WNBA Kicks proving female players are sneakerheads too Meet the two visionaries behind the premier sneaker platform of the WNBA

The idea popped into Bria Janelle’s head in an unlikely place, but it didn’t come out of nowhere.

“I was in the shower one day and thought to myself, ‘WNBA Kicks,’ ” recalled Janelle, a former Division II college basketball player turned professional entertainment emcee and in-arena host. She envisioned a platform that, for some reason, had never been created — one dedicated to women, the WNBA and sneakers.

“People say out of frustration comes creation,” said Janelle, a native of Snellville, Georgia, which is about 35 minutes east of Atlanta. “I’ve always had an interest in shoes and the whole aspect of seeing what different outlets have done with sneakers. But I realized it was so saturated on the male side, and NBA side, of sneakers. I’m like, ‘Everybody is doing the same exact thing … how can I do something so far-fetched, so different that no one is even thinking about?’ ”

An injury ended Janelle’s playing career after three years at Mars Hill University in North Carolina, leading her to transfer to Georgia Southern University, where she graduated in 2011 with a degree in radio and television broadcasting. On-air campus appearances led to opportunities in Atlanta radio, and eventually a career. Over the past several years, Janelle has toured as emcee with WWE, worked with the Atlanta Hawks on a monthly web show and served as a host for the McDonald’s All American Game. Success in the field provided Janelle the means to grow her sneaker collection, which now checks in at about 130 pairs. Eventually, she wanted to find a way to represent a subculture of people like her: female sneakerheads.

Janelle was inspired by the WNBA’s biggest sneakerhead, Tamera “Ty” Young, who in 2008 became the first draft pick in the history of the Atlanta Dream franchise. Young, who now plays for the Las Vegas Aces but keeps her primary residence in Atlanta, has a massive sneaker collection that exceeds 600 pairs, even though she’s never had an endorsement deal with a sportswear brand.

“Ty Young being in Atlanta for years, you peep her at different events and it was like, ‘Yo, I’ve never seen her double up on a pair of sneakers,’ ” Janelle said. In the lead-up to the 2018 WNBA season, she ran into Young and told her she had something in the works. Janelle also hit up one of her close friends in the league, Alex Bentley, a member of the Connecticut Sun at the time who was playing overseas during the WNBA’s offseason.

“I never forget. It was like 3 o’clock in the morning in Russia and I said, ‘Hey, I got an idea. What do you think about this?’ ” Janelle recalled of her conversation with Bentley, who now plays for the Dream. “She said, ‘That’s dope. No one’s covered the WNBA’s sneaker culture. … Go for it. You’ve got my support.’ ”

But to make this thing work, Janelle needed help. So she reached out to Melani Carter, a sports producer who shared a similar frustration about the lack of WNBA coverage, having spent four years working at Turner Sports on NBA TV and NBA League Pass. The two friends remember meeting at a restaurant one night in Atlanta and talking for hours.

“As we started strategizing, I was saying, ‘This could be a segue into really showcasing women in another light,’ ” said Carter, who’s been collecting shoes since the early 2000s. “And what better way to start … than with sneaker culture?”

In February 2018, Janelle and Carter co-founded @WNBAKicks. And for the past year, the platform’s Instagram and Twitter accounts have served as the authoritative voice of sneakers in the WNBA despite not being officially affiliated with the league. Original video, interviews and, most notably, exclusive photos and videos of shoes players are copping and lacing up on and off the court — WNBA Kicks offers all this and more.

“We’ve never really had anything like WNBA Kicks,” said Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird, a 17-year veteran and three-time league champion, in April at the 2019 WNBA draft. “Yeah, the WNBA page can post our shoes, but sometimes you need people on the outside, different voices, to show people what’s what. To have this separate page that’s completely independent, showing the sneakers that we wear and really our personalities, it’s crucial.”

WNBA Kicks has amassed more than 20,000 followers on Instagram and another 2,300 on Twitter. It’s an operation that quickly transformed into a legit media outlet after establishing a network of contributors in WNBA markets across the country and expanding its staff to include a head of marketing and digital strategist. Now, the start of the 2019 WNBA season brings the launch of wnbakicks.com, marking the next chapter for a platform that’s evolved from the unique vision of its two co-founders.

“WNBA Kicks has become that safe haven for WNBA players,” Janelle said. “We told them, ‘Trust us to tell your story and show how dope you are, and we won’t steer you wrong.’ … It’s not about athletic ability, sexuality or the themes you always see talked about surrounding the WNBA. It’s about the fact that these players have sneaker collections just as good as some of the guys, if not better. And here’s a platform — just for them.”

What makes WNBA Kicks so authentic is players in the league support the platform 100% by providing daily content.

