UConn x Shoe Brands: A Collaboration You May Not Expect
UConn is deeply rooted in the history of basketball shoes. There were a number of Huskies who were the first to do something in the shoe business, or the first to do something for a long time, at the very least.
This is UConn’s story in shoes.
Players: Ray Allen, Richard hamilton, Maya moore, AndrÃ© Drummond, Kemba walker (2015-now) and Nurse Kia (2019-now)
During an episode of “The Last Dance”, ESPN released a clip of Michael Jordan saying “UConn has a great girls’ team.” The connection between UConn and Jordan doesn’t end there, as Jordan’s shoe brand – Nike’s shoe superpower – has signed a bundle of Huskies in the past.
Jordan Brand and UConn have been linked since the footwear brand’s expansion began in sponsoring athletes not named Michael Jordan. In 1996, Ray Allen, the No.5 pick in the NBA Draft, signed with Jordan Brand to be one of the first athletes sponsored by the company. In a project full of future Hall of Famers – Kobe bryant, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash – Jordan selected Allen to be among the first to wear a line of non-Air Jordan branded shoes made by the company.
After the rest of the Jordan – Allen brand starting five, Derek anderson, Wine Baker, Michael finley and Eddie jones – was set in stone, Jordan Brand was born in 1997, with the Jumpman Pro Quicks and Jumpman Pro Strongs released at launch.
Then a few years later, as Jordan was with the Washington Wizards in the twilight of his career, he was a teammate with a young UConn man named Richard Hamilton. In 2016, Hamilton was on ESPN’s The Jump and revealed that during his first two years in the league, he and a group of young players asked Jordan to add them to Jordan Brand. Jordan’s response, “Hey, Rip, my sneakers are for the All-Stars.”
Hamilton would later secure his first All-Star appearance in 2006-07, his first of three in a row, so he went to Jordan and asked again. Jordan Brand added it to their list. In April, the brand released a 20-year anniversary edition of the Jordan 14 PE for Hamilton commemorating UConn’s 1999 victory over Duke in the NCAA tournament.
Maya Moore has always been a pioneer. As for his shoe set, things were no different. Moore became the first WNBA player to be signed by Jordan Brand in 2011 and got her own custom shoe in 2015. Jordan released her own colourway of the Air Jordan 1 Retro High and Air Jordan 10 Retro. Both of her shoes are adorned with 3:23 on the tongue, a nod to her favorite Bible verse, Colossians 3:23.
Moore is one of an incredibly small group of female basketball players to never get their signature colorway or shoe, including more recently Elena Delle Donne and Sheryl Swoops in the late 1990s.
I will say that the fact that so few WNBA players have had their own shoe is incredibly disappointing and hopefully that will change the second we get the basketball back. For women’s sports to thrive, they just need to shake them up. As the movie “Field of Dreams” once said, “build it and they will come”. Make the shoe, try them on and you will be surprised, shoe makers. Alright, I’ll get out of my soapbox.
Kemba walker signed with Under Armor out of the 2011 draft, after leading the Huskies to an NCAA tournament victory. He switched brands to Jordan in 2015 as he played under Jordan when he was with the Charlotte Hornets, where Jordan is the owner of the team. His time with Jordan may even have contributed to his signing as a free agent with the Boston Celtics last offseason, after spending time with Jayson tatum at a Jordan event in Paris last summer.
Walker doesn’t have a signature shoe, but he’s rocked the Air Jordan 34s a lot since their release last September.
Kia Nurse also signed with Jordan in 2019 after spending most of her career at Nike. AndrÃ© Drummond has been with the brand since signing with them in 2014.
Players: Caron Butler, Ben gordon, Diana Taurasi, breanna stewart, Sue Bird, Gabby williams, Rudy Gay (before 2018) and Kia Nurse (before 2019)
Despite UConn’s rich history with the Nike subsidiary Jordan Brand, even more players have signed with the main company.
UConn’s first two Nike signings, Caron Butler and Ben Gordon, had player editions of the Air Huarache Zoom 2k5. Another notable player to have gotten a version of the shoe was the late Kobe Bryant, who had direct ties to the university in the years leading up to his death earlier this year.
Butler went on to get his own pair of Air Force 25s in 2007 as well.
Gordon was signed by Nike in the 2004 NBA Draft where he became No. 3 overall for the Chicago Bulls. He burst in with a bunch of player-exclusive shoes, including a rare Hyper Cobalt version of the popular Nike Air Foamposite Pro, which was first released to the public in 2016.
Diana Taurasi, the GOAT herself, is one of the few basketball players to have her own shoe. In 2006, she received the Nike Shox DTs, but they didn’t last long as she only played them for one season. Since then, she has rocked Lebrons on the pitch. She is the last WNBA player to wear a Nike signature shoe.
A longtime fan of Lebron James’ shoe line with Nike, she received an exclusive player from her LEBRON XVI PE in July 2019. She made her debut with the shoe in a game against the Connecticut Sun of the Year. last.
Sue Bird never had her own shoe, but she’s a historical fan of Lebron’s former teammate Kyrie Irvingher shoes and her game. So much so that she got her own Kyrie 5 colorway last year.
Breanna Stewart signed with Phil Knight’s start-up company in 2016 after being drafted No.1 in the WNBA Draft. The four-time NCAA champion got an exclusive KD8 player out of college. She wore the Elite Edition of the shoe in her senior year at UConn.
Draymond Green also posted a video of Kevin Durant on her Instagram Story in 2018, saying KD wore the “Breanna 11”.
Stewart, Taurasi, and Bird are all part of Nike’s new Swoosh Fly womens basketball apparel line out on July 10. However, it doesn’t look like it will include shoes.
Again, someone please give signature shoes to the WNBA players.
Players: Rudy Gay (since 2018), Katie Lou Samuelson
Katie Lou Samuelson and Rudy Gay were part of Puma’s return to the basketball scene. The brand has signed a ton of young stars in both the NBA and WNBA in recent years, picking up Deandre Ayton and RJ Barrett for the men and Samuelson and Jackie Young for the women, among others.
Samuelson said part of her decision to join the brand centered on a focus on growing the game, especially on the women’s side, according to ESPN.
Gay, who is a notorious fashion fan, left Nike in 2018 to join the Puma reboot. He told Hypebeast.com in March that he joined the company because of the opportunity to help build and have his voice heard there.
Players: Morgan tuck, Moriah Jefferson
Of the brands on this list, UConn has the least in common with the German brand that manufactures James hardenshoes from, Adidas. They do, however, have Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson, who signed alongside three other WNBA athletes in 2017.
Neither Tuck nor Jefferson received any custom colourways or exclusivity for players in their time with the brand.
Players Kemba walker (2011-2015)
Another piece of shoe history is coming. Kemba walker was only the third NBA player to sign with Under Armor in 2011. At the time, he was joining an Under Armor team filled with stars like New England quarterback Tom Brady and new quarterback. of New England Cam Newton. They also had Jose Reyes, for my New York Mets fans.
He of course hopped on the Jumpman in 2015, but he was with the brand famous for producing Steph Curry’s shoes before Curry got there.