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A’ja Wilson and the Made-by-women Nike Cosmic Unity 2

While winning a second MVP and her first WNBA Finals, A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces now headlines the Swoosh’s newest statement-level sneaker.

Perhaps we should be calling these the “A’ir A’jas.” That’s a story for another time.

Since the WNBA All-Star Game, Las Vegas Aces star A’ja Wilson has been unveiling new looks of the Nike Cosmic Unity 2 all summer, yet again headlining the latest flowing and wavy Zoom Air-loaded performance sneaker for the Swoosh.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

While Nike has focused its efforts on its handful of (male) signature shoes in recent years, as the Hyperdunk line began to be phased out, the Cosmic Unity model proved to serve as a new north star for innovation and performance when it first launched last year. 

While boasting full-length Zoom Air along the shoe’s strobel and a screeching computationally designed traction pattern, the Cosmic Unity line has also looked to lead in sustainability — more than 20% of its materials are sourced from recycled materials. 

As it turns out, the latest model molded for the structure of a woman’s foot was also crafted and developed largely by a women-led footwear team within the Nike Basketball category. 

“It wasn’t planned, but inherently, it wound up being a team of a lot of women that worked on this shoe,” revealed Deepa Ramprasad, Nike Basketball Footwear Product Director. “It feels good to come from an authentic place of equity when we’re building product that we ourselves would wear.”

While Wilson wore light cream pairs and a more vibrant teal edition, it’s the siren red, metallic gold, and black pair that most closely syncs with her Aces unis.

When that particular version hit retail on Nike.com, it also included her No. 22 along the tongue’s pull tab, and a nod to her grandmother – “Hattie Rakes” — embroidered on the underside of each tongue.

“It’s crazy to think about,” A’ja tweeted of the very special personal accent. “I thought it would just be in my shoe that Nike sent me, but seeing it in the shoe being sold… it’s truly something special.”

Along the way, the group at Nike also took into account the precise silhouette that would be best suited for a female hooper like Wilson, along with a more sloping and narrow fit through the forefoot. 

“As we started building this shoe, we really obsessed the collar height and what was right for her,” added Ramprasad. “The feedback that we wound up discovering was that it was also more comfortable for male athletes.”

While the first Cosmic Unity incorporated cylindrical shapes along the midsole, the follow-up model features a sloping foam molding through the heel.  

“Something that started in Cosmic One was the heel having some kind of shape that felt like a little jet pack,” explained Michelle Cantu, Nike Basketball Materials Designer. “The idea of these different cutouts creating more of a lightweight look in the bottom of the foot, and this jet pack becoming slimmer over time — some of those details helped to express how we’re getting lighter and we’re getting faster.” 

In designing the Cosmic Unity 2, the brand was also looking to layer in more versatility into the product, allowing for the wearer to take the sneaker beyond the hardwood.

“We’ve heard over and over from our athletes and our consumers that basketball shoes have become equipment,” said Tannia Ruleaux, Nike Men’s Performance Footwear Color Design Director. “I think this being created in collaboration with each other has started to shift that needle again.”

And with Wilson and the Las Vegas Aces winning their first WNBA title to cap off their impressive summer, she’s lending even more visibility to the brand’s newest performance sneaker than what was already afforded to her throughout a head-turning MVP season. 

“There’s power in the name Cosmic Unity,” Ramprasad said. “Really, we’re emphasizing this idea of unity and togetherness, and the power that the sport of basketball can bring.” 

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