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Sheryl Swoopes became the first woman to receive a signature basketball sneaker when she signed with Nike in 1995. Despite this breakthrough, not much has changed in the years since, with only a dozen female athletes receiving the honor in the history of the WNBA. In this same period, there have been more than 40 different male athletes from the NBA who obtained a signature sneaker.
The WNBA has been making strides in popularity, with ESPN reporting the 2022 season saw a 22 percent increase in viewership compared to the previous season. Overall, it was the most-watched WNBA season in 16 years. This year's NCAA Women's Basketball tournament also drew record viewers throughout, including 9.9 million viewers for the championship game — the most for a college game, men's or women's, ever on an ESPN platform. This marked a 104 percent increase from the year prior and a record for any college event streamed on ESPN+.
Although a dozen women have received signature sneakers in the WNBA's 27-year history, it had been over a decade since a woman had received a signature sneaker until just last year. Breanna Stewart's Puma Stewie 1 hit shelves broke the drought, followed by the release of Elena Delle Donne's Nike Air Deldon. The Swoosh has also announced Sabrina Ionescu's upcoming signature silhouette, the Nike Sabrina 1.
We're hopeful that sneaker brands will continue to invest in more female hoopers and show that there's a place for girls and women at every level of the game. While we wait for the next star to bring their name to the sneaker world, let's look at all of the women in the WNBA who have had a signature basketball sneaker.
Couple the fact the WNBA is increasing in popularity with the increased number of women who are receiving signature sneakers, and we’re more than hopeful that more women will be given the opportunity to create a signature silhouette in the near future. While we wait for the next star to bring their name to the sneaker world, let's look at all of the women in the WNBA who have had a signature performance basketball sneaker.
Active WNBA Players With a Signature Sneaker
Breanna Stewart - Puma Stewie (2022-Present)
Breanna Stewart's incredible journey from a young prodigy to a WNBA superstar has earned her a signature sneaker line with Puma. Her sneakers embody her strength and versatility on the court and the person she is off the hardwood.
Puma first signed the UConn alum in March 2021, and she rocked the latest Puma silhouettes on the court until she debuted the Puma Stewie 1 in July 2022. This marked the first time in over a decade that a woman had received a signature silhouette.
The Stewie 1 features what Puma describes as a “disruptive upper construction” featuring engineered mesh and a leather heel counter for stability. Sabrina’s logo is present on the tongue tag, with the insole hosting another hit of her logo. Inside the sole unit sits Puma’s latest cushioning technology, NITRO Foam, and the outsole hosts a grippy traction pattern with co-branded logos.
The second entry in the series was introduced in May 2 with the Puma Stewie 2. This silhouette improves the durability of the upper, as the engineered mesh gets reinforcement in high-pressure areas with PWRTAPE overlays. Like its predecessor, multiple co-branded logos are present as is the comfy NITRO Foam cushioning
Elena Delle Donne - Nike Air Deldon (2022-Present)
Most performance basketball sneakers don’t consider the needs of those who may face disabilities. Elena Delle Donne’s signature sneaker, the Nike Deldon, does, as Dell Donne made it a priority to include FlyEase technology in honor of her sister Lizzie, for whom she's a caretaker. The accessible tech is implemented through a collapsible heel and large strap that allows you to put the sneaker on with just one hand. As for cushioning, the sneaker contains full-length Air cushioning and a Zoom Air pod in the forefoot.
Sabrina Ionescu - Nike Sabrina 1 (2023)
Nike’s latest female athlete to receive a signature silhouette is Sabrina Ionescu. Although her Nike Ionescu 1 has not yet hit the market, it’s set to make a splash in the performance basketball field with its high-tech design and low retail price.
Select design details of the sneaker take inspiration from Ionescu’s Romanian heritage. For the model’s technological features, Nike equips the Sabrina 1 with React cushioning and Zoom Air in the forefoot. A stabilizing midfoot shank helps with energy responsiveness, while the lacing system utilizes a midfoot band system containing lockdown cables to keep you strapped in during play.
As of this writing, there are six colorways headed for release, including a “White Black” and “New York Liberty” rendition. The first launch is set for the fall.
Previous WNBA Players With a Signature Sneaker
Sheryl Swoopes - Nike Air Swoopes (1995-2002)
The pioneer of WNBA signature sneakers, Sheryl Swoopes' shoes became the first to carry a female player's name in 1995. Her signature line with Nike reached seven silhouettes across the Air Swoopes series. To this day, no other woman has had as many sneakers or has ever had their sneaker come back as a retro, as seen with the 2018 release of the Air Swoopes 2. Swoopes’ breaking the ground for women in the basketball sneaker market helped influence other women to reach these same heights.
