As a nod to his own family’s legacy in women’s basketball, MPJ plans to play in Breanna Stewart’s groundbreaking Puma signature shoe series.
After Michael Porter Jr. won a championship as a key scorer on the Denver Nuggets, Puma and the 25-year-old forward quickly got to work on landing a new shoe deal extension. “MPJ” was originally part of the brand’s Basketball category re-launch that began with the draft class of 2018.
“The thing that stuck out to me was the creative side and the lifestyle,” Porter Jr told Boardroom. “I always loved the swag that Puma had off the court and the fact that they were now trying to bring that on the court.”
As part of the newly signed shoe deal extension — and a nod to the women of the Porter family’s longtime lineage in hoops — MPJ has been wearing Breanna Stewart’s second signature shoe this season to help highlight his love for women’s hoops.
“I’ve always admired Stewie’s game since back at UConn,” he said. “She’s broken tons of records, and ever since her rookie year in the WNBA, she’s done some amazing things. She’s always been a hooper to me.”
Porter’s sisters Cierra and Bri also played at Missouri. His youngest sister, Jayda, is currently a high school standout senior. His mom, Lisa, averaged a ridiculous 58.7 points per game as a high school senior in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1983, on the way to being named “Miss Basketball” as the best female player in the state.
“My mom was an amazing basketball player,” smiled Porter Jr. “I’ve always respected women that play, and we’ve always talked about my mom being probably the best in the family.”
Giving Women’s Basketball Hoopers Their Flowers
As he continues to lace up the Puma Stewie 2s this season, MPJ is looking to lead the way in celebrating the recent resurgence of women’s signature basketball shoes.
“You have guys wearing women’s shoes, and it’s usually the other way around,” he adds. “We want to bring more awareness to the WNBA and give those women the flowers that they deserve. I just think it’s cool for me to be able to represent that.”
When Stewart signed on with Puma during the summer of 2020, part of the announcement included the declaration that she’d be getting her own signature shoe with the company.
“I think the way they designed it is awesome,” Porter said. “I saw a video that said she was the 10th woman to have a signature shoe. … I did a little bit of research and realized that girls really haven’t had too many signature shoes.”
Stewie indeed became the 10th player and just the first WNBA player in a decade to launch her own signature shoe in 2021. There are now a dozen WNBA players who have had their own signature shoe over the league’s 27 seasons. More are still long “overdue” — as the original Stewie campaign tagline said.
After being one of the original NBA players to sign on for this modern era of Puma Basketball, Porter Jr. has seen up close how the brand has stood behind an investment into the women’s game, pushed efforts to build out a lifestyle lane and highlighted the creativity of the players signed on with the brand.
Seeing Puma’s Vision Ahead
With hindsight in tow, Puma’s Basketball re-launch has gone just about as well as planned. The initial class of five lottery picks added instant credibility. Meanwhile, the women’s side was fortified by headliners in Stewart and Skylar Diggins-Smith. The brand landed tunnel staple Kyle Kuzma and signature star LaMelo Ball shortly after.
But it was all a blur during the week leading into the 2018 NBA Draft for Porter Jr.
“That was a crazy time. As a rookie, everyone is trying to get a shoe deal,” he recalled. “Puma was never really big in the basketball scene. When we were debating who we were going to go with, and everyone gave their pitch, what stood out with Puma was their flexibility, their vision, and the way they looked at things.”
Other brands offered financial figures and loose plans, while Puma had a distinct path in place for Porter.
“You could tell they genuinely cared about the players that they were looking to invest in and create this brand with through basketball. It didn’t feel like the stereotypical business model,” he added.
More than anything, during a highly-reported time in which MPJ’s once-projected No. 1 pick draft stock was falling and he faced an expected sidelined rookie season due to injury, he noticed how the brand didn’t switch up along the way.
“That’s really what stood out, the fact that they believed in me,” he said. “Look, I always was a Nike guy growing up, and a little bit of Under Armour as well, with Steph Curry there. But I never even thought that Puma was going to get in the basketball space.
“After my injuries, I did feel like a lot of people didn’t know where I’d end up [in the Draft] and lost belief in me. Puma never did, and they made that clear, that they wanted to make me a priority. The relationship was always very genuine and that went a long way with me.”
Throughout his young career, if he faced additional setbacks along the way, Puma was there to accommodate and support him.
“Puma has been so flexible with me,” said Porter. “I have a unique set of issues because of injuries, and Puma is so willing to go the extra mile to make sure that I’m comfortable on the court. That’s something that I might not get with other brands.”
Now, five years later, with a new extension in place, Porter is looking forward to building more with Puma, lacing up his Stewie signatures nightly, and playing towards another playoff push with Denver this spring.
“It’s something where I want it to be a career-long thing,” beamed Porter. “Puma even betting on me and seeing a partnership going forward was really cool to me as well.”
As he reflects back on the last year, filled with a championship parade and now a contending defending team heading towards the midpoint of the season, he’s also ready to add on to the handful of years that he and Puma have invested into their partnership.
“The story that I always want to tell and that Puma can help me with is about getting through adversity, reaching your goals through the hard times, and believing in yourself,” framed Porter. “I’m sure with this new extension, we’ll be able to tell a unique story.”
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