history of women's signature basketball shoes

As the NCAA wrapped up the Women's Basketball Final Four last night in New Orleans with UConn taking its eighth championship title over Louisville, Sneaker Report takes a look back at the leading ladies who have lead the way. The combination of the 1996 Olympic women's dream team comprised of Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie, and Dawn Staley, claiming the gold medal, paired with the first ever WNBA game in June of 1997 set the stage for an onslaught of women's specific basketball releases for the remaining four years of the millennium. This included Nike's first female sponsored basketball player Sheryl Swoopes, and her signature shoe to match, the Nike Air Swoopes. From Sheryl to Maya, here is The Complete History of Women's Signature Basketball Shoes.

Calvy Click is the Editor-in-Chief of Sneaker Report. When she isn't writing about performance footwear and apparel, you can find her running around Manhattan to Rick Ross anthems. 

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Nike Air Swoopes

Athlete: Sheryl Swoopes
Year: 1996
Sponsor: Nike

Nicknamed “the female Michael Jordan” Swoopes was the first player signed to the WNBA. With three Olympic Gold medals and three-time WNBA MVP’s under her belt, Swoopes made her initial mark in 1993 by taking her Texas Tech Lady Raiders to win the NCAA women’s basketball championship.  In 1995, she was the first female player to get her own signature model—the Air Swoopes.

Developed by Marni Gerber, the design merged traction with agility with a Durabuck outsole and a stability strap midfoot to blend support, performance, and style.

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Nike Air Swoopes II

Athlete: Sheryl Swoopes
Year: 1996
Sponsor: Nike

The least popular Swoopes signature made it's mark at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games in an "Olympic" colorway. Still, the innovative look was a sign of exciting things to come from the Swoopes signature series.

w_nike-air-max-highupNike Air Max Highup

Athlete: Lisa Leslie
Year:
Sponsor: Nike

The three-time WNBA MVP and the four-time Olympic gold winner Lisa Leslie was the face of women's basketball at the inception of the WNBA in 1997. Centering her focus as a role model for young women that struggled with the balance of being an athlete and being feminine, Leslie is known for rocking ribbons and lipstick on the court along with her Nikes.

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Nike Air Swoopes Zoom

Athlete: Sheryl Swoopes
Year: 1997
Sponsor: Nike

Nike's Zoom technology is introduced to the Swoopes signature.

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Nike Air Total 9

Athlete: Lisa Leslie
Year: 1998
Sponsor: Nike

Making its debut at the end of the below Nike "Little Rascals" ad, the Total Air 9 is equipped with a synthetic leather upper, a full-length Total Air unit, and rubber outsole. The quilted upper holds the Total Air 9's iconic look today.

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Nike Air Flight Deny

Athlete: Dawn Staley
Year: 1998
Sponsor: Nike

Three years before leading the Charlotte Sting to the WNBA playoffs, Staley was the face of the Nike Air Flight Deny. A sturdy shoe on a herringbone outsole with a synthetic leather upper, the Deny was inspired by Staley's three-time gold medal play on the court.

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Nike Air Max Shake ‘Em Up

Athlete: Cynthia Cooper
Year: 1998
Sponsor: Nike

The Shake ‘Em Up was designed for all-around players like Cynthia Cooper. Boasting a full gran and synthetic leather upper, forefoot Zoom Air and a slimmed down Max Air Bag, the rubber outsole held strong with the herringbone tread.

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Nike Air C14

Athlete: Cynthia Cooper
Year: 1999
Sponsor: Nike

The C14 is a shoe worthy of the two-time MVP, three-time Olympic gold medalist, and Basketball Hall of Fame Chicago native. Cooper worked the hardwood with Houston Comet teammates Tina Thompson and Sheryl Swoopes for four consecutive WNBA championship titles.

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Reebok “The Lobo”

Athlete: Rebecca Lobo
Year: 1998
Sponsor: Reebok

Incorporating Reebok’s Hexalite technology, Rebecca Lobo’s first and only signature shoe made a splash in June of 2008 at Lady Footlocker when the first 5,000 pairs were sold with one of the following prizes: Free tickets to a New York Liberty game, a photograph with the athlete, an autographed product, or a team shirt.

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Nike Air Swoopes IV

Athlete: Sheryl Swoopes
Year: 1998
Sponsor: Nike

Swoopes (far right) continued to rule the WNBA in 1998, sealing the deal with the second of four consecutive WNBA championship titles for the Houston Comets and releasing the fourth signature Swoopes.

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FILA Nikki Delta Basketball

Athlete: Nikki McCray
Year: 1999
Sponsor: FILA

After signing a $1 million dollar deal with FILA in 1999, McCray rolled out the Nikki Delta for men and women athletes.

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Nike Air Zoom S5

Athlete: Dawn Staley
Year: 1999
Sponsor: Nike

Dawn was back at it again in 1999, the same year she joined the WNBA, with the Nike Air Zoom S5.

swoopesV copyAir Tuned Swoopes

Athlete: Sheryl Swoopes
Year: 1999
Sponsor: Nike

The eye candy that was the Air Tuned Swoopes featured an Air Zoom heel crashpad and a diverse outsole for maximum traction.

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Nike Air Swoopes VI

Athlete: Sheryl Swoopes
Year: 2001
Sponsor: Nike

A departure from the previous Swoopes eye-catching upper design, the sixth signature embraced a minimal upper to shift focus to the dynamic midfoot support, Nike Zoom forefoot, and herringbone outsole.

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Nike BBMique Shox

Athlete: Chamique Holdsclaw
Year: 2001
Sponsor: Nike

Chamique racked it in from Nike in 1999 with a five-year deal said to exceed $1 million, making her the wealthiest female basketball player at the time. The BBMique Shox reinvented the concept of a quilted upper, featuring the technology of the moment, Nike Shox.

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Air Swoopes Premier

Athlete: Sheryl Swoopes
Year: 2002
Sponsor: Nike

The final Swoopes signature was released in the middle of Sheryl's gold medal victories in Sydney and Athens to celebrate the trailblazing athlete's accomplishments on the court. With an Air Max outsole and Nike Zoom forefoot, the Premier was released to inspire the best of the best.

adidas

adidas TS Ace Commander

Athlete: Candace Parker
Year: 2008
Sponsor: adidas

Candace Parker joined the adidas Hoops team in 2008 when she became the second woman to dunk in the WNBA. Equipped with Adiprene technology, Parker has revived the women's signature for today's athletes.

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adidas Ace Versatility

Athlete: Candace Parker
Year: 2011
Sponsor: adidas

Parker's second shoe released the summer of 2011, boasting Adiprene technology and a Climacool upper with a functional midfoot strap.

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adidas Ace3

Athlete: Candace Parker
Year: 2012
Sponsor: adidas

Parker's third instillation of her adidas Ace signature series features

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Maya Moore Signs with Jordan Brand

Athlete: Maya Moore
Year: 2013
Sponsor: Air Jordan

The first female to be sponsored by the Jordan Brand, Maya Moore signed with the brand last May, but we have yet to see a signature shoe for the groundbreaking player.

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