Basketball shoes are one of the most important parts of the sport.
Yes, a player’s actual talent is what is evaluated most in terms of the game itself. But, what shows up on a player’s feet has an incredible impact on their ability on the court.
The right shoes can give you that extra jolt on a fast break, or that extra boost when rising through the air for a layup or dunk. They can prevent injuries, and in some cases, the wrong shoe can actually get a player hurt.
With such a focus on shoes across the sport, it’s not surprising that companies like Nike, Jordan, Adidas, Under Armour, and more have made millions of dollars producing basketball shoes and creating signature kicks for the sport’s biggest stars.
Michael Jordan’s shoe brand is a household name, whether you play basketball or not. Kobe Bryant had a similar impact on Nike throughout the 2000s and 2010s, and superstars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and more joined the ranks of those with a litany of signature releases.
But, through it all, female basketball players have been on the losing end of the exchange.
Only a select few in the WNBA’s history have gotten the signature shoe treatment, most notably when Sheryl Swoopes made history in 1996 as Nike’s first female basketball signee.
Things progressed throughout the years with names like Cynthia Cooper, Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo, and Dawn Staley, but didn’t move forward much in the 2000s.
In 2011, Maya Moore became the first woman to sign with the Jordan Brand. Eight years later, current WNBA stars Kia Nurse and Asia Durr jumped into the limelight, becoming the second and third female basketball players to sign on with the brand.
Despite the high-profile signings, no signature shoes have been created for those Jordan Brand reps as of this writing.
In 2020, with a roster of WNBA stars to work with, Under Armour announced its “first basketball performance footwear specifically designed for female athletes and featuring a women’s last.” However, the brand has yet to release a signature shoe for any of its female basketball representatives.
Even Sue Bird, who famously has custom “Keep Sue Fresh” colorways of Kyrie Irving’s Nike shoes, hasn’t gotten the love with a signature shoe.
So, ahead of the WNBA’s 25th season, 23-year-old Natalie White decided to take matters into her own hands.
White, a New York City native, founded Moolah Kicks in response to what the company’s website called “a lifetime of frustration regarding the opportunities for women within basketball.”
“Despite basketball being one of the most widely played women’s sports in the U.S., there was no company focused on producing female gear,” White’s company wrote on its website. “The lack of women’s basketball sneakers hindered performance and increased risk for injury, and it carried a negative implication that women do not have a place in basketball. This is exactly what Moolah is changing.”
White rolled with a crowdfunding approach to raise capital for the company’s production, opting for crowdfunding “because it is important that Moolah remains a brand that is by ballers, for ballers, and fully embodies Women’s Basketball.”
The money will be used to fund the initial production run of the shoe, along with additional work through the summer of 2021.
According to a post on Instagram, Moolah Kicks will need to sell 2,000 pairs of shoes between May 7 and June 7 to fully launch the brand.
White’s company says the shoe itself will be lighter than the average men’s or children’s alternatives, and will include foot support that “is reinforced by the female fit build.”
“Women’s feet are different from men’s,” the brand says. “Our basketball sneakers are too.”
Just a few months after a monumental 2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament, and a short time before the WNBA tips off its 25th season, White and her brand will look to make some history of their own.
If White’s plan works, it could change the game entirely for female basketball players.
“We’re here because female basketball players deserve to be recognized,” Moolah Kicks’ site says. “We’re done being overlooked and underappreciated. We’re tired of the empty stands, old gyms, and bad practice times. Most importantly, we’re done wearing men’s sneakers that are labeled ‘unisex.'”
“Moolah believes that female ballers deserve more – more respect, more choices, and definitely more sneaker options.”