Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird is a four-time WNBA champion, four-time Olympic gold medal winner, two-time NCAA champion, 11-time WNBA All-Star, and a sneakerhead. The last descriptor might pale in comparison to her lengthy list of accomplishments (there are plenty more to boot), but Bird’s love of sneakers has made her one of the most notable players on the court, if you needed another reason outside of her generational accomplishments.
Bird has recently teamed up with eBay’s authenticity guarantee program, through which the company will be setting up shop across the country for people to bring in their sneakers and make sure they’re legit.
Many have noticed Bird’s sneakers online, whether it’s her flexing a pair of Dior x Air Jordan 1s or wearing a rare pair of Nike Kyries. But her love of sneakers goes all the way back to her days in the schoolyard, and has grown to the point where the media consistently checks in on her footwear choices.
We recently had the chance to interview Bird about everything sneakers: where it started for her, how she connected with Kyrie Irving, her thoughts on where women stand in the sneaker industry right now, how moving in with her fiancee Megan Rapinoe affected her sneaker habits, and much more. The conversation, edited lightly, appears below.
What’s your first memory that you were like, “I’m a sneakerhead?”
It was four or five years ago, Megan [Rapinoe] was actually moving into my apartment, so I had to do some cleaning, make some space, make some room. And it was in that moment where I was like, “Dang, I have a lot of sneakers.” I knew I had a lot of sneakers, but I was like, “This is a lot, a lot.” And I also have a lot of one-of-ones, because I have some Seattle Storm PEs or national team PEs. I started to post them on Instagram, because I was like, “Oh, these are kind of cool.” I have all these, whether it was Kyries or I used to wear the LeBron Soldier before that. I have all these different ones. And I was like, “Oh, let me start to post these.” It was in that moment where I was like, “Oh crap, I think I’m a sneakerhead.” And then, looking back, it all makes sense, because the truth is my earliest memory of sneakers, and picking them out, and what a big decision it was, goes all the way back to elementary school. I was the kid that was wearing them out of the store. For me, it was whenever a new school year started and we were going back-to-school shopping, that was the biggest decision of my year. So looking back and then realizing what’s happening now, it all makes sense.
What was the sneaker in elementary school that you were most excited about getting for back-to-school?
I was obsessed with the Nike [Air 180 Highs], and my foot was too small. It was devastating. They’re also really expensive, but I think it was third grade-ish, and a kid in my class had them. He was one of the tall kids, like the taller kid who grew first, and so he could get them. So it was like every day in gym class, I would just be staring and drooling. I never actually got those, which is kind of devastating, but the pair I did get like a year or so later—and it’s one of the first pairs that I actually remember picking out, and buying, and being excited about—was Andre Agassi’s Air Tech Air Challenge. It was one of my early pairs of go-to-school shoes. That’s what I wore to school every day. And then, basketball-wise, one of my first pairs that I was really hyped for was the Charles Barkleys. They didn’t have my size, and the ones that were had white and purple in them, so I had to get the black/grey ones. But yeah, Charles Barkley. Those are some of my faves.
I saw that you said that you keep a lot of your sneakers from all your big games. You’ve played in the Olympics and WNBA Finals. What’s the most memorable shoe that you’ve held on to through all those experiences?
The Kyrie 4 “Green Lobsters.” So the story behind those is I wore them in arguably the best game of my career, which was the 2018 semifinals against Phoenix, game five of a five-game series. There was just so much happening. We eventually go on to win the title because we win that game. First of all, you pick out certain shoes for big games, you know what I mean? I came to the arena with another pair, I don’t even remember what. I think, actually, it might’ve been one of the Kyries, like the “Decades” pack came out. I think it was one of those pairs. Showed up to the arena, ready to go, and they were like, “Oh Sue, a box came for you.” And I was like, “Oh, that’s weird.” So I opened up the box, and it’s the Green Lobsters. And I looked around at my teammates, I was like, “I think I have to wear these.” They were like, “Oh, you’re definitely wearing these.” So I just got them like right before the game. Played in them. I’ve only worn them that one day, that one game. I’ve never worn them since, and they will forever be kept in a safe place.
Speaking of Kyrie, the two of you have a special connection. He said that he went to Nike and he said, “You see the greatest point guard ever wearing my shoes?” And he goes, “OK, yeah. Give her whatever she wants.” They’ve done the “Keep Sue Fresh” shoes. Are you involved in that, or is that moreso Kyrie designing shoes for you and seeing if you would like them? What’s the situation with that?
The first pair was totally a surprise to me. I had no idea. Literally, no idea that they even existed. And our Nike rep was up here in Seattle, and she was just like, “Yeah, something special for you,” and hands me this box. And I was like, “Holy shit, are you kidding me? These are insane.” Those were the Kyrie 5s. What’s really cool about those is what looks just like random graffiti almost all over the shoe is actually a lot of my accomplishments written in. It says “all-star,” it says “gold medal” in there.
