Two-time WNBA champion and league MVP A’ja Wilson is getting her own shoe

The WNBA star announced the pending arrival of her long-awaited Nike signature on Saturday, the same day that the Las Vegas Aces played the Puerto Rican national team at South Carolina. The preseason matchup was a homecoming for Wilson, who played for the Gamecocks and grew up in Columbia —making it a fitting moment to drop the news. 

Wilson showed up to the arena with a sweatshirt that read "Of Course I Have A Shoe Dot Com," revealing a URL that redirects to Nike’s website. The sneaker will be called the A’One.

The shoe — along with Wilson’s signature collection — will arrive in 2025. Having first signed with the athletic mega-brand as a rookie in 2018, the former No. 1 draft pick has reportedly been refining designs with Nike for over a year. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Just Women’s Sports (@justwomenssports)

"It's been incredible working with Nike toward a dream of having my collection, and it really is an honor to take this next step and become a Nike signature athlete," Wilson said in Saturday's press release. "From my logo to the look of the shoe and the pieces throughout the collection, we've worked to make sure every detail is perfectly tuned to my game and style."

She told Andscape’s Aaron Dodson that the highlight for her was being able to announce the drop in conjunction with the Aces’ trip to her alma mater and hometown.

"The biggest thing for me is I get to showcase what I've been working on for a couple of years now in my home state, in my home city," Wilson said. "A place where people watched me grow and I raised eyebrows like, 'Is she really that good?!' To then seeing me in college and now in the pros."

When the A'One debuts, the 27-year-old will most likely be the 14th WNBA athlete to receive a signature shoe. Current players with active shoe contracts include Breanna Stewart, Elena Delle Donne, and Sabrina Ionescu. Caitlin Clark is next in line to receive a shoe in her new deal with Nike, although the brand has yet to confirm that detail.

After talk of Clark's shoe-inclusive Nike deal hit the headlines in mid-April, questions arose around Wilson's lack of signature footwear, with many pointing to a dearth of Black representation within the recent influx of shoe collaborations. The last Black WNBA player to receive her own shoe was Candace Parker with Adidas in 2010, while Wilson marks the first Black WNBA player to ink a Nike shoe agreement since Sheryl Swoopes in 2002.

Wilson has been working with Nike on refining her signature shoe design for over a year. (Nike)

"There's definitely value in patience," Wilson told Andscape. "That's something [South Carolina] Coach [Dawn] Staley has taught me — that some of the best things come from waiting and 'what's delayed is not denied.' That's something I have tatted on me. That's something I live through. So it's something I'm going to stick through."

In a news release, Nike said they were "proud to introduce A'ja Wilson as the newest member of the brand's signature family, marking the next chapter of partnership with one of basketball's greatest athletes."

Wilson is working with the same shoe designer that partnered with Ionescu, as well as Kyrie Irving before the Mavericks shooting guard parted ways with Nike in 2022. Wilson's upcoming signature collection will be "inspired by her distinctive style, incredible performance, and unapologetic realness," per Nike. "As one of the most iconic basketball players of her generation, of course, she got a shoe," they added.

Wilson’s hopes for the shoe is that girls wearing it can "feel powerful and understand that nobody can stop them from their dreams."

"It’s been an incredible ride, but there’s a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders now because it was starting to get hard," Wilson told Andscape. "But with the movement and growth of the game, I feel like this was the perfect time to say, 'Hey, I got a shoe on the way.'"

WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes believes LSU star Angel Reese will face a steep learning curve in the WNBA.

Reese is among several top prospects for the 2024 WNBA Draft. But Swoopes knows that the jump from the college game is more difficult than some observes might think.

“She would be just another player in the WNBA the first few years,” she said recently on “Gil’s Arena” podcast with Gilbert Arenas, noting that she’s not “hating” on Reese but rather remaining realistic about what the league is like.

“I have no reason to hate,” she said. “Like I told somebody else, I’ve been there, done that. You’re trying to get to where I’ve been. The reason why I say that is because people are fighting for jobs and there aren’t a lot of spaces, not a lot of spots. People are fighting for jobs.

“So Angel Reese coming to the WNBA, it’s not going to be what people think it’s going to be her first couple of years in the W.”

That doesn’t mean Reese won’t play well. That’s not what Swoopes is saying.

Often, there is an adjustment period for college stars who make the leap to the professional level. It happened with Kelsey Plum and with Sabrina Ionescu. While both are finding their groove now (and competing against each other in the WNBA Finals), they did not achieve the same success they had in college during their first few seasons in the WNBA. Plum didn’t post a double-digit scoring average until her fourth season.

