July 28, 2022
Studying the sneakers of the 2022 All-Star Game reveals a future where more female players have signature shoes.
For years, the most influential element of basketball style has been the sneakers that players wear. Creating a signature shoe with a leading sportswear brand is an important milestone for players, as it confirms that their fanbase is big enough for commercial success. The first female basketball player to create a signature sneaker happened before the WNBA’s inaugural season, with the release of Sheryl Swoopes’ Nike Air Swoopes in 1995.
In the decade after WNBA’s inaugural season, only eight female basketball players had 8 female players with signature shoes. The ninth was Candace Parker, who launched her first “Ace” collection with Adidas in 2008. After Parker, it was only last season, when Breanna Stewart signed a new deal with Puma, that another signature shoe for a WNBA player was announced. There’s a large discrepancy between the number of NBA players and the WNBA players with signature sneakers, but the industry is starting to change.
Signature sneakers allow players to infuse a custom model with their stories and personal styles. This season, Candace Parker returns with her second Adidas collaboration that introduces Exhibit B. Debuted at the 2022 All-Star Game, she says “a lot of thought has gone into [the Exhibit B], and telling stories through shoe and design.” For Parker, her family was an important inspiration. “My daughter has been around for 14 of my 15 seasons in the WNBA, so I’ll be wearing the Lailaa Nicole shoe in the All-Star game. They also made me a PE for my son, Goose; it’s like his gemstone,” shared Parker before the game.
It’s clear that the WNBA players are taking their sneaker game seriously. Apart from famous sneakerheads like Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd, almost every player who participated at All-Star Weekend packed an average of seven pairs. Parker shares that she packed six pairs, intending to change during the game, and A’ja Wilson says, “I have a whole Nike suitcase full of [sneakers]. For three days, I have sneakers for a month.” Sylvia Fowles packed about “seven or eight pairs of sneakers,” and Nneka Ogwumike kept it simple with “one pair of Y-3s.”
Breanna Stewart’s Stewie 1 Puma sneaker was unveiled on July 8 but isn’t released until September. Wearing her signature sneakers during the All-Star game, fans got a closer look at the heel’s scar detailing, which is a reference to her 2019 Achilles tear and previous surgeries. Although she wasn’t present at the All-Star game, Elena Delle Donne is also preparing to release the Nike DELDON 1 sneaker in October. While Delle Donne previously served as the face of Nike Air Zoom UNVRS, she’s been teasing fans by wearing her upcoming sneakers throughout this season.
Apart from signature sneakers, there’s also been an increase in WNBA players with Player Exclusive kicks released to the general public. During the 2022 All-Star Game, Jewell Loyd wore her Kyrie Low 5 Community “Jewell Loyd” Basketball Shoes, an explosive pair released on July 7. A’ja Wilson also rocked a pair of Cosmic Unity’s in a different colorway than her Nike Cosmic Unity “Generations” PE sneakers, which were released in 2021.
Leading up to the release of the Skylar Diggins-Smith x PUMA Hoops “Desert Sky” collection on August 2, Diggins-Smith rocked a pair of TRC Blaze Court Sky at the game. While Sabrina Ionescu chose to wear a pair of Nike Kobe 5 “Fade to Black” sneakers, she released a Nike Air Zoom GT Cut “New York Liberty” PE on June 22. Fans have speculated online that her strong presence within the Nike family may lead to a future signature sneaker.
Bringing an epic dunk to her last All-Star game, Sylvia Fowles wore a pair of Nike PG 6 sneakers in a new colorway. There isn’t much information about these sneakers, as Fowles couldn’t confirm if they were released. For sneakerheads and fans of the WNBA, mark your calendars for upcoming releases to support a future where more female players have signature shoes.
Newly hired WNBA reporter Kirsten Chen writes a lifestyle & fashion column on WNBA.com throughout the season and can be reached on Twitter through @hotgothwriter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.