Sabrina Ionescu’s signature shoe hit the market in 2023 as an instant hit, including among NBA players.
But for the New York Liberty guard, the sneaker was a long-held secret. In an essay for Boardroom, Ionescu writes about keeping that secret – and also what it has been like since the launch of the Nike Sabrina 1s.
Among the more startling experiences since the release was seeing a woman wearing the shoes in the grocery store.
“It was the first time I saw someone outside my team or my family repping Sabrina gear,” Ionescu wrote. “The feeling was just surreal. It made this whole journey toward getting a signature line that people all over could get their hands on feel … real.”
Just 11 WNBA players had signature shoes before Ionescu. So when Nike announced the deal, it made headlines.
Before that, Ionescu had to keep the secret of the shoe for an entire year – including from her own family. That made debuting the Sabrina 1s, and wearing them in a WNBA game, feel all the better.
“That day, and every day since, there’s just this feeling of awe, to be honest, of being able to play a game in my own sneaker,” she continued. “I felt rooted in the shoe, knowing what it stood for and the story I wanted to tell.
“Trust me: Keeping a signature shoe — one of your biggest dreams — a secret from your family for an entire year was hard.”
Even still, Ionescu had to explain the importance of a signature shoe to her family, including how having her name on the box and the details – some which are important to her Romanian heritage – set a signature shoe apart.
“It’s been funny these last couple of months because there is nobody from my family or my fiancé’s family that is not in Sabrina gear or Sabrina shoes … to everything that we go to,” she wrote. “It’s like a 30-person Romanian mob that walks around, all reppin’!”
Ionescu has watched as Nike decked out its first floor in New York City, as kids at her camp donned the shoes, and as NBA players including Jrue Holiday, Mikal Bridges and Jordan Poole started wearing them. It’s a testament to the nature of the shoe, which was designed for people of all genders and as a push for equality and bridging the gap in basketball.
Holiday was one of the first players, which Ionescu says is a testament to “where his heart is at in supporting women’s sports.”
“I’m not gonna lie – every NBA game that’s on, that’s all I’m watching for. Who’s wearing my shoes? Who’s got ’em on?” she wrote. “Every game, I just look for the vertical Swoosh that’s on the inside of the shoe.
“It’s crazy to think about now, but the vision that Nike and I had together has really come to life. The fact that the Sabrina 1 is existent now in the NBA, in college basketball, and in high school is what we were going for all along.”