Kia Nurse on the Wildest Pair of Kicks She's Ever Owned

We sat down with the Canadian basketball star, prior to the return of the WNBA, to talk kicks, social distancing, and Black Lives Matter.

Kia Nurse, a guard for the WNBA’s New York Liberty, is at home on the court. The Hamilton, Ontario-born athlete has been playing ball since she was just four years old. And while the days of toddling around beneath the net are long behind her, sport has always been deeply embedded in her life. 

Nurse (by the way, no relation to Raps head coach Nick Nurse) comes from a family of elite athletes. Arguably one of Canada’s most athletic fams: Her pops played on the Hamilton Tiger Cats, her mom played basketball at McMaster University, her brother is with the Edmonton Oilers, and her sister played ball at the University of Oregon and Bowling Green State. And the day she spoke with Complex from her home in Toronto, she'd just become an Aunt (congrats again).

Kia herself is holding her own too: last year, the 24-year-old became one of three female athletes ever to get signed to Jordan Brand, and it’s no surprise they chose her. The WNBA All-Star won gold at the 2015 PanAm games (and will rep Canada again at the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics), has two NCAA titles under her belt, and is an integral player on the New York Liberty. With the WNBA finally back in action this Saturday, you can bet she's been looking to add "WNBA Champion" to her CV.

Check out our chat with Nurse above—which took place last month—on everything from her insane sneaker collection to social distancing to the Black Lives Matter movement.

On staying fit during the pandemic…

I’ve set up a home gym at my place and at my parents' house as well. I split the time between here and there, so we workout, we lift, we do cardio around the neighborhood and run wherever it’s easy. I also have a little bit of access to a gym, so fortunately I've been able to get in and get some shots up.

On growing up in a family of elite athletes...

Sport runs deep in our family, but it's always fun to be a part of. We're super competitive in the best way possible. Everybody has their own success in their sports, they lead their own footsteps and then everybody else comes up behind them. I'm the baby, so I've got all their footsteps that I try to fill as much as possible. 

We're each other's biggest fans and we love watching each other play. It's a support system, too — if you ever need something, or if you ever have to go through a situation that's a little uncomfortable, someone in the family has probably already gone through it. It's fun to get their advice and hear what they've done to get through it.

On family time during COVID...

We don’t usually get to spend a lot of time together as a family since we live in different places and travel often. But because of the pandemic, we’re all close again. I don’t think we’ve all been in the same place since high school, you know, my brother’s home, and I'm able to kind of travel and see all of them. We have family dinners pretty much every weekend and that's been really fun to be a part of because it's been so long since all of us have been in the same place at once for an extended period of time. 

On George Floyd and BLM… 

Like many people, I struggled to find words to use to express what I'm feeling like. There are so many things that I want to say, and there are so many ways to say it, but you never know which way to say it. Seeing people stand up, seeing people speak up and seeing people support, that's important, but I think it's got to come from everywhere and everyone to really genuinely make a change.

I grew up in an interracial family—my mom's white, my dad's black. So when we grew up, it wasn’t different to see two people who don’t look alike being loved by one another and treated as equals. I'm fortunate to have grown up in that situation with my incredible parents and how they raised us. But I think a lot of more love needs to be spread in this world.

On the We Are All #TeamCanada social campaign… 

The idea here was to think about the pandemic, and what we need to do as a country, as if we’re all one team of athletes. If we're on a team sport, each of us has a role to play. So, if that means staying inside and social distancing, even when we don’t want to, we all need to do our part to help stop the spread of COVID and keep the frontline workers safe. We're all on one team here, but we all have our own individual parts to play. We all have to make sacrifices and sometimes the role isn't the one that we necessarily want to play. 

On signing with Jordan last summer… 

It's been incredible to be a part of the Jordan family. It kind of came out of the blue for me. Last year when we did the whole “Welcome to the Jordan Family” photo shoot and whatnot in New York, someone asked, “You're the second and third women to be signed by Jordan, how do you feel about that?" And I looked at Asia (teammate Asia Durr who was signed at the same time) and I was like, "This is crazy." In that moment, it kind of sunk in that this doesn't happen that often. 

When they said that I would be able to debut the 34 on court at a WNBA game, that was insane. Like, a woman just debuted a Jordan shoe on court. And it was me. Like, this little girl from Canada. 

On her sneakers…   

I'm always in Jordan 1s. They go with any outfit. I can wear them dressed up or down if I'm just chilling. They're comfortable and have every single colour that you can think of, so there's always one to match whatever I'm wearing. I also love the 4s. I had those Mushroom 4s on All-Star weekend, so they have an extra special place in my heart. When I play, I do the 34s, typically, and then I also switch between the Westbrooks.

I meant to count them all the other day because my dad was trying to challenge me on how many I was at. I had 215, not even a year in with Jordan Brand. So I'm on at least 200 Jordan shoes without counting my performance shoes.

On the wildest pair of kicks she’d ever had… 

When we went into All-Star weekend, Jordan said they wanted to do something crazy and they gave me these Own The Chaos limited-edition Russell Westbrook sneakers. They're made of pieces of Westbrook's shoes, so they take one piece and put it on the custom shoe. It's like all of his shoes in one and they were absolutely insane. They came in this briefcase that was personalized; I opened it up and it had this massive mirror with the words "WNBA All-Star" on it and then the two shoes were specifically placed inside. It was so cool. I believe they put them out for a limited release a couple of weeks later, but at the time, it was just me and Russell who'd seen them, no one else ever had.

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