Fresh off an incredible year that included three league championships and three MVP honors, Breanna Stewart continues to stake a claim as the biggest name in women’s basketball.
On Wednesday, the Storm star announced a historic deal with Puma, which includes her own signature shoe.
The 26-year-old Stewart, who will have complete control over the name, design, colors and messaging, becomes just the 10th WNBA player to have her own signature design and the first since Candace Parker’s Adidas TS Ace Commanders in 2010.
“I am proud to join the Puma family,” Stewart said in a release. “We share a vision to grow the sport and welcome everyone — specifically women and girls — globally. The genuine investment Puma has shown to collaborate with and activate around women, including the commitment to a signature performance shoe, is something that I hope serves to raise the expectations and standards of the generations of basketball players who follow me.”
Puma is just beginning to develop Stewart’s shoe, which typically takes 12-18 months. This season, she’ll wear either Puma’s RS Dreamer or the Court Rider.
During an ESPN interview, Stewart said she was uncertain of what her new shoes will be called — perhaps Stewie 1s — and wants to market to girls and boys.
“(It is) definitely going to be a low top,” Stewart said. “Going to have cushion for the Achilles, and all the people in the Achilles family. Then, I was thinking, ‘Oh, maybe I can make it eco-friendly.’ … It’s going to be exciting. I think that cool colorways are definitely going to come. Something where you can rock it on and off the court.”
Stewart’s blockbuster deal is the latest in a string of achievements this past year that began with her winning her second WNBA title and Finals MVP award last October with the Storm.
The 6-foot-4 forward then won titles and MVP honors in the EuroLeague and Russian Premier League during her overseas season with UMMC Ekaterinburg.
“It’s been a crazy year,” Stewart said last week during a Zoom interview. “When I think about how much I’ve done and how much I want to do, it’s crazy. I just want to maximize every opportunity in front of me.”
Shortly after the Storm selected Stewart with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 WNBA draft, she signed a multiyear endorsement deal with Nike and often wore Kevin Durant’s line of Nike sneakers.
However, Stewart’s deal with Puma elevates her into an exclusive club of WNBA players who have had signature shoes including, Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie, Dawn Staley, Cynthia Cooper, Rebecca Lobo, Chamique Holdsclaw, Diana Taurasi, Nikki McCray and Parker.
In contrast, 18 NBA players have their own signature shoe this season and only a handful of WNBA players have had exclusive deals with shoe companies, such as Maya Moore’s Air Jordan XI, Nike’s special-edition LeBron 16 for Taurasi and a Nike Kyrie Irving Low 4 “Keep Sue Fresh” for Sue Bird.
Last December, Jordan Brand extended its WNBA roster to eight after signing endorsement deals with five new players, including Storm guard Jordin Canada.
But there’s a big distinction between endorsing a product and being the driving force in the production of a new sneaker like Stewart.
During an interview with Sports Illustrated last week, Bird talked about the why no one in the WNBA has had a signature sneaker line for over a decade.
“It’s no secret a lot of things in women’s sports haven’t been invested in the right way and haven’t been given the proper spotlight,” said Bird, the 18-year Storm star who is an ardent basketball shoe collector. “Sadly, signature shoes are one of those things. A lot of times for some reason, people look at female athletes and just assume it won’t work. When the reality is there’s tons of female sneaker heads.
“Our entire league is one big sneakerhead. Every time we hit the floor this past season in 2020 what we affectionately called ‘The Wubble,’ we got to showcase a lot of different sneakers. All of the athletes. So we’re a league filled with people who genuinely love their sneakers, like to have fun with them and we even use them as our messengers sometimes. So to me it’s a natural fit for eventually somebody to have that signature.”
Bird also predicted Stewart would be the next to receive a signature shoe deal.
“Who would I like to see?” she said. “Obviously, Diana Taurasi is the greatest of all time, so she deserves a signature. She had one early in her career. It would be nice to reboot that.
“And then maybe some younger players. I’m biased, we got Breanna Stewart on my team. We got Jewell Loyd on my team. Both people that love their sneakers and are two of the top players in the league right now. You could argue they’re in the top five. So it would be deserving and I think it would be fun to see.”