“I was actually just at home in Canada,” New York Liberty guard Kia Nurse remembers. She’s sitting on the basketball court at Nike’s New York headquarters, decked out in head-to-toe Jordan Brand gear all the way down to a pair of Air Jordan XXXIIIs on-feet. “I got a phone call from my Nike Canada rep and we were just having a conversation like we usually do, and then he was like, I have to tell you something but I want you to sit down first. He presented me with the opportunity [to sign with Jordan Brand] and I was like, ‘Are you sure you’re talking to the right person?’”
Nurse and her teammate Asia Durr have formally joined the ever-exclusive Jordan Brand family, following Maya Moore as the only other women’s basketball players to officially rep the Jumpman. For all of Nurse’s humility in that initial moment, this is a distinction that she’s earned.
Nurse made it from Hamilton, Ontario, where she dominated for St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School, winning three straight OFSAA high school championships. She destroyed the competition outside of high school too, capturing five consecutive Provincial Championships with her Hamilton Transway team.
She was such a problem that she got noticed by the best program in college basketball. When Geno Auriemma came calling, Nurse moved down to the States, helping the UConn Huskies win a pair of titles. And she’s just the latest member of her family to have played sports at a high level. Her father played professionally in the Canadian Football League and both her mother and sister played basketball in college. Her brother and one of her cousins are pro hockey players and her uncle is Donovan McNabb, the former NFL quarterback.
Her accomplishments all throughout high school and college are impressive, but her early addition to the Canadian National Team was the solidifying stamp on how good she had become. She joined up with the best players in Canada when she was only 17, averaging 10 points per game in 2013. She came back the next summer still the youngest player on the team, and has been a steady force ever since. She’s a knockdown shooter, a willing passer and most importantly, a dog on the court.
She’s got a killer’s mentality that comes out on defense and during clutch moments on offense.
And now with her Jordan Brand partnership, Nurse has another win to add to her résumé. She’s been a fan of MJ since she was a kid, when she got a pair of Air Jordan Is during her years playing with Transway. She counts the I as her favorite pair.
“I love Jordan Is,” she says. “Those were my go-to. They go with any outfit, whether it’s sweats or jeans or something fancy, I will put on Is.”
Nurse leaves the court at Nike’s NYHQ and switches out of the Air Jordan XXXIIIs she’s wearing in favor of the recently released “NYC to Paris” Air Jordan I. She walks up to the roof of the building and poses for photos with her new home, New York, in the background.
She had a solid rookie campaign for the Libs last summer, posting 9.1 points per game. She showed flashes of what’s to come when she dropped 34 points on the Fever, 28 points on the Mercury and 25 points on the Wings.
Now in her second season, Nurse has upped her production through the first 18 games. Her ppg average is now at 16.2 and she’s taken on a larger role for the Liberty, all while rotating between the Air Jordan XXXIII and the Jordan Why Not Zer0.2.
“Right now I’m really into the XXXIIIs,” Nurse, who was recently named an All-Star, says. “I love the way they feel, I love not having to do my laces up, because I’m kind of lazy sometimes. I absolutely love the Russell Westbrooks as well.”
The XXXIIIs don’t have laces. They rely instead on Jordan Brand’s new FastFit technology that makes use of parachute cables to tighten and loosen the sneaker with a pull tab. And the Zer0.2s, with their lightweight textile upper and FlightSpeed technology, come in a plethora of colorways, allowing for the silhouette’s nontraditional design to shine. Nurse is already seeing the benefits of linking up with Mike in all the gear and the kicks, but the biggest benefit is the platform that the Brand is giving the 23-year-old.
“I love being able to be a face that young women can look at and say, ‘She did it, so why can’t I?’ There are so many important things about sports,” Nurse says. “It’s the transferable life skill that each and every young woman, as a role model, has the opportunity to learn through playing sports. So when they go into their lives and say, OK, I want to play this sport because that’s my life or I want to be a teacher or I want to be a doctor, they already have teamwork and cooperation and communication down. And as a part of this Brand, I love what they do to empower women.”
In addition to Nurse, Durr and Moore, the Brand also works closely with designer Aleali May, singer Billie Eilish and Michael’s daughter, Jasmine. They all have input on the direction of the sneakers and the clothing and the voice. They’re making a concerted effort to be sure that women are as much a part of basketball and sneakers as men are.
“Women have been showing Jordan Brand love for years, and we knew that to show them love in return, we needed to learn everything we could about how to serve them best,” Andrea Perez, General Manager and Vice President of Jordan Brand Women’s and Kids, told SLAM last year. “We spent hours with women around the world to get their insights.”
Because just like so many other people, Nurse remembers idolizing Jordan when she was falling in love with the game as a kid, all the way in Ontario.
Photos via Getty and Nike.