Sue Bird on Her Sneaker Game, Wearing the Nike Air Swoopes in High School and Dressing for Herself
In celebration of Women’s History Month, WSLAM is highlighting different women around the game who are breaking barriers, elevating the game and continuing to empower others.
As she approaches her 19th season with the Seattle Storm, Sue Bird refers to this phase in her life, and her style, as “tomboy chic.” It’s mid-March, and the four-time WNBA champion is chatting with WSLAM over the phone to promote her recent collab with Corona on a limited-edition Corona Fine Life Fridge, which gives sneakerheads everywhere a cool place to keep their kicks, and their drinks, fresh (learn more here). Aside from being one of the most elite point guards to ever play the game, Bird is a sneaker connoisseur, a style icon and a All-Leaguefits First Team honoree.
And yet, Bird admits over Zoom that she’s been on a journey, one in which her style is now a reflection of who she truly is.
“The way I dress now, it’s really just what feels good to me,” Bird says. “What’s fascinating about being an older player, like in the world of team sports, is I’ve kind of gone through this journey, like, of style as well, because you know, as athletes, people check out what we’re wearing.
“I feel like, for a long time, there were just certain styles being pushed on female athletes, especially early on in my career. Now when I look at my clothes, I know it’s what I want to wear. It’s what I’m choosing to wear. It’s what I feel good in. And like I said, look good, feel good, play good. It really is all connected. So [it] just feels really good that I have personally found my own style through my own fashion journey. Now, I just feel like I’m dressing for me.”
Bird’s love of sneakers goes way back, from rocking Charles Barkley’s first signature pair of kicks, the Nike Air Force Max CB, to begging her mom to buy the nostalgic Nike Air Tech Challenge II, the sneaker that Andre Agassi made famous. That pair dropped when Sue was in elementary school.
Ever since she was young, she’s always had to make sure her sneakers looked on point.
“When I look back, it’s like yeah, sneakers were always really important,” Bird says. “It’s like what I was wearing on court was always a huge decision, one I never took lightly, like, I had to be right. I totally subscribe to the look good, feel good, play good mantra. So, it’s like the shoes always had to be right ever since I was in, like, fourth, fifth, sixth grade. And then sneakers have always been part of my off-the-court style as well. And I joke now that I’m just glad they’re socially acceptable to wear everywhere now. People wear them literally everywhere. So that’s kind of how it came to be for me.”
In high school, Bird was playing in the All-American game when her team was given a few pairs of Sheryl Swoopes’ iconic signature sneaker, the Nike Air Swoopes, which dropped in ‘95. Swoopes is the first woman to get a signature Nike basketball sneaker.
“We were looking at it like whaaaaat,” says Bird, who played alongside Swoopes on the 2004 Olympic team, and later the Seattle Storm. “Like, a female basketball player shoe? That was, I mean, even now it’s almost unheard of, which is really sad. Hopefully that changes…I actually still have, like, three or four pairs of them and I’m waiting to see Sheryl, because I’m definitely getting a signature on those. So, it’s pretty amazing that I got to play with the woman who had the first signature shoe.”
The collection she’s built up over the years is every sneakerhead’s dream, from Nike Dunks, which is one of her favorite models of all time, to Nike’s many collaborative silhouettes with Japan-based brand Sacai, to the “Dior” Air Jordan 1 and even the green Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1s that she doesn’t plan on taking anywhere, let alone outside of the box. Bird realized she had quite the collection when she moved in with her fiancé, Megan Repinoe, and found herself having to make room. She saw, then, that she had a lot of gems, from endless colorways and PEs to kicks she won championships in while at UConn, as well as throughout her time with the Storm.
Back in 2018, in what she’s called “arguably the best game of her career,” Bird was surprised by another standout point guard, Kyrie Irving, with a pair of CONCEPTS x Kyrie 4 “Green Lobsters” before Game 5 of the WNBA semifinals against the Phoenix Mercury. She’s since said that they haven’t been worn again.
Bird then followed up that championship-run with yet another title in 2020, which she won in a pair of “Keep Sue Fresh” Kyrie 5s. Last year, Nike released two colorways of the Sue Bird x Kyrie 4 Low “Keep Sue Fresh” EPs, which Bird got to help design.
While Bird has continued to serve as an inspiration to many, she admires the fact that other women around the game are now being spotlighted for the heat on their feet, too.
“I think it’s pretty cool because you know, I think there are a lot of female sneakerheads out there, we just haven’t been able to get the same love, same attention. I know I’m not the only one. I don’t even think I’m the biggest one in the WNBA. We have some legit, legit sneakerheads in the WNBA whose collections are insane when I see their closets. I have a teammate, Epiphanny Prince, whew! Her closet is next level. So, I’m just proud to be a part of that group because I know I’m one of [the] hundreds.”
There’s also the question of exactly how many pairs she really own?
“The million-dollar question. Man, I don’t know,” Bird tells SLAM. “Too many, too many. Where I now need a fridge to store them.”
Photos via Getty Images.