Since Nike released Michael Jordan’s iconic Air Jordan shoes in 1985, basketball shoes have been a large part of basketball culture over the years. But, when shoe connoisseurs reminisce about the golden age of the kick game, the 2018-2019 NBA season may be looked back on as a peak when it comes to shoe quality and social media coverage.
With the rise of shoe accounts like BR Kicks and SLAM Kicks across all social platforms and an increase in popularity for online shoe stores like StockX, basketball fans can catch a glimpse at a wide variety of rare shoes at the snap of their fingers.
Now, that same excitement is spreading to the WNBA, with the league’s players stepping up to the occasion and getting their feet in the door of a legacy built almost 35 years ago.
Need an example? How about a pair? Look no further than Kia Nurse and Asia Durr, two fresh faces for both the WNBA’s New York Liberty and the Jordan Brand.
The duo made history this year, signing onto the Jordan Brand roster as the company’s second and third female basketball players in its illustrious history.
Nurse, currently playing in her second season with the Liberty after a collegiate career at UConn, is looking to continue a rapid career trajectory after finishing as the team’s second-highest scorer in 2018 as a rookie.
As she continues to make strides with her game, she’ll be able to do so with the Jumpman on her feet.
“I was really kind of just over the moon,” Nurse told The Swing of Things about her signing with the brand. “Little bit shocked, but obviously super excited to have the opportunity. I love what they do both on the court and off the court, what they produce for their athletes and how they take care of their athletes.”
Nurse and Durr joined Maya Moore as the league’s three Jordan Brand reps, helping Durr achieve a big goal right at the start of her WNBA career.
“That’s a dream come true,” Durr, the second overall pick in the 2019 WNBA Draft out of Louisville, said. “I’ve always been a Jordan fan, I’ve always been a person who loves shoes. To be a part of that and get those nice pairs of shoes and represent, and be up under one of the greatest players of all time,I was just truly excited.”
Nurse, born in Hamilton, Canada, has been representing her new brand well all season long, and said she hopes to use the platform to send some love all the way back home.
“I’m very fortunate to be a part of this legacy, and I think Jordan’s continuing to bring out newer and newer things, different designs and I’m excited to see where it goes,” Nurse said. “For me, I’m hoping to continue to grow the game not only in America but in Canada. That’s something that I think they would definitely be on board with helping with.”
Others have been using their platform with their kicks in different ways, whether it’s paying tribute to a loved one, or spreading awareness about a cause or message.
Many WNBA players wore different variations of Pride Month shoes throughout the month of June, with some featuring the phrase, “Until We All Win.”
In other occasions throughout their careers, players like Nurse and Phoenix Mercury guard Essence Carson have worn the pink “Aunt Pearl” KD’s from Kevin Durant to spread the word during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“It’s great that people are using shoes as their voice, pretty much as their megaphone,” Carson said. “Sometimes, you don’t really get to know a lot about the players. You don’t get to know about their stories, right? Often times, they’re not getting interviewed by the media, so instead, you’re able to see and hear about their stories and learn more about them through their shoe game.”
Carson said the attention both in person and on social media when it comes to a player’s shoes can help to bring new eyes to the WNBA, but also builds up a player’s confidence when they step onto the court.
“It’s always cool to see who has on the nice, fly kicks,” Carson said. “You hype them up and they feel good about themselves. It always feels good. Look good, feel good, play good.”
It’s not just basketball fans noticing the strong shoe selection from the women’s scene, with players from all over the NBA coming out to games and chiming in to show their support for their female counterparts.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma shared his excitement about the rise of coverage for the WNBA’s shoe game, highlighting the spotlight that’s now shining on numerous women in the league through a wide variety of social accounts.
“I love that the WNBA is getting the same attention from sneaker outlets and fashion blogs as we do!” Kuzma said on Twitter.
As shoe games have evolved across both the NBA and WNBA, another trend has grown throughout the basketball world, as well.
Whether it’s Russell Westbrook showing up to a Thunder game dressed in full construction gear, or LeBron James walking in with a white hoodie, black coat and a glass of wine, players have also upped the ante with their fashion, adding to an already-popular trend in both leagues.
“That’s something that I think we’re starting to do a little bit more with our league as well, which is great,” Nurse said. “Something that allows the fans to kind of get engaged with us, get engaged with our fashion, because our shoes and our style is one of the best ways for us to be able to express ourselves and what we believe in.”
While some fear that social media can put professional athletes at risk of putting their feet in their mouthes, these athletes are using their feet to amplify their stories and messages. With the WNBA gaining even more coverage, it can only continue to grow in a positive way.