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A History of WNBA Athletes’ Signature Sneakers

Alyssa Caampued

It’s no secret that the sneaker industry is male-dominant. The history of sneaker culture is rooted in sports, particularly basketball, and primarily its premier men’s league, the NBA. When you think of famous NBA players, a signature shoe or collab goes hand in hand. Air Jordan, ring a bell? 

In 2024, the competition in the signature sneaker market has picked up significantly, and more WNBA players are represented. We now see WNBA signature sneakers showing up on the court during NBA games, and #1 overall pick Caitlin Clark has a pair on the way.

Here are the WNBA athletes who have received a signature sneaker deal with notable brands.


12. Caitlin Clark

During her four years at Iowa, Caitlin Clark put together one of the most impressive runs by any college basketball player in history. After signing an NIL deal with Nike as a student-athlete, Clark created a bidding war between top brands for her services as a pro. Nike won the bid with an 8-year, 28-million-dollar deal. The contract includes a signature sneaker, the biggest deal for a women’s basketball player. 

12. Sabrina Ionescu

The 2020 WNBA #1 overall pick stuck to her University of Oregon roots and signed a signature deal with Nike after a record-breaking college career. Thanks to a great price point, nice colorways, and Nike By You, the Sabrina 1 took over courts, including being spotted on several NBA players. Her second sneaker is among the most anticipated women’s signature follow-ups ever.

10. Breanna “Stewie” Stewart

Image via The Boardroom

The 2x WNBA Champion and MVP remains one of the top players in the world and is now on her third Puma signature sneaker.

The WNBA is gaining more recognition, and Stewie’s Puma deal has only helped elevate the league’s and her own status. Her growing list of accolades includes Rookie of the Year, ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete, 5x WNBA All-Star,  2x WNBA MVP, 2x WNBA Champion, 2x WNBA Finals MVP, and the 2020 Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year: The Activist Athlete.

9. Candace Parker 

Images via ESPN

Earn your stripes — Candace Parker was a hoop star in high school, where she was named player of the year in Illinois and was the first female to announce her commitment to the NCAA on ESPN News. She attended the University of Tennessee and led the Lady Vols to two national titles. The Los Angeles Sparks selected Parker as the overall first draft pick in the WNBA and was the first player to win both the WNBA Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season. 

Immediately after being drafted, Candace signed a multi-year endorsement deal with adidas Basketball and received her own signature shoe, the TS Ace Commander, which dropped in 2010 in various colorways. Her second signature, the Ace Versatility, was released the following summer.


8. Diana Taurasi

Images (left to right) via eBay and Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Before Sabrina Ionescu and Caitlin Clark, Diana Taurasi was the last woman to sign a signature shoe deal with Nike and is still considered one of the greatest hoopers ever. Taurasi was drafted first in her class in 2004 and crowned Rookie of the Year. She is a three-time WNBA champ, 2009 WNBA MVP, two-time WNBA Finals MVP, four-time Olympic gold medalist, and still an active threat on the court nearly two decades later. In 2005, she wore the Air Max Taurasi, followed by the Nike Shox DT in 2006. The silhouette was created with Nike Shox technology and featured Zoom Air cushioning.

7. Chamique Holdsclaw

Images (left to right, clockwise) via Associated Press, Sole Collector, and Sole Finder

Going back to back — In the mid-90s, Chamique Holdsclaw quickly established herself as a rising star in women’s basketball, leading the University of Tennessee to its first three-peat in women’s college basketball history. She was dubbed Naismith Player of the Year and Naismith Player of the Century. In 1999, the Washington Mystics selected Holdsclaw as the first overall draft pick in the WNBA and was later awarded Rookie of the Year, followed by an Olympic gold medal the year after, and six WNBA All-Star appearances.

During her prime, Chamique signed a five-year deal with Nike in 1999. The deal reportedly surpassed $1 million, making her the highest-paid woman in the WNBA during that time. Chamique received two signature shoes, the Nike Shox BB4 Mique and then the Nike Shox Mique.

6. Nikki McCray

Image via Sole Collector

Defense wins championships — Nikki McCray is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and one of the best defenders of all time. Before joining the W in 1998, she was a baller in college at the University of Tennessee, played internationally and in the American Basketball League. She was named an All-Star for three out of eight seasons in the WNBA. 

In 1999, Nikki signed a $1 million sneaker deal with FILA and released her signature shoe: the FILA Delta, a unisex sneaker matching her Washington Mystics team colors.

5. Rebecca Lobo


Let the games begin — In the 90s, Lobo was one of the women that helped gain attention for women’s basketball and assisted with bringing the WNBA into fruition. She gained national attention while she was a star on the UCONN Lady Huskies and led her team to an undefeated season and championship in 1995. 

When she was at her athletic peak, Lobo signed an endorsement deal with Reebok making history as the first woman athlete to sign a sneaker deal with the brand. She wore Reeboks during the 1998 season, including her signature shoe ‘The Lobo.”

4. Cynthia Cooper

Image via Icon Sportswire for Getty

The world’s gonna know your name — By the time the WNBA was established, Cynthia Cooper was 33 years old with a tremendous amount of accomplishments, such as Olympic medals and dominating the Italian league for ten years. She won the first four WNBA Championships on the Houston Comets and was named Finals MVP each season. She was also a two-time WNBA MVP and a high scorer in the league during 1997-2000. Cooper was inducted to the Hall of Fame in Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010 with players such as Scottie Pippen. 

After joining the WNBA in 1996, Cooper signed a two-year endorsement with Nike, and in 1997, she signed a three-year extension. Cooper was a face of the brand and various Nike silhouettes such as Air C14 and Air Flight C14 — the most notable was the Shake Em Ups. 

3. Dawn Staley

Image via Jeff Gross / Allsport

It’s getting hot in here — Hall of Famer Dawn Staley brought the heat with an impressive shoe game. Staley was setting trends since the beginning of her WNBA days and continues to build her list of contributions to the game, both as a player and a coach (she was the first person to win the Naismith Award as both just last year in 2020). Her sig, the Nike Zoom S5, dropped in 1999, and sneakerheads flocked upon its arrival. The Zoom S5 is very rare and hard to come across these days. These days, Staley is still stunting on the court in dope sneakers as she continues to dominate the college world as the head coach of the National Champion South Carolina women’s basketball team.

2. Lisa Leslie

Images (left to right, clockwise) via SLAM, Nike, and Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty Images

Just Dunk It — Lisa Leslie was the first WNBA player to dunk during a game in 2002. Leslie was well-known amongst basketball fans and was one of the greatest — two-time champion, three MVP awards, eight all-star appearances, ten-time All-WNBA, two DPoY awards, and more. 

Despite being the face of Nike Women’s division during her time, Leslie’s sneakers are very rare these days. Her top signature shoe, the Nike Total Air 9, was released in 1998.

1. Sheryl Swoopes

Image via Doug Pensinger/ Allsport

History is made — Sheryl Swoopes was the first woman to have her own signature shoe that debuted in 1996. The Air Swoopes was her first Nike silhouette, and the 2s and the Zooms are the most iconic. The attributes on the Air Swoopes 2s are astounding as it isn’t every day that you see curved laces and a mesh upper.

Read more about how performance basketball shoes are coming back thanks to the rise of PEs here.


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