2020 WNBA Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield of the Minnesota Lynx, WNBA fan favorite Te’a Cooper of the Los Angeles Sparks, two-time WNBA champion Jordin Canada of the Seattle Storm, 2020 No. 2 draft pick Satou Sabally of the Dallas Wings and super Sixth Woman Dearica Hamby of the Las Vegas Aces have joined Jordan Brand.
Before the 2019 WNBA season, Jordan Brand expanded its WNBA footprint beyond Maya Moore who, in 2011, became the first WNBA player with a Jordan endorsement. The New York Liberty’s Kia Nurse and Asia Durr were tapped as the WNBA’s newest Jordan ambassadors. With Durr missing much of her first two professional seasons due to injury struggles and health concerns, Nurse emerged as the prominent face of the brand in WNBA representation.
Now, Dangerfield, Cooper, Canada, Sabally and Hamby further diversify Jordan Brand’s WNBA portfolio.
The selection of these five stars, all quite different but equally engaging, underscores the wide-ranging promotional appeal of WNBA players.
Crystal Dangerfield’s Jordan-esque drive
Crystal Dangerfield appears to possess an understated version of Jordan’s Last Dance-certified “I took it personally” mentality.
After falling to the second round of the WNBA Draft, the No. 16 pick played with preternatural poise and ever-increasing confidence, proving that she not only belongs in the league but among the league’s best. Although only 5’5”, Dangerfield exploded for some huge offensive games, using her shifty speed to drive to the hoop while also draining deep 3-pointers.
Dangerfield is the perfect combination of a relatable yet un-relatable athlete. Her small size and modest personality encourage fans to see themselves in her, but Dangerfield’s big-time game gives her the elusive appeal of an elite athlete.
Te’a Cooper’s fashion forward fits
On the court, Te’a Cooper also defied doubters. Drafted by the Phoenix Mercury this year, Cooper was waived due to the Mercury’s roster crunch. Picked up by the Los Angeles Sparks before the 2020 season, Cooper established herself as an integral member of one of the WNBA’s best teams, serving as an aggressive off-the-bench guard.
However, Cooper arguably made a more significant impact off the court. She quickly proved that she possesses crossover appeal, attracting the attention of those who prefer to focus on the cutting-edge style of basketball stars.
According to data collected by Opendorse, Cooper led the WNBA in social media performance for 2020 with 4.11 million impressions. In the process, Cooper grew her follower base by 616 percent. It will be interesting to see how Jordan Brand takes advantage of her exponential popularity.
Jordin Canada’s championship cool
Jordin Canada exudes casual cool.
When the Seattle Storm chose Canada with the sixth pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft, the organization was selecting her to be Sue Bird’s successor — the official heir to a longtime Seattle legend.
However, Canada has never showed that she is burdened by such expectations.
Instead, she claimed her place on a veteran-laden, championship-caliber team. As a rookie, she served as a fearless off-the-bench spark during the Storm’s run to the 2018 WNBA championship. This past season, she did the same for another Seattle title team — playing with an unyielding aggressiveness on both ends of the floor that contrasts her effortlessly chill off-court personality.
Even though she has secured two rings in her first three years in the league, Canada’s award-winning resume is far from complete. Eventually Bird will retire, providing Canada the opportunity to truly put her stamp on the Seattle basketball scene.
Satou Sabally’s global superstardom, activism
Before and during the 2020 WNBA season, there were hints that Sabally would become part of the Jordan family. Now, it is official.
The way Sabally balled out for the Dallas Wings in the wubble and continues to ball out for Fenerbahçe in EuroLeague action make her a valuable asset to the brand. Yet, her potential reach as a worldly activist further enhances her appeal as a Jumpman ambassador.
As she showed with her draft night outfit and setup, Sabally proudly embraces her Gambian and German heritages. Growing up as a Black Muslim young woman in primarily-white Germany, Sabally unavoidably acquired an acute understanding of the politics of identity, an understanding that has motivated her eager activism.
In her first year in the WNBA, Sabally did not “wait her turn” when it came to getting involved with the league’s social justice initiatives. Realizing the value of her experiences and ideas, she established herself as a present, and likely future, driving force of the WNBA’s activist efforts.
Dearica Hamby’s redefining relentlessness
Every WNBA player is an overachiever. Dearica Hamby, however, might be the ultimate overachiever.
Even though she comes off the bench for the Las Vegas Aces, Hamby has emerged as one of the most consistently impactful players in the WNBA. For both of her Sixth Woman of the Year seasons (2019, 2020), Hamby ranked in the top 15 in the league’s all-encompassing impact stats, such as plus-minus and player impact estimate.
In the process, she is redefining what it means to be a Sixth Woman of the Year. Hamby is not simply piling up offensive counting stats against overmatched second units; she critically contributes to the success of her team in ways quantifiable and unquantifiable. Her injury-induced absence in the 2020 WNBA Finals evinced her absolute importance.
And, she is doing all this while raising her daughter Amaya.
Jordan Brand is right to celebrate and elevate Hamby’s hard-won success.
What’s next for Jordan Brand and the women’s hoops shoe game?
Earlier this fall, Under Armour introduced a women-specific performance basketball shoe — the HOVR Breakthru.
For women, by women. Introducing the UA HOVR Breakthru - our first basketball shoe developed specifically for the female athlete. The Breakthru offers a better fit and lasting comfort designed FOR YOU. Available now. https://t.co/lk00Flzn98 pic.twitter.com/5U8lFp6vLB— Under Armour (@UnderArmour) September 22, 2020
Might Jordan again develop a women’s performance shoe?
With recent Jordan models constructed with the sturdy Zion Williamson rather than the spritely Crystal Dangerfield in mind, it would seem that the brand would want to do all it can to enhance the play of their WNBA signees by providing them with a women-specific shoe to suit their games.
Furthermore, evidence suggests a women-specific sneaker would sell.
As discussed by Mike Sykes in his The Kicks You Wear newsletter, WNBA players have proved that they can move product, as the iconic orange hoodie sold out the opening weekend of the 2020 season and became Fanatics’ top-selling item for the summer of 2020. Before that, Nike’s much-awaited Sabrina Ionescu Oregon jersey almost instantly sold out.
.@wnba orange hoodie is top selling item on fanatics = not rocket science. Its exposure. This is the opening weekend and the most National TV games we’ve had. So we’re getting coverage. Our stories told. And the hoodie is dope. Women ARE capable of selling in high numbers!— Layshia Clarendon (@Layshiac) July 26, 2020
As such, it’s time to meet the needs of players and the desires of fans by producing a new women-specific performance shoe. Better yet, it’s time for Jordan Brand, Nike, Under Armour or anyone to fully take the lead in the women’s basketball market and provide one (or more) of the WNBA’s best hoopers with a signature shoe.
By welcoming five upcoming WNBA stars into the Jordan family, the brand is taking a promising step. Prominently promoting these women through an iconic advertisement, as Jordan Brand did with Maya Moore’s “Wings” billboard and commercial in 2018, would be another promising step.
Nevertheless, women hoopers and their fans should not be satisfied until the Air Swoopes is no longer on a shelf by herself.