With the W’s 26th season coming to a close, Boardroom looks back on all of the biggest sneaker metrics and trends spotted over the last four-plus months.
In many ways, the latest WNBA season was a groundbreaking one. We saw Breanna Stewart unveil the first women’s signature basketball sneaker in over a decade when she debuted the Puma Stewie 1 at the All-Star Game in Chicago.
We also saw more player-designed PE pairs hitting retail than in years past, like Sabrina Ionescu’s teal Nike Zoom GT Cuts, Skylar Diggins’ “Desert Sky” capsule of clothing and footwear with Puma, and Candace Parker’s second batch of “ACE”-branded items with Adidas. Almost nightly, league legend Sue Bird was switching into new looks of the Kyrie Infinity as she finished off her farewell season.
Across the board, there was noticeably more energy surrounding the sneakers of the W, with the league’s growing fanbase following along on a nightly basis on Twitter, and more players taking their sneaker storytelling to another level.
As the sneaker tracking site KixStats unearthed, 69.5% of the pairs worn by players throughout the regular season were Nikes, while Adidas came in at a distant second with 15.2%. Jordan accounted for 8.4% of the league’s footwear sightings, with Puma coming in around half that at 4%.
The collective of Under Armour, Converse, Reebok, and Peak each saw around 1% of league visibility, with either a lone player or just a select few lacing up their sneakers in games.
“It’s no surprise that the Nike brand is one of the most popular in the world, but I didn’t expect such dominance compared to other companies,” KixStats founder Andrius Kolesnikas, who tracks all of the sneakers worn leaguewide with a group of friends in Europe, told Boardroom.
As he points out, the numbers in the W weren’t too far off of the brand breakdown we’ve seen in recent NBA seasons, where Nike recently boasted a 68.3% foothold on footwear. Adidas also came in second, though just 10.5% of NBA players last year were wearing its Three Stripes sneakers.
While Stewie and Sue stuck out in Seattle, it was their Storm teammate in Jewell Loyd that also caught the eye of Andrius.
“[She had the] most memorable Nike Kyrie Low 5 and Nike Kobe models with their different and bright colors,” Kolesnikas added.
Connecticut Sun guard Natisha Hiedeman also left an impression, with a rotation of five different sneakers in eight total colorways throughout the regular season that mixed in the GT Cut, a retro Cool Grey Air Jordan XI on media day, and a variety of signature Kyrie, KD, and PG models.
“She was one of the players who changed basketball shoes the most this season,” said Kolesnikas. “The most eye-catching was when she played with the Nike PG 3 ‘Mamba Mentality.’ When you saw those sneakers, you’d immediately think that Natisha was competing with them.”
As KixStats found, the Kyrie Low 4, KD 14, and GT Cut proved to be the most popular sneakers over the course of the regular season. The GT Cut was the most popular sneaker for guards, while forwards and centers most preferred the KD 14, with 209 total game appearances.
“I also thought that the Nike Kobe basketball shoes would rank higher among players’ choices,” admitted Kolesnikas, after crunching the numbers.
The Kobe 5 and 6 models ranked as the fourth- and sixth-most worn pairs leaguewide, a noted drop from their top-ranked standing in the NBA last season. With new Kobe models on a year-long retail hiatus before a new agreement was struck between Nike and the Kobe Bryant Estate, W players appeared to be less prone to pulling them out for games.
Andrius admits being most surprised by Paul George’s signature Nike PG 5 ranking No. 9 in the W, after clocking in as the second highest-worn pair in the NBA by overall minutes worn. That may also be a simple function of the launch calendar, as the PG 6 was more widely available to WNBA players and also highly worn.
As it stands, Andrius feels more competition among brands could still be in store. A total of eight brands were worn in the WNBA this season, while 15 different footwear brands made their way onto the NBA hardwood. Along with a handful of Chinese brands that together feature dozens of NBA endorsers, New Balance is also noticeably missing from the WNBA landscape.
“It would be much more interesting if WNBA basketball players chose more different basketball shoe companies,” closed Kolesnikas. “Then, more different models would appear on the basketball court and there would be more intrigue between the companies.”
Take a look through a series of stats compiled by KixStats, detailing the sneakers worn all throughout the 2022 WNBA regular season.