“Whenever they need a photo of my shoes, I’m always open to sending it to them,” said Phoenix Mercury guard Essence Carson. “The check-ins, they’re great, especially when a lot of players are gone and playing abroad in the offseason. It’s a good way to keep the fans’ attention and have them interact with the players.”

When Young uploads a picture of the sneakers she’s wearing to her Instagram Stories, she often tags @WNBAKicks. Janelle will then reach out for the original image to post on the page. Sometimes, Young even sends photos to the account via direct message so the platform can exclusively share the latest shoes she’s picked up.

“The cool thing is you have players taking pictures and videos of their own shoes or their teammates’ shoes to post on that page,” said retired WNBA Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo. “It’s not like they’re always posting themselves. The players are doing it for WNBA Kicks. I think that’s a really, really cool thing. It’s a partnership in a way.”

Sneaker culture in the WNBA has evolved quite a bit since Lobo played in the league from 1997 to 2003 and received her own signature shoe from Reebok, called The Lobo, during her rookie season.

“The only sneakers that were really covered back then were the Nike Air Swoopes, because Cheryl Swoopes was the first woman to have a signature shoe. That was a really big deal,” Lobo said. “In my generation, they didn’t even make women’s basketball sneakers. You figured out which men’s size you wore, because they didn’t even have them in women’s sizes. Sneakers in the WNBA weren’t really a thing. For the most part, everybody in the league wore the same style of shoe.”

The landscape has also changed since Carson and Young entered the WNBA more than a decade ago after being taken back-to-back with the seventh and eighth overall picks, respectively, in the 2008 draft. At the time, the WNBA was sponsored by Adidas, and strict uniform guidelines required players to wear league-approved shoes that were either predominantly white or black. Two years later in 2010, Instagram was founded as a social network that fostered creativity and expression while helping people transform into their own brands. And in the realm of style and fashion, Instagram became a place where both men and women could put on a display of their passion for sneakers.

“In previous years, women weren’t really looked at as sneakerheads,” Carson said. “But over the course of time, in the sneaker community, you’ve seen that change. As women move forward, so does the WNBA, because we’re women first and basketball players second. And now we have the platform to showcase that we can push sneaker culture even further.”

There’s a new era in the WNBA of players wearing whatever sneakers they want, whenever they want, due in large part to the emergence of WNBA Kicks in 2018.

@WNBAKicks co-founders Bria Janelle (left) and Melani Carter (right).

Simeon Kelley

“Last year, because of WNBA Kicks, people wanted to have more heat for games,” Young said. “They wanted to get that notoriety on social media. Like, ‘Oh, look what shoes she’s wearing!’ It made people who weren’t sneakerheads before want to bring out exclusive shoes or stuff that was more cool to show out. It became a popular trend, something to do.”

The latest and hottest releases, retros, customs, player exclusives. Basically, every shoe imaginable graced the hardwood of arenas across the league last season on the feet of WNBA players.

“The most unique thing we’ve did is attract the brands to the players,” Carter said. “So if brands said, ‘We don’t know if she has a following … we don’t know if she could help sell a product,’ we were showing them that they can. … It’s really about more than just sneakers.”

Janelle recalls a conversation she and Carter had with a sportswear company (the identity of which they chose not to disclose) in which they learned that the brand had sent out more pairs of sneakers to WNBA players last season than it did in the past 10 years. “Players were requesting shoes,” Janelle said, “because they wanted to be on the page.”

In the early days of the platform, Janelle and Carter wanted to ensure they acknowledged the players in the league with the hottest shoes. So last May, WNBA Kicks dropped its 2018 “Top 10 Sneakerheads List.”

“We really didn’t think it was going to be controversial,” Carter said. “It was more so like, ‘Let’s get this out there. Let’s let people know we’re here.’ When we released the list, people were like, ‘I didn’t make it? How am I No. 10? How am I No. 8? Why is she No. 1?’ Some players were mad. This was league news at this point. So it was like, ‘OK. This has to be our staple.’ That Top 10 list was the point that we can say the players really started paying attention, and the fans did too.”

The full list:

10. Monique Currie, Washington Mystics (now retired)

9. Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics

8. Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm

7. Alex Bentley, Connecticut Sun (now of the Atlanta Dream)

6. Sue Bird, Seattle Storm

5. Erica Wheeler, Indiana Fever

4. Seimone Augustus, Minnesota Lynx

3. Epiphanny Prince, New York Liberty

2. Cappie Pondexter, Los Angeles Sparks/Indiana Fever (now retired)

1. Tamera Young, Las Vegas Aces

“When it got to No. 1, a lot of people didn’t expect it to be me,” Young said. “People didn’t know at the time how many kicks I had or how much I was into this. But it was a great feeling to know that something I’ve always loved I got notoriety for — even without having a shoe deal. I did this on my own. This is a hobby. I love sneakers. And I’ve always been that way, even since I was a little girl. I’m not just a collector. I wear all my kicks. So I thought it was superdope.”

