m excited to present to you guys.”

Conceived, developed and produced by PepsiCo’s in-house content creation arm, Creators League Studio, the film will extend the Pepsi brand beyond the bottle.

“Today’s consumers want to live the brand as much as consume it, and the tremendous success we’ve had with the Uncle Drew franchise is a perfect example of how we’re building ecosystems around our flagship brands,” said Lou Arbetter, General Manager of Creators League Studio. “Pepsi and Kyrie Irving are looking forward to expanding the Uncle Drew universe.”

The film release date is unknown, but Irving said he has talked with teammate LeBron James, who had a role in “Trainwreck,” about the amount of hours that goes into making a movie.

Who knew an older man played by Irving who masks his immense basketball skills before showing up others in local pickup games would grow into something this big?

First an ad — “Chapter 1” of Uncle Drew — that has become the most-viewed basketball-related video in YouTube history, having been watched more than 47 million times. Then more chapters, starring other NBA players (Kevin Love, Ray Allen and Nate Robinson). Now a website, with a plethora of fun and popular merchandise, and a pop-up store at the center of the NBA universe this weekend. Soon, a movie.

“I think I can get more enjoyment from being behind the camera, but being in front of it is also awesome,” Irving said during Friday’s All-Star Media Day. “Getting to act and become an alter ego and it’s just a beauty, and, you know, playing another role.”

Irving has always been into the arts. He says he will have a behind-the-scenes role in the film, which is expected to include other NBA players. He won’t, however, be helping with the script.

“I’m not into writing,” he said. “I’m behind directing and producing, so watching all those hours and hours of outtakes and chopping it up and all of that, I think I should just add co-director and let them direct it.”

In his short time in the NBA, Irving has racked up sponsorships with Nike, Pepsi, AK and Mountain Dew. As of three weeks ago, the 24-year-old point guard had the NBA’s fourth most-popular jersey, behind Stephen Curry, James and Kevin Durant.

While his star continues to shine on the hardwood — appearing in his fourth All-Star Game in six years this Sunday — Irving has become a luminary off it as well.

“I think it’s the way he carries himself on and off the court,” NBA legend Julius Erving, who appeared at the Uncle Drew pop-up shop and even sported one of the hats for photo ops, told of Irving’s popularity. “He’s very humble, yet very determined and focused and very talented.

“You know, talent — the cream comes to the top in every scenario. The challenge is whether you can stay there or not so I think he has proven in a short period of time that he’s smart, he’s articulate and he’s the type of leader whose worthy of having followers.

“He’s the type of inspirational talent who is worthy of having fans. He’s proven himself in that regard and I think he will continue to do so.”

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