Olympic Diaries (2004): Sheryl Swoopes Explains Origin & Crossover Success of Nike Air Swoopes Line

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Some of Sheryl Swoopes’ game-worn signatures and favorites

Nice Kicks: That’s the shoe in your line that guys gravitated to as well. How were you and the designers able to come up with a shoe that appealed to both genders?

Sheryl Swoopes: Growing up, I always played in guy’s shoes, so I was so excited about actually having an input in the design of my shoe. All throughout my childhood and college, I wore guy’s shoes. I’m probably going to tell my age, but I played in PONYs when I was in junior college. One thing I never liked about having to wear guy’s shoes is that they were very heavy and bulky. Plus, you could always tell that it was a man’s shoe. Even though I’m being competitive, playing basketball and going out there to try and get the job done, I still want to look cute from my head to my toes, but, at the same time, I didn’t want it to look, for the lack of a better word, girly. So, to be able to have an input in my shoes, in regards to the look, the feel, the style, the color and comfort level, was important to me. Most people think, with girls, you’re going to get your pinks, your yellows, your fuchsias and those types of colors, but I wanted it to be a woman’s shoe that looked tough. I didn’t know guys would like it, let alone want to wear it, but, over the years, I heard from quite a few guys that I played with or worked out with, that they really liked my shoes. They told me they liked the look of it and the feel of it because it wasn’t a heavy shoe at all. It was really light. It made me feel good when I heard that guys really liked the shoe and actually played in it. I felt like I, having a say in the design process, accomplished what I wanted to with it.

Nike Air Tuned Swoopes

Nice Kicks: You mentioned that you played in men’s shoes growing up. Are there any particular models that stand out?

Sheryl Swoopes: Well, it’s not a big secret that I’ve always been a huge Michael Jordan fan. So, any Jordan basketball shoe I found, I would at least put it on and tried it. Yet, some of those Jordan shoes were a little too heavy for me, so I didn’t play in them a lot. I walked around in them, and I wore them to the gym, but I never played in them. My favorite shoe that I ever wore was the Nike Air Force Max CB, Charles Barkley’s first signature shoe. That shoe was extremely comfortable, and it was very, very supportive. I loved playing in that shoe. Throughout my career, I’ve always had to get my ankles taped, wear two pairs of socks on each foot and wear ankle braces, but with that shoe, I felt like it gave me more ankle support, so I didn’t have to wear as much. I could either get taped and not wear the ankle braces or wear the ankles braces and not get taped. I was very comfortable and confident in that shoe.

Nice Kicks: Speaking of Michael Jordan, you’ve been frequently referred to as the “female Jordan” throughout your career.

Sheryl Swoopes: He’s always been my role model and my idol. I’ve always admired his skills, his talent and his ability on the floor. He always seemed to be head and shoulders above his competition, and he always rose to the challenge. That’s what made me admire him as an athlete. The first time I met him was in ’94 after we won the national championship. I worked a summer basketball camp for him, and I remember a lot of people referring to me as the “female Michael Jordan.” First of all, I would never compare myself to a player as great as a Michael Jordan. I don’t think there will ever be another Michael Jordan, and that’s just how I feel about Michael Jordan. Kobe Bryant is phenomenal and LeBron James is great, but there will never be another Michael Jordan. When I got the opportunity to meet him, I was speechless, wide-eyed and slurring my words. Like, what do you say to Michael Jordan? I was at his camp with about 500 other kids there, and, out of nowhere, he called my name out. He said, ‘Where is Sheryl Swoopes?’ It totally shocked me because I didn’t know Michael Jordan knew my name. We actually played a game of 1-on-1. Of course, he won, but I held my own. It was a great time for me.

Sheryl Swoopes and Michael Jordan

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