Will she defend her crown in 2019?

“Of course. Not much has really changed. People have been showing all of their sneakers, but I don’t think anybody is topping me,” said Young, who in 2018, for the first time in her career, was posted on mainstream sneaker platforms such as @brkicks and @slamkicks. “WNBA Kicks started bringing different attention to us. I’ve never been a signed athlete, so people didn’t even know the type of heat I had.”

Hoping to capitalize on the trend of viral online challenges, the platform launched the #WNBAKicksChallenge, which encouraged players, broadcasters, coaches, fans and others to take a video showing off their collections, then dare others to do the same. The Minnesota Lynx’s Seimone Augustus, Indiana Fever’s Erica Wheeler, Chicago Sky’s Diamond DeShields and more active players partook, while retired WNBA stars such as Lobo, Tina Thompson, Dawn Staley and Lisa Leslie also got involved. ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe even did the challenge and showed off her favorite pair of sneakers, which were given to her by WNBA sisters Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike when Rowe was first diagnosed with cancer.

“WNBA Kicks is showing we got sneakers like P.J. Tucker, James Harden or Kyrie Irving,” said Seattle Storm guard Shavonte Zellous. “To showcase what we have is a blessing, so everybody can stop putting us in a box and expand their brains a little bit.”

WNBA Kicks has even put the NBA on notice. Tucker, Harden and their Houston Rockets teammate Chris Paul have all been interviewed by the platform, and Irving has reposted one of its videos to his Instagram. Future NBA Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade posted a picture of Young after she became the first WNBA player to wear a pair of his signature Li-Ning Way of Wades, ending the caption with @wnbakicks.

On Christmas Day in 2018, under the familiar-sounding handle, the NBA debuted its own Twitter and Instagram accounts dedicated to the sneakers that players wear on the court.

“We randomly saw the page, and it was verified,” Carter said. “I was tryna figure out who made it, and if it was an independent site like ours.”

That’s right — @WNBAKicks launched nine months before @NBAKicks. “A coincidence? I don’t know,” Janelle said. “The NBA has been around for so long. We started WNBA Kicks, then NBA Kicks pops up. It was like, ‘All right, well, somebody’s paying attention.’ ”

Yet, Janelle and Carter truly knew they had created something special when Lobo showed WNBA Kicks some love live on air during the 2018 WNBA All-Star Game.

“I’d been following them for a while and really enjoyed their content,” Lobo said. “In a production meeting, we said we were gonna come out of a commercial break and show some of the players’ shoes … so I knew I was gonna give them a shout. It feels to me that they’re the ones leading the charge in terms of exposing the fans to what the WNBA women are wearing. It seemed fair and only right that we let people know about them.”

So, heading into season two, what’s next for WNBA Kicks? The strategy seems to revolve around the platform’s newly launched website.

“Being a social media page is only going to get you so far,” Janelle said. “For us, the dot-com is what everyone respects. It was about wanting to have that next level. We wanted to be able to explain that we’re not just a fan page. We’re a full-fledged, running site.”

WNBA sneakerheads such as Young and Wheeler hope to see a stronger backing of the platform from the league.

“I don’t think the WNBA shines a light on WNBA Kicks as much as they should. I don’t think they give them enough credit,” Wheeler said. “WNBA Kicks knows what they’re doing. They’re up to date, they’re with the times. And they’re with us as players.”

WNBA Kicks has come a long way since Janelle paired those two words.

“To this day, I tell Bria, ‘Keep this going,’ ” Zellous said. “It’s really helping us … and it’s crazy because it’s kicks that are helping people get in tune with our league.”

Yet, if there’s one thing that the two co-founders of WNBA Kicks have never seemed to lose sight of, it’s that the platform is about much more than sneakers.

“Our whole purpose is to leave the league better than we found it,” Janelle said. “If we do our part, then we’re on the right track. How do we get more fans into seats? How do we get arenas full? If sneakers is the way, or at least a starting point, I think we can feel like we did something right.”

Queen Latifah: Baller or nah? We checked out whether the ‘Girls Trip’ actress really could ball in high school

From singer Brian McKnight to actress Gabrielle Union to rapper Master P, singers, actors and rappers have often bragged about their athletic accomplishments. #ShowMeTheReceipts, a bimonthly feature at The Undefeated, will authenticate those declarations. In this month’s installment, we verified rapper Queen Latifah’s receipts.


