Yesterday, Nike announced the signing of the top three picks in this year’s WNBA Draft. Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, and Skylar Diggins are the new faces of Nike Women’s Basketball, and rightfully so. However, two other prominent rookies were also signed to Nike yesterday in Tayler Hill and Kelsey Bone of the Washington Mystics and New York Liberty, respectively. Hill and Bone just so happen to be the fourth and fifth selections in the 2013 WNBA draft, marking an epic day for Nike and women’s basketball. The mere fact that Nike felt compelled to announce the signing of the new “Big 3” speaks to the suggestion that something special is on the horizon. With the increased interest and expected reemergence of the women’s game, is it time for another women’s basketball signature to become a reality? Let’s explore.
The careers of the top three selections are historic. They helped usher women’s basketball into a new stratosphere of popularity, and build unprecedented anticipation for the 2013 WNBA season.
“I think that [anticipation] has been missing from the women’s game. I’m glad to see some of that is back,” remarks Shereka Wright, a current Assistant Coach at Texas Tech.
After being named WBCA, Gatorade, and USA Today High School Player of the Year in 2000, Wright went on to star at Purdue University, where she was an All-American. Wright has been inducted into the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame, and was drafted in the 2004 WNBA Draft. “I was a part of it when (Diana) Taurasi came in,” remembers Wright. “I was a part of that (2004) class. It was big talk when Diana came in. Our class was just a very good class. Diana was supposed to be the resurrection of the league because it hit a lull.” Nike released the Nike WMNS Shox DT, Taurasi’s signature shoe, back in 2006. Since then she has been wearing PE versions of the Nike LeBron line.
Taurasi’s sneaker may not have caught on, but a decade prior to the Shox DT, Nike made history by creating the first sneaker to be named after a female athlete. The Nike Air Swoopes broke barriers, and was extremely popular among female athletes worldwide.
“I owned all of Swoopes’ shoes. Our whole AAU team wore her shoes in 7th and 8th grade,” reminisces former college All-American and current Tulsa Shock Forward Tiffany Jones. Nike continued to be on the frontier of signature footwear diversity by following with signatures for Lisa Leslie, Dawn Staley, Cynthia Cooper, and Chamique Holdsclaw. The Nike Swoopes line released an astonishing seven models, with the last being the Nike Swoopes Premier in 2002. Over a decade later, even Jones, a new teammate of Diggins, says, “I haven’t worn a women’s (basketball) shoe in a very long time.”
Why is that? Why has there been a gap in women’s signatures? You may be surprised to know that Los Angeles Sparks’ superstar Candice Parker had a signature in 2008 entitled the adidas TS Ace Commander. Due to injury and pregnancy, her next signature didn’t drop until the 2011 adidas Ace Versatility. It’s plausible you overlooked this shoe, because Parker’s name is not in the shoe’s name.
Similarly, Minnesota Lynx star Maya Moore became the first women’s basketball player to sign with Jordan Brand in 2011.
“It was a big deal,” Wright says of the historic signing, “but was it something that you consistently heard about? There were a lot of people attending and watching WNBA games that didn’t even know she signed with Jordan.” She continues, “The only reason we knew about is through social media buzzing about the fact she signed with Team Jordan. Did you see a shoe for Maya Moore? Does Maya Moore have a shoe? No. As a female, we know that she’s with Team Jordan, but how do we know what she’s wearing? How do we know the shoes were made for her?”