“There’s so many players that I could point to that that’s happened to when they came out,” Swoopes continued. “Sabrina left Oregon and when she graduated came to the WNBA, people were like, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s going to take the WNBA by storm.’”

Instead, Ionescu played just three games in her rookie season before going down with an injury. In 2021, she averaged 11.7 points while still battling with injuries. She’s started to come into her own, but it has taken a few years before Ionescu has begun to reach the level many expected of her.

“I don’t think people truly understand how good these women are,” Swoopes said. “Like, no you don’t just leave college and come to the W and do what you did in college. These are fully grown ass women who are good, right? And they’re like, ‘Oh oh no no no I can’t wait for you to get to the league.’”

Basketball legend Sheryl Swoopes joined Dawn Staley on the latest episode of NETLIFE, and the former teammates were eager to reminisce.

Twenty-six years after winning a gold medal with Team USA at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Staley and Swoopes shared memories of the games and the training camp leading up to it, which they said was particularly grueling under head coach Tara VanDerveer.

“I probably wanted to quit every week,” Swoopes tells Staley.

Swoopes recounts a time she tried to skirt around one of VanDerveer’s workouts assigned to the team during the summer break. Players were instructed to send in a record of their mile times, which Swoopes decided to fib.

“There were times where I just was like, ‘You know what, I don’t want to do this workout today.’ In my mind, I was much younger, so I’m good. I’m just going to make something up and stick it in the mail,” Swoopes says.

“I should’ve known better because it was Tara.”

When Swoopes and the rest of the team showed up for camp in Colorado Springs, VanDerveer called her out. The mile time Swoopes had submitted was fast enough to rival mots elite track runners.

“Sheryl, I think you’re in the wrong sport,” Swoopes recalls VanDerveer saying.

VanDerveer went on to time the players at a Colorado Springs track throughout training camp, in all conditions.

“She was mentally testing us,” says Staley, now the head coach of the No. 1 South Carolina women’s basketball team. “I would not test our team mentally like that because we would not have a team if I did it that way.”

“The mental toughness that players have today is nowhere compared to what we had to have back in the day when we played,” adds Swoopes. “A coach like Tara, if she coached today the way she coached our team back then, she’d break everybody.

“If I wouldn’t have had y’all, I know I would’ve quit because Tara broke me so many times.”

The challenges of their Olympic preparation, while demanding, brought the team closer together.

“I have a special place in my heart for that squad because we held each other down, and we had each others’ back,” Swoopes says.

Staley, from where she sits now, says she sees how VanDerveer’s coaching style bonded the players.

“Looking back on it, Tara sacrificed herself,” she says. “She made us closer by being the sacrificial lamb. Like, we didn’t like her, and she forced us to like each other because of what she was doing to all of us.”

Listen to NETLIFE for more on Swoopes and Staley’s Olympic journey.

Four-time WNBA champion Sheryl Swoopes is ready to see the WNBA grow, sharing her hopes for the future of the league on the latest episode of NETLIFE with Dawn Staley.

The most significant change Swoopes has seen since her playing days and since the implementation of the 2020 CBA is in player compensation. As the league continues to grow economically and the talent pool deepens, Swoopes has her eyes on expansion.

“We all talk about wanting to make more money, needing to make more money, and I think the players deserve that,” Swoopes tells Staley. “What I would like to see would be … just adding more teams, and if you’re not going to add more teams, possibly add more roster spots.”

Expansion has been a popular topic in the WNBA in the past year, with the 12-team league limited to 144 roster spots, and often even fewer as teams try to meet salary cap requirements. Current and former players have been vocal about the need for growth, while commissioner Cathy Engelbert has been conservative when addressing the issue.

“If we can move faster on transforming the economics of the league and our 12 teams, then we’ll feel comfortable that we have the right model to bring in new teams to thrive and not just survive,” Engelbert told Just Women’s Sports in February.

Swoopes, a Naismith Hall of Famer and four-time WNBA champion, sees the WNBA’s roster limitations as becoming a more urgent problem with each passing year.

“There is so much talent coming out of college. I feel like we as fans — because I am a fan — we’re missing out on some great collegiate talent that’s going to the WNBA, and they’re not able to make the team because there is not enough roster spots,” Swoopes says.

“Being a rookie … it is tough for you to come in and beat out 11 other players, but that doesn’t mean you’re not good enough to be on a team as a rookie.”

Listen to Staley’s full conversation with Swoopes on the NETLIFE podcast.