Nine years after winning her first state title with Irvington High School, Dana Owens asked everyone to clear out space on the floor so she might ask Seattle SuperSonic Shawn Kemp if he would have this dance with her.

She waved everyone off. She was feeling confident she could handle the NBA All-Star forward all by her lonesome and didn’t need any backup for this one.

Just before halftime of the 1994 MTV Rock N’ Jock B-Ball Jam, Owens, also known as Queen Latifah, called out Kemp and implored him to take her on one-0n-one. Kemp was more than happy to oblige. (Fast-forward to 6:56 through 8:04 in the video above.)

He wiped his hands along his shorts and down his jersey before dribbling the ball between his legs a few times. As Kemp started to make his move toward the basket, Owens pickpocketed the SuperSonic. She took several dribbles toward her basket as the 6-foot-10 forward pursued her. Owens took off from mid-paint and sent up a layup that rattled against the backboard and around the rim before sinking to the bottom of the net.

Triumphant and defiant, Owens lifted her arms in victory, and the crowd, announcers and her teammates erupted into cheers.

“I don’t fear nobody out here! Nobody,” Owens said into the camera.

Said her former high school coach Vinny Smith, who was watching the game: “We saw it. She had the athletic ability, and she could do things like that.”‘

These days, Queen Latifah is gracing the cover of Essence magazine and starring in the new movie Girls Trip, which hit theaters on July 21. She earned an Emmy nomination for her lead actress role in HBO’s Bessie in 2015. All of that, along with her career as a rapper and TV host, comes after the time when she was running wild on the hardcourts and blacktops in New Jersey.

When Smith met Owens as a sophomore transfer in 1985, he already knew she was going to be a key member of his soon-to-be championship team.

After spending her freshman year at a Catholic school, Owens moved on to Irvington, where she was immediately added to a stacked varsity team.

“My first thought of her when she came was, ‘This is going to be a good player,’ ” said Smith, who worked with Owens’ mother, also a teacher at Irvington. “She had two sides: She had a desire … a vision, and she was fun.”

Smith, who coached Irvington’s girls’ basketball team for four years and led it to back-to-back state championships in 1985 and 1986, recalled one game in which Owens’ personality as an entertainer shined through.

The team was playing a game on TV, and the coach called a timeout. The starters took a seat on a bench, and people who weren’t in the game made a semicircle behind Smith. As he was coaching up the starters, Owens heard the song the band was playing in the gym, so she started dancing behind the coach.

She turned around looking at the band and began to dance and sing along with the band, paying the coach’s instruction no mind at all. But while Smith was in the midst of coaching, he wasn’t aware any of this was happening because he had his back to her. It wasn’t until Smith got home that night and saw the game on TV that he realized what was taking place.

“Oh, boy, we had some fun with her,” Smith said as he chuckled. “We just harassed her the next day in practice. We said, ‘We want a replay!’ ”

But that kind of energy often came in handy for the team. If the players were having a hard practice and got stressed out, then Smith would give the team a break, have the girls form a circle and ask Owens to hop in the middle and drop a beat.

“All the way back then, she was outstanding,” Smith said of Owens’ ability to beatbox and perform. “She could sing, she could dance, but she would do that beatbox thing, and we’d all just relax and enjoy it and have a lot of fun and laugh at her and with her. And it just broke our practice for us, and then we went back to work.”

While Owens’ reputation as a jokester preceded her, on the court she was no one to mess around with. Smith often inserted Owens into the rotation as a sophomore to defend the better players on the other team.

“What she did for us all the time was the opposite of what you would think her personality was,” said the retired educator. “She was my enforcer.

“That was her key part of the game. I mean [it] would be unfortunate if I had an opponent that was like maybe getting too many rebounds. I’d call Dana over off the bench, and say, ‘Dana, 23 is getting too many’ … 23 didn’t get any more rebounds after that.

“She was physically tough. She was a strong player. She had a nice shot. She could ball.”

The only problem was Owens was playing behind an upperclassman — the No. 1 recruit in the nation, Tammy Hammond — who would go on to star for USC the season after Cheryl Miller graduated. Hammond finished her career the semester before Lisa Leslie joined the Trojans. Owens described Hammond as her best friend in her biography Queen Latifah.

Smith said Owens helped out in every way she could. She hustled all the time and always did her best to help with team morale. She worked hard, and when she played, she played a lot and she played well.

Queen Latifah, formerly known as Dana Owens (third from top right) with her 1985 championship team.

Courtesy of Vinny Smith, head coach of Irvington girls basketball team

Where Owens needed to improve was in handling the ball, which she wasn’t expected to do a lot of as a forward.

