Sheryl Swoopes became the first female athlete to have a shoe named after her when the Nike Air Swoopes debuted in 1995. But in 2017, no WNBA player has her own shoe line.
Women’s basketball players have had signature shoes since then — Lisa Leslie, Dawn Staley, Cynthia Cooper, Nicki McCray, Rebecca Lobo, Chamique Holdsclaw and Candace Parker, to be specific — but if you’re looking for a pair with a player’s name on them, then you’re out of luck. Part of the reason for that is low sales back before the sneaker business was booming and when the WNBA was brand-new.
“The real question is why didn’t it go forward, and the real answer is they didn’t sell enough shoes to make it worth their while,” NPD Group sports industry analyst Matt Powell recently told the New York Times. “I’m hopeful it will change. If a brand figures this out and starts to make a lot of money, everyone else is going to follow suit.”
Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore might be the closest to bucking that trend, as she became the first woman to sign with Jordan Brand in 2013. She’ll release the Air Jordan 1 Retro High and Air Jordan 10 Retro with Nike on Sept. 30, but (obviously) neither shoe will have her name on it.
And Moore stressed how important the Air Swoopes were to her.
“My mom and I both had them,” Moore told The Times. “It was exciting. I didn’t know how unique that was as an 8-year-old. I just saw Sheryl Swoopes and Cynthia Cooper and Tina Thompson winning WNBA championships and playing amazing basketball and I just wanted the shoe.
“Those things matter, especially when you’re young. There’s value there. Her work and talent were being rewarded. The investment was worthwhile because it inspired the next generation of women’s basketball players.”
It does seem odd that, in the age of online shopping, no brand has even tried to release a sneaker named for a WNBA player. The league now is in its 21st season, and clothing, in general, is much more accessible now than it was in 1995. Plus, brands don’t have to make potentially $1 billion deals like LeBron James and Nike just to release one shoe.
It’s also hard to imagine that they wouldn’t be marketable, even if they’re only released in youth styles — girls’ participation in sports is greater now than it was then. It seems we’ll just have to wait and see if anything comes to fruition in the future.
Thumbnail photo via Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports Images