The Seattle Storm superstar makes history as the first WNBA player in a decade to create an exclusive sneaker.
We’ve been waiting for ten years. Season after season, draft after draft, Finals MVP after Finals MVP – the question continually comes up in footwear industry circles and across the greater sports landscape:
Now, we have our answer.
Breanna Stewart, the Seattle Storm star that racked up a WNBA Finals MVP and a championship trophy in each of her last two active seasons has landed a landmark Puma shoe deal that will make her just the 10th woman in league history to have her own signature sneaker.
Whether they’re dubbed the Breanna 1s or the Stewie 1s, we’ll have to wait and see, as we’re likely still a year away from the eventual launch.
But most importantly, they’ll be hers.
Not just another player exclusive colorway of a men’s shoe, or a limited edition of an annual team shoe. These will be designed from the ground up, exactly as Stewart sees fit, with performance insights, themes, colors and nuances all specific to her tastes and preferences.
“It’s crazy that it’s been a decade, but hopefully I can make up for lost time,” she beamed to Boardroom.
In addition to the WNBA dominance, the 26-year-old’s current run to the top of the sport has seen her tally up four NCAA championships in a row at UConn, two FIBA World Cup titles, and an Olympic gold medal. The resume speaks for itself.
For far too long, though, brands have overlooked even the most decorated female hoopers in the W, creating a marketing gap since Candace Parker’s signature “Ace” Adidas last dropped in 2011.
Most of today’s rising WNBA stars have never laced up a female signature shoe before. It’s a void that’s seemingly enforced a ceiling on the current generation of up-and-coming girls getting their start in the sport.
To see Sheryl Swoopes, Dawn Staley, and others lacing up heat just as the WNBA was launching in the late 90s provided a jolt to the game as it looked hopefully toward the future. Now, Stewie is pushing things forward again with Puma.
“I hope it becomes a little bit of a competitive thing and then turns into a domino effect,” she said. “That’s how the industry works.”
Just before the W first launched in 1997, the star power on the touring 1995-96 US Women’s Basketball team was aplenty. Six signature athletes played especially pivotal roles in the WNBA’s earliest years, as Swoopes, Staley, Cynthia Cooper, and Lisa Leslie (Nike), Rebecca Lobo (Reebok), and Nikki McCray (Fila) would all launch their own signature shoes.
The first player signed to the league. The first MVP. The first dunker. They all had their own sneaker.
Whether it was teaming up with female designers, giving exact input on colorways that honored their journeys to that point, or walking into Lady Foot Locker on off days just to see their sigs on the wall – the dream was very real.
For years, industry analysts pointed to uncertain sales projections and a lack of interest to try and justify why there has been a lack of WNBA exclusives. It’s an excuse that never carried much weight. This season in the NBA, 18 players have their own signature sneaker, with several of them quite honestly bricking at retail.
With the W’s 25th season tipping off this weekend and 100 games set to air across six different TV networks, it’s time for brands to step up and make a renewed investment in promoting individual athletes and their unique stories, triumphs, and interests. With this move, Puma is doing just that.
“I’m excited to get the respect that women’s basketball deserves and bring that to a whole ’nother level and ballgame,” Stewie said.
With her new deal officially inked, Breanna Stewart is just now kick-starting that process, and is expected to lock in with Puma throughout the next year to leave her imprint on the sneaker game.
“I can’t wait to really get with the team and talk to them about the ins and outs of creating a signature,” she said. “Obviously, I was honored that they would offer that, and now I’m just excited for what’s to come. Hopefully, we can make a really dope shoe that a lot of people will like – [a] male/female, young/old, basketball/non-basketball type of thing.”