Smith recalled Owens’ junior year, in which the team was playing East Orange in the county championship. The coach put Dana in — Hammond got into foul trouble — during a full-court press, and she came up with three steals in a row. It turned the tide for Irvington, which ran away with the game after that.

“She was a good-size girl — height, weight, shoulder width and strength — who was not overweight,” Smith said. “None of them were overweight, because I ran the hell out of them. None of them was out of shape. They were just ready to play. And she had the athletic ability. So that’s why I did not hesitate to use her as a sophomore or a junior — and much, much more as a junior.”

Of the two championships Irvington won, Smith explained that the first one was the more challenging title because the team had to overcome heartbreak before the beginning of the state tournament.

In the last three seconds of the county championship, Irvington lost the game because of a controversial call, Smith said. But he wouldn’t give the girls a break to feel sorry for themselves, as the team still qualified for the state playoffs. The players were put through rigorous practices to keep them focused on the task at hand and not looking back at what had happened.

“What we did then is that I said, ‘Today is a new day. Today is a new tournament. The state tournament. We start all over. We have six games to win the state champs. Let’s work on that. Now, we may not be good candidates because we lost with three seconds, but we can be the state champ and be better than a team that beat us because we know we are so good together,’ ” he recalled of the pep talk he gave the team as they started practice for their first state championship.

Irvington’s second championship season ended with a 71-61 win over Hightstown in the New Jersey state final.

Our conclusion? She’s legit. Queen Latifah’s receipts get a passing grade from us.

Motherhood is the guiding light in Los Angeles Spark Candace Parker’s life ‘I like to say my daughter chose me’

Los Angeles Sparks champion Candace Parker and her daughter, Lailaa, will have to share her special day. That’s because this year, Mother’s Day falls on May 13 — Lailaa’s ninth birthday.

And Parker has a big surprise planned.

“Lailaa doesn’t know. See, she’s a zoo person,” Parker told The Undefeated. “She loves animals. We have two dogs. We had a pig. So we’re going to San Diego. We’re going to do a little private tour of the zoo to meet some kangaroos and do all that stuff. She doesn’t know yet.”

Parker was a 22-year-old newlywed when she announced her pregnancy just after being named the 2008 WNBA Rookie of the Year. Like dozens of other WNBA moms before her, including Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson and Sheryl Swoopes, the 6-foot-9 forward/center’s career continues to flourish.

“I like to say my daughter chose me,” Parker said. “I feel like I’m lucky from that aspect that she’s in such an important part of my career.”

Basketball has given the mother and daughter the opportunity to travel the world together. “We’ll be sitting at dinner and she’ll say things like, ‘Mom, do you remember in Dubai when we?’ … or ‘Mom, do you remember my friend in Russia?’ She has memories of traveling. She has memories of winning a championship. She has memories of being at the Olympics. So those are all things I feel fortunate to have shared with her, and I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t had her at such a young age.”

Instagram Photo

“I have a really cool daughter, and we love each other,” Parker said. “That’s my best friend. I know she’s growing up, but I hope to continue to remain close with her because she’s a special kid.”

As for trying to find that elusive work/life balance? It’s been made a bit easier thanks to the Sparks organization.

“She’s able to go on all the trips, all the planes, all the buses, stay in my hotel rooms,” Parker said. “There has never been a problem.”


Parker credits Lailaa for one of her biggest life lessons. Even after a lifetime surrounded by friends and family, it was her daughter who changed and sharpened her outlook and awareness of the people and world around her.

“I didn’t realize becoming a mother would make me a better teammate, a better friend, a better basketball player, a better daughter. I’ve read somewhere, and I think Obama said it, they’re like little heartbeats. They’re like your heart walking around outside your body. They’re running around, bumping into stuff and falling. You’re able to kind of live life again through them. It’s so special to be able to be a part of her life and to bring her along and to see how she grows and see how much she’s my personality twin. It’s just amazing.”

The best piece of advice about motherhood Parker received is to “do as I do.”

“I think a lot of people come from the generation of do as I say and not as I do,” Parker said. “But everything I do my daughter is watching. And she listens to what I say, but she really listens to what I do. There’s like ways for her to pull up stuff and see, so I just want to make sure I’m doing what I’m telling her and what I’m showing her to do.”

There was one instance when Parker cried after a loss in a basketball game.

“We’d lost a big game and our season was over, and a couple of months later she was playing soccer and she cried because she lost, and I said, ‘We don’t cry when we lose.’ And she said, ‘But you did.’ It’s like every single day she’s watching what I’m doing.”

Parker’s blueprint of motherhood comes from her own mother, Natasha Parker.

“For my mom, I feel like I’m the most important thing, me and my brothers, just her support and her ability to always put us first. [Now] getting up with Lailaa in the morning before school and having a conversation, making sure that she’s taken care of and she knows that I care and that I’m able to talk to her and have that type of relationship” are the lessons Lailaa has learned from her own mom.