Rebecca Lobo - Reebok Lobo (1997)
Rebecca Lobo's signature sneakers are a testament to her dominance on the court. Reebok signed the UConn alum to a multi-year deal following her Huskies' undefeated season in 1995. In just the second season of the WNBA’s existence, Lobo took the court in her own sneaker, the Reebok Lobo. Like other Reebok basketball sneakers from this era, a mixture of tumbled and patent leather appears throughout the upper alongside Hexalite cushioning in the sole. To this day, Lobo remains the only woman to receive a signature sneaker from Reebok.
Lisa Leslie - Nike Total Air 9 (1998)
Lisa Leslie's signature sneaker, the Nike Total Air 9, launched in 1998 and was designed to bring luxury vibes to a high-tech performance basketball model. Featuring a full-length Air unit and premium quilted leather, the sneaker retailed for $140 (approx $260 today with inflation). Leslie's fusion of high-fashion design details and high-tech performance was ahead of its time. Unfortunately, Nike did not continue her signature line and stopped producing pairs shortly after its introduction.
Dawn Staley - Nike Zoom S5 (1998-1999)
Debuting her sneaker in the WNBA in 1999, Dawn Staley had worked with Nike on the Zoom S5 for years. Her silhouette contains an all-leather upper with a lockdown strap featuring her S5 logo, a nod to her last name and jersey number. Internally, the mesh tongue and sockliner allow a snug and secure fit, while the sole unit features a Zoom Air cushion. Shortly after the release of the Nike Zoom S5 II, Nike discontinued the line but kept Staley strapped in the latest Nike gear.
Cynthia Cooper - Nike Air C14 (1999)
The Nike Air C14, Cynthia Cooper’s signature sneaker with Nike, released in 1999. Retailing then for $85, the sneaker features Air Max cushioning, and panels making use of both perforated and tumbled leather. Cooper wore the sneakers during the last two years of the historic Houston Comet’s four-peat.
Nikki McCray - Fila Nikki Delta (1999)
The only woman with a signature silhouette from Fila, Nikki McCray ensured her personality was included on the Fila Nikki Delta when it launched in 1999. On top of her name placed on the insole and the heel, the outsole features her number 15. A multi-paneled design on the upper allows for unique color-blocking opportunities. Nikki was adamant about the inclusion of both men’s and women's sizing for her sneaker.
Chamique Holdsclaw - Nike Shox BB4 Mique (2001-02)
Chamique Holdsclaw was honored with her own signature sneaker, the Nike Shox BB4 Mique, in 2001. The sneaker was designed to reflect Holdsclaw's aggressive and energetic style of play. The model features Nike Shox cushioning technology for superior comfort and performance. Although the sneaker (and its follow-up, the Nike Shox Mique) did not reach the same level of popularity as men’s models, it was an important step forward in recognizing the impact of women in the sport. Holdsclaw also made it a point to be inclusive of both men and women with unisex sizing.
Diana Taurasi - Nike Air Max Taurasi; Nike Shox DT (2005-06)
Nike crafted the Air Max Taurasi for Phoneix Mercury star Diania Taurasi in 2005. The silhouette represented Taurasi’s dominant on-court presence and her passion for the game. The shoe features her “DT3” logo, Air Max cushioning, and an all-leather upper. A follow-up would hit shelves a year after with the Nike Air Shox DT. Although this sneaker didn’t contain as much DT branding as her original sneaker, it was still a performance-ready silhouette that helped her on the court. Her sneaker may not be produced anymore, but young stars like Sabrina Ionescu have looked to Taurasi and her models for inspiration.
Candace Parker - adidas Ace Commander; Ace Versatility (2010-11)
With the launch of the adidas Ace Commander, Candace Parker became the first female basketball player to receive a signature sneaker from the Brand With Three Stripes. Released in 2010, the ACE Commander was designed with Parker’s input to provide the comfort and support she needed on the court. Following this, a second sneaker, the adidas Ace Versatility, hit shelves in 2011.
While her sneaker designs were solid for on-court performance, The Three Stripes ended the line shortly after introducing the Ace Versatility. Nowadays, Parker is still a substantial figure for adidas and recently launched a co-branded collection of apparel and two sneakers. Although the adidas Exhibit A and Exhibit B are technically not Parker sneakers, she still cosigns both silhouette and has served as the inspiration for several colorways.