That was pretty cool, because that was just Kyrie essentially behind my back, so to speak, doing it on his own. Yeah, and totally surprised me. There’s another shoe coming out this summer. It’s a low, and that one I was involved in the design process. That was really fun. That was my first time kind of getting in there and choosing things that I thought would be cool and that were meaningful. And Nike does a great job of bringing your words and part of your history to life, and using those storylines in a shoe. So the low I had more say in, for sure.
There was an interview you did with Flight Club, where you had said that you wanted a women’s signature sneaker to come soon. I know that Sheryl Swoopes had had her own shoe back in the day, but how close do you think that is to actually coming for a modern day basketball?
Oh, knocking on the door, knocking for it. Yeah, I can’t imagine we won’t see women’s signature shoes within the next couple of years. Obviously, it takes time. What you find out, when you get in this whole world, is it really takes a lot of time to like, put it all together. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we see that in the next couple of years. I think we all deserve it.
Have you had any talks with Nike for yourself about designing your own shoe outside of a Kyrie?
No, I haven’t. I haven’t, but maybe I will.
Speaking of other women’s shoes, Jordan Brand’s been doing a lot of inclusive sizing sneakers. You had the Off-White 4s, Aleali May just dropped that other Jordan 1, but I think the biggest one this year is the A Ma Maniere Jordan 3. What are your thoughts on that shoe?
Obviously super dope. When it popped up on my Instagram scrolling, I definitely clicked those. I was like, “Oh wait, what are these? I need to look these up.” So, that was a hyped release everybody was excited about. And I agree with you. I think Jordan’s doing a great job of highlighting women, of highlighting whether it’s a designer or highlighting just the idea of a female sneakerhead and wanting to be inclusive of that. That’s actually also what eBay’s doing as well, really putting an emphasis on the female sneakerhead, trying to open up that space. They’ve done it before, and I think it’s great that people, companies are starting to, I guess, just that—include women. We should be included in this conversation.
Speaking of eBay, what’s the craziest thing you’ve done to track down a pair of sneakers online? Or the greatest lengths you’ve gone through to get a grail for you?
I mean, I have to be honest, I’m really lucky that, as a Nike athlete, I don’t necessarily have to do that. A lot of my shoes just come through Nike, but there’s definitely been a time there was something that maybe they didn’t have in my size, or I had to go get on my own. No great length, but I will say, I will say, a couple of years ago, two things, it was actually kind of when the Kyrie 5, the “Keep Sue Fresh” had come out, I had a friend, he went and got it on his own. And we were inspecting it after the fact, and it was kind of like, “Well, this… I don’t know if this is real. This has some weird stuff on it.” Yeah, just like different stitching. And that’s when you realize just how important the authenticity guarantee is that eBay has. That’s so clutch and so crucial to really anybody who’s trying to go out and find that sneaker because you want your value. You don’t want to be tricked and cheated, so you always got to look for that check. That check’s the most important thing.
You’ve worn a lot of Kyries in the Yeezy colorways. I know you showed your collection, and you’re like, “Yeah, I didn’t get to wear the Red Octobers.” There’s been talk and rumors and hopes that Nike would finally bring back the Air Yeezys. Is that something that you would hope to see in the future, given that you’re such a fan of the colorways on those shoes?
Yeah. That was actually just me and Megan. That was actually just the two of us on NIKEiD playing around. And then, yeah, so for the Kyrie that was with the 6s, we were like, “Oh dang, they have the colors.” Because I don’t know if anybody, I’m sure you have, if you go on NIKEiD, it might not always have like, the color you want and the place you want it on the shoe. Whenever it works out, I was like, “Oh, dang.” So I did a pair of “Platinums,” a pair of the black ones, and then the Red October ones, which is really fun. So yeah, if they brought the OGs back, whatever his pair just went for, what was it, like $1.8 million? I can only imagine if they made it, whether it’s like the actual OG, or if they did some sort of like, collab with another, who knows, maybe a female.
It’s cool too, because that shoe was prototyped by Tiffany Beers, a woman as well. I think one of your more memorable shoes you’ve worn is actually a custom. You wore those granny shoes that I saw get picked up a lot online. Can you just tell the story behind those and the reaction you got to them?
I wore them in the playoffs in 2018, and that had actually come to life a couple months before. Kickstradomis had hit me up on social media, and we got to chatting, and he was like, “I would love to do a shoe for you.” He was like, “Give me some ideas you have.” And I’d also worked with another custom maker; her name’s Katie. And Katie had done probably some of my favorites, which were an ode to my nieces, who like any little kid at the time was obsessed with Frozen and Moana. So I have a Frozen shoe and a Moana shoe. So I’d already done a shoe for my nieces, so I was like, “What am I going to do? What’s kind of like, fun but meaningful, but like not too serious?” And then I joked with him. I was like, “Oh, I’m the oldest player in the league. Can we go all-in on a grandma theme?” And he brought it to life. That was pretty fun because, obviously, at the time… I mean, it’s funny because three years later, I’m still the oldest in the league. Now, it’s kind of like just an old storyline, but in the moment, it was like, “Oh, I’m the oldest in the league for the first time.” So it was fun to play on the grandma part.