The first overall pick in the 2008 WNBA draft out of the University of Tennessee, Parker led the Los Angeles Sparks to their third WNBA championship, with a dominating 28 points and 12 rebounds in Game 5 against the Minnesota Lynx to take home the WNBA Finals MVP award. No stranger to winning, Parker was WNBA Most Valuable Player in 2008 and 2013, All-Star Game MVP (2013) and an Olympic gold medalist (2008, 2012).

Lailaa plays soccer. She also loves dance and participating in hip-hop performances. For Parker, there are those gut-wrenching times when work means missing those performances.

“The hardest part is now that she’s older is she has activities of her own, so it kills me to not be at everything,” Parker said. “With Facetime videos I’m able to see all her games, all her performances, but it’s hard for me to not actually be present when she does everything.”

Lailaa also enjoys math and science, and the two create slime together on a regular basis.

“I think she’s going to, at some point, be a scientist,” Parker said. “She loves slime. She goes crazy over slime. We make slime. We color slime. We decorate slime.”

This Mother’s Day marks Parker’s second year in which she’s honored other mothers through her #CPNomAMom campaign. Using social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), she asked for nominations by mothers for other moms who they thought deserve to be pampered. The lucky mom this year will win an Adidas prize pack and Sparks tickets to a home or road game.

“I think it’s really cool to recognize moms,” Parker said. “And it’s not just your mom, either. It’s recognizing other moms because really it is kind of a thankless job. You don’t get paid for it, and I feel like it’s the most important job in the world. I think it’s just another way to thank moms.”

Why Candace Parker has stuck with Adidas her whole athletic life The L.A. Sparks star can go from Pro Models to Pusha Ts

At Adidas’ 747 Warehouse St. event during 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend, The Undefeated’s Aaron Dodson caught up with Los Angeles Sparks two-time MVP Candace Parker and six-time All-Star James Harden of the Houston Rockets. This two-part series will highlight the connection both players have to Adidas.


Candace Parker has worn one brand of basketball sneakers for essentially her entire life: during her AAU and high school days in her home state of Illinois, on the court at the University of Tennessee for three seasons, and for the past 10 years as the leader of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks. All Adidas, all the time for the four-time WNBA All-Star, two-time league MVP and two-time Olympic gold medalist. In 2008, when she became the second player in WNBA history (after Lisa Leslie in 2002) to dunk the ball during a game, she rose from the hardwood in a pair of the Adidas Piranha 3.0.

In 2016, some folks in the sneaker world speculated that part of the reason Parker was left off the roster of the Nike-sponsored Team USA Olympic women’s basketball team involved her loyalty to Adidas — which isn’t stopping anytime soon. On the court, she rocks Adidas Crazy Lights, and off of it you can catch her in her favorite gray and orange Yeezys, throwing it back to one of the colors she wore at Tennessee. Here she talks about the first pair of Adidas she bought, her experience working on the “Calling All Creators” ad campaign and why she believes the brand keeps on winning.


What made you sign with Adidas when you entered the WNBA in 2008?

I’ve been actually unofficially with Adidas since 2003, which is when my high school team got sponsored by Adidas. I don’t know whether it was fate, but I went to an Adidas college at Tennessee, and then when I came out of college it was just natural to sign with Adidas just because I’d been with them. It had become more like a family. I knew everybody within the company. They wanted to grow with me and have that type of partnership.

How have you seen the brand grow in the past 15 years?

It’s been tremendous. Even going back farther than 2003, I remember getting the moon boot Kobes. Just me falling in love with the design. Obviously, it’s great to see the product go into a more functional direction. Kobes were a little clunky playing in them. They look fly now wearing them, but on the court they were a little heavy. So now, to see the Crazy Light shoes, they blew my mind. For somebody that’s kinda versatile like myself, who plays all positions, I couldn’t just wear a big man’s shoe. I needed a shoe that served all purposes.

What’s your favorite shoe ever?

I’d definitely have to go with the Pro Models from back in the day. The reason is, this was in 2002. I think I was a sophomore in high school, and I saved up my whole summer allowance to buy the Pro Models. That was kind of like the first time I worked and saved up, so they hold a special meaning to me. For a Christmas tournament, I had to buy two pair, so I had a red pair and a green pair. … The T-Macs were kinda fly too.

What’s your favorite off-the-court Adidas shoe?

I would say the Pusha Ts or the Yeezys are my go-to off the court because you can wear them with whatever. You can dress them up, you can dress them down.

How fun was it to work on the ‘Calling All Creators’ campaign?

