Ahead of the WNBA's landmark 25th season, Nike is unveiling the most comprehensive WNBA apparel system ever. A project nearly two years in the making, the new collection of gear includes three separate uniforms in unique team colorways that boasts creative storytelling for all 12 cities.
The Swoosh met with the Chicago Sky, Indiana Fever and Seattle Storm before the 2019 campaign to understand what sort of fit and tailoring was a necessity and how they could incorporate those needs in future iterations. Nike concluded in its findings that the WNBA is made up of 144 different powerful silhouettes. By height alone, athletes in the WNBA range from 5 foot, 6 inches (Jordin Canada) to 6-9 (Brittney Griner). Consequently, Nike needed to create a universal uniform blueprint that would satisfy all figures.
"The most rewarding part of this entire process would be our voices being heard," Las Vegas Aces forward A'ja Wilson said exclusively to Yahoo Sports about the new designs. "I think that's just [the] key part, that we're being noticed, being heard and it's being taken into consideration what we want and how we feel."
Chicago Sky guard Diamond DeShields, also speaking to Yahoo Sports, echoed: "It seems like for so long, women have been screaming at the top of their lungs for change and innovation. Finally, I feel like we've been heard and listened to and to have a company like Nike take your voice and actually do something with it is really cool."
Throughout their conversations with the aforementioned teams and both Wilson and DeShields, Nike also realized another poignant detail: "hacks,” like rolling their shorts to cinch the waistband and tucking their jersey straps into their bra straps to hold the jersey in place were both crucial to comfort and performance.
The new WNBA uniforms feature three game editions for each of the 12 teams in the league: the WNBA Nike Heroine Edition, the WNBA Nike Explorer Edition and the WNBA Nike Rebel Edition.
Available exclusively for Nike members beginning Thursday, the Rebel uniforms uplift stories of female empowerment from their cities and neighborhoods to life through the eyes of the players donning them on game day.
Reigning WNBA champion Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm spoke candidly to Yahoo Sports about what she loves the most about her respective side's look:
"We have an ode to the [Seattle Space] Needle down the side of ours, which of course no other team has," she said. "This might sound silly, but that hasn't been the case in the WNBA. The uniforms have kind of all just been the same.
"I'm from New York, and I know what the traditional New York Knicks uniforms look like. For the first time, the WNBA will be able to have uniforms special to their team and special to their city. I think that's great for the franchise, but also for the fans. There's an ownership there."
The NIKE Heroine Edition white uniforms will also double as this year's home jerseys. Returning to the WNBA for the first time since 2015, players' numbers will be visible from the front of the game jersey.
"You don't know how much you miss something until it's gone," Wilson said. "You work so hard to have that identification on you, so for them to have that back now in our jersey is definitely a big part. It makes me feel like I got myself back."
Finally, each authentic WNBA jersey is numbered 1 through 144 — celebrating the 144 women who earned a spot in the world’s premier women’s basketball league.
Continuing to put social justice at the forefront
Lauded for their efforts in actively speaking out against racial and social injustices during the 2020 season, don't expect the league or players to adopt a different mindset when they tip off later this year.
"I hesitate saying we're activists because there are people that are truly activists and those are the ones that we're following," Bird explained. "We're like activists amplifiers. That's where we can really have the most impact is by using our platform to amplify the work of people actually doing it.
"We've been on this journey since 2016, maybe even before that. Since then, we've grown, we've learned and now we've found the power in our voice. I don't see us taking our foot off the gas pedal at all. We're always going to be there to fight for ourselves, but now more than ever, we want to lend that voice. We're always talking about something."
Speaking about Georgia's new voting law, the reigning league MVP Wilson lauded both activist Stacey Abrams and members of the Atlanta Dream for their relentless efforts in ensuring the voices of minority communities will no longer be ignored.
"It's easy to follow a leader such as herself," she said. "I would also key in on the Atlanta Dream for they just took a stance and put their foot down and believed in that. It just shows how powerful the women of the W really are."
The WNBA Nike Rebel Edition uniforms are available exclusively to Nike members Thursday on nike.com and in the Nike app. The WNBA Nike Explorer Edition collection will be available beginning April 14.
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