Every sneakerhead remembers their first favorite pair of shoes. While it’s been more than two decades in some cases, the short list of WNBA stars who received their own signature shoe during their playing careers can still recall every meeting, every last detail and the emotion that came along with the launch of their namesake sneakers.
It all began with Sheryl Swoopes’ groundbreaking Nike Air Swoopes in 1995, with several more following the success of the 1996 women’s Olympic team and the launch of the WNBA in 1997.
“I understand how big of a moment that was,” said Swoopes. “Not just for me, but for so many young girls and women coming after me.”
From how they found out they were being awarded a signature shoe to their involvement in the design process and their favorite moment wearing their models, these trailblazing women share some of their sneaker memories.
These comments have been edited for length and clarity.
How did you find out you were getting your own signature shoe and what was your reaction?
Swoopes: When Nike first approached me, they didn’t come at me and say, ‘Hey, we want to give you your own shoe.’ The conversation initially was just, ‘What do you look for in a basketball shoe?’
They said, ‘We’re thinking about designing a women’s basketball shoe, so that’s why we want your input.’ I thought that was the coolest. I thought that was the best. The fact that they were going to design a women’s shoe and they seeded me for it, I thought that was pretty cool. Then, it went from that conversation to, ‘And we’re thinking about naming it after you.’