It was really neat. … They had empty chairs, and it was surreal for me when you look across and see David Beckham, and you see Alexander Wang and all the nameplates, and you’re like, ‘Man, I’m really sitting at this table.’ For me, I think it was just the coming together of the commercial and then seeing it play on television. It was a really good concept. It’s what Adidas is about.

Who did you film with?

I filmed with Chiney Ogwumike, who I know very well. She’s like a sister to me. And then Dame Lillard — we’re real cool. It was good just catching up with them and talking. Obviously, I’ve known Dame since he came into the league, and just seeing his growth and how dominant he can be, I really respect him and his game.

What does Adidas mean to the culture?

Adidas is creativity. It fits for me, because in order to be great at something, you have to be creative.

What do you think is so attractive about Adidas to tastemakers outside of sports: musicians, actors, designers and more?

It’s just the variety. … For me now, it’s about the everyday wear. You have sweaters. They have shoes you can dress up. I live in L.A., so it’s kind of surreal, but you can wear a lot of Adidas’ stuff to business meetings now. The brand is going that way. It’s fun for me. It’s creative, and it’s different.

Kenny Smith’s annual NBA All-Star party rocked — on a Hollywood studio lot Chris Webber, Lisa Leslie and Kenyon Martn were in the house

Per usual, the party went until the wee hours of the morning at Kenny Smith’s annual NBA All-Star jam.

Model / TV personality Nicole Murphy

(Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

The Friday night party took place on the lot of Hollywood’s Paramount Studios — yep, the place where movies and TV shows are made — giving the annual party that authentic Hollywood feel. And what’s a party in Hollywood without famous faces?

Actor Bill Bellamy and his wife, Kristen. Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

Mingling in the crowd were people like Tracy Morgan, Bill Bellamy, Nicole Murphy, Kim Porter, Too Short, Claudia Jordan and go-to Hollywood TV journalist Shaun Robinson.

Too Short

Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

They partied to pop and hip-hop hits alongside former NBA players like Kenyon Martin and Chris Webber. Guests feasted on mini grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers and sweet pastries, crowded in on the white dance floor space and snapped selfies until after 2 in the morning.

Rapper Master P chronicles the defeats and triumphs of his journey in new documentary ‘I Had a Dream,’ inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech, will be released on the late civil rights leader’s birthday

2017 has been one of the most productive and creative in years for entertainment mogul and entrepreneur Master P.

From reality television to No Limit reunions, Master P is proving he still has staying power after more than 20 years in the entertainment industry. Lately, Master P’s focus has been centered on his children and business ventures, but the New Orleans native is now ready to give fans an intimate look into his own life through a new documentary, I Had a Dream.

The documentary, set to be released next January, will chronicle the wins and losses, struggles and many successes of Percy Miller — before he became known to the world as Master P — and what lies ahead for the multimillionaire. The documentary’s title, inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, and release date, King’s birthday, were very personal choices for Master P, who grew up idolizing the late civil rights leader.

“People don’t realize Martin Luther King really inspired me,” Master P said during an interview on the Breakfast Club. “Coming up as a kid, I had to keep reciting the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and stuff like that. It made me feel like, man, you’re talking about dreaming. I’m in the projects, but I got an opportunity to dream and do something big.”

Growing up in the Calliope Projects of New Orleans, Master P knew he had what it took to reach the pinnacle of a successful career. But he realized that first he had to take a chance on himself. In 1990, Master P founded his own label, No Limit Records, which attracted New Orleans artists including Mystikal, Silkk the Shocker, Kane & Abel, Mia X and, later, Snoop Dogg. Although Master P was not short on talent and business sense, he said he was driven primarily by neighbors and a support system that believed he would make it big.

“That’s what life is about,” Master P said. “You find somebody that believes in you. I had this one old lady in my neighborhood, she called me Bright Eyes. She said, ‘Bright Eyes, you’re gonna be a star.’ The power in those words will take you a long way.”

Today, Master P is investing his time in his children and growing his latest business venture as an owner of the New Orleans Gators, a mixed-gender professional basketball team. So far, Master P has gone to work recruiting ex-NBA players Glen Davis, Stromile Swift and Tyrus Thomas. Former WNBA All-Star Lisa Leslie will be the team’s head coach.

Broadcaster Lisa Leslie remembers Prince, loves Nilla wafers — and ‘Gidget’ ‘Me and Jesus go way back,’ says the WNBA Hall of Famer, ‘so I’d like to have a few words’

Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie is proof that life doesn’t end after retirement from professional basketball. The former Los Angeles Sparks center, who put in 12 seasons before hanging up her sneakers in 2009, may be busier now than she was during her time on the court, when she was a member of four gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic teams, led a team to the WNBA championship in 2001 and received three MVP awards. Shortly after retiring, Leslie became an in-studio sports analyst for ABC, Turner Sports and CBS Sports Network. And the grind hasn’t stopped for the 44-year-old wife and mom of two. These days, Leslie co-hosts the all-woman CBS Sports Network talk show We Need To Talk, is an ambassador for The Players’ Tribune and most recently co-authored the self-help book From the Court to the Boardroom with business partner Bridgette Chambers. “Eventually, anyone can have these certain levels of success,” Leslie said. “It’s not based on luck. It’s strategy.” When she manages some downtime, you can find Leslie listening to her favorite Les Miserables songs, binge-watching Netflix series and kicking butt while playing board games with her family.

What’s one thing you did in the past year that you never thought you’d do?

Move across the country [to Florida]. I never thought I’d leave Los Angeles.

Which pro athlete would you never want to trade places with?

Any of those boxers, probably. Or MMA fighters. Ronda Rousey. I’d never want to be in the ring, because they take some serious beatings. I’ll pass on that sport.

What are you looking forward to achieving this year?

I’m actually about to go back to school to get my real estate license for the state of Florida. I’ll have to go to class for a month. My husband and I have had properties in California. … I like the whole idea of investing … flipping properties. That’s probably my biggest focus this year. Trying to get people to move to Florida.

“I tie my shoes too tight. Because when I would play, I had to tie my shoes and retie them three times before jump ball.”

Are there any habits you developed in the WNBA that you still find yourself doing now?

Yes. I tie my shoes too tight. Because when I would play, I had to tie my shoes and retie them three times before jump ball. I [was] just so neurotic about my shoes being tied tight before I played, that now sometimes I catch myself and my shoes will be too tight and I’m like, ‘What is wrong? I’m in pain.’ I have no game to play.

Which current WNBA athletes remind you most of yourself?

[Los Angeles Sparks forward] Nneka Ogwumike reminds me of myself. She’s tenacious and plays both ends of the floor, and she just has heart and a will that she doesn’t give up. She’s a hard worker. I was a hard worker, and I like that.

If you could go to dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?

Jesus. Me and Jesus go way back, so I would just like to have a few words. Face to face would be great. Get a few answers.

Have you ever been starstruck?

Yes. I met the late Michael Jackson, and I met Janet Jackson. I met a lot of the Jacksons, but Michael was so cool. Michael wanted some Kentucky Fried Chicken, I remember that. He liked chicken, and he had really big hands. I also met the late Prince, who was supercool. Prince was the symbol at the time, but he was very militant and very beautiful. He was really the most beautiful person I ever met … his face was gorgeous. It was ridiculous. He looked like a porcelain doll, and I don’t think he ever had any work done. I’m looking at him, and of course he’s like 4-11 and I’m 6-5. We’re both leaning against this wall, and we were chatting it up. He was really nice and super down to earth.

“MMA fighters. Ronda Rousey. I’d never want to be in the ring because they take some serious beatings.”

Who would you want to play you in your biopic?

That’s so funny because I don’t know if anyone’s actually tall enough. But Gabrielle Union is the only celebrity I know who actually has some game, and can shoot and play. She’s a little short for me, but everything else is there. She has the right color, she’s got swag. She can do it.

What’s the worst purchase you’ve ever made?

You don’t want to know. And this was a true accident. In the Tiffany’s store, I accidentally bought some diamond earrings that were like $32,000 and I thought the lady was saying that they were $3,200. I was trying to buy my mom some real diamond earrings. The lady was like, ‘These are 2, these are 3, and these are 4.’ How was I supposed to know the 2, the 3, and the 4 were $20,000, $30,000 and $40,000? That lady took my American Express and put $30,000 and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. I’m walking out of here today, but we’re bringing these back.’ That may be my most embarrassing moment too. I know there’s people that do that, but I’m not them; $30,000 was a big stretch.

What is the most embarrassing music you admit to listening to?

It’s not embarrassing to me, but my family, kids and all, they hate when I put on Les Miserables. I listen to ‘Bring Him Home’ and they hate it. My kids are like, ‘Mom. No.’ I think it’s so beautiful. It’s such a spiritual song, and I’m a spiritual person. Nobody wants to hear Les Mis in the house, though.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Things I don’t ever get to have. Hostess powdered doughnuts, when they’re fresh. A box of Nilla wafers, when they’re fresh. Come on. That’s old school. Red Vines, not Twizzlers.

“The problem is, everyone thinks I cheat in Clue.”

What will you always be the champ of?

Clue. In my family, nobody will play me because I beat everyone. I get the answers right every time, and they get so mad at me. We play a lot of board games: Life, Monopoly, Taboo. We play a homemade game called Fishbowl, which is a