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Breanna Stewart became the first woman in more than 10 years to have a signature shoe when she announced her partnership with Puma on Wednesday. The Seattle Storm star signed a multiyear deal that includes the creation of her own sneaker. The new shoe could take a year or longer to reach the market, but signing on the dotted line was excitement on its own for the 2020 Finals MVP.
"Anytime you hear signature, I think that's jaw-dropping, eye-opening, especially on the women's side," Stewart said in an interview on ESPN. "There haven't been many. ... For Puma to be able to put the signature element out there, [and] respect me enough where they think that I deserve a signature shoe, is something that's super exciting."
The last woman to have a signature shoe was Sparks star Candace Parker who worked with Adidas to release multiple shoes, including the TS Ace Commander and the Ace Versatility. Hall of Famer Sheryl Swoopes was the first WNBA star to have her own signature shoe. Nike’s Air Swoopes debuted in 1995 and were first showcased in Team USA’s gold-medal Olympic campaign before the inception of the WNBA. The Comet star's partnership with Nike made her widely considered the female equivalent of Michael Jordan and gave her the title Her Airness.
Stewart joins a Puma roster that includes Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, Hornets star rookie (and Chino Hills native) LaMelo Ball and Celtics guard Marcus Smart. After relaunching its basketball brand in 2018, Puma worked with multiplatinum rapper J. Cole to release the RS Dreamer and recently started its “She Moves Us” initiative to celebrate women.
“I am proud to join the PUMA family,” Stewart said in a news release. “We share a vision to grow the sport and welcome everyone — specifically women and girls — globally. The genuine investment PUMA has shown to collaborate with and activate around women, including the commitment to a signature performance shoe, is something that I hope serves to raise the expectations and standards of the generations of basketball players who follow me.”
Aside from her incredible career at Connecticut and her winning ways with the Storm, Puma said it was looking forward to supporting Stewart as an activist. The WNBA made headlines last year with its calls for social justice, including the arrest for the police who killed Breonna Taylor. Stewart is also an advocate for LGBTQ rights. She got engaged to her girlfriend, fellow basketball player Marta Xargay, earlier this month.
“We are thrilled to welcome Breanna Stewart into our PUMA family,” Adam Petrick, Global Director of Brand and Marketing for PUMA said in a statement. “She embodies what it means to be a PUMA athlete with her on-court determination to her off-court activism for equality in all forms. We are excited to work together in many ways to not only be an advocate in the community but to also help grow the sport for women everywhere.”
The WNBA’s 25th season tips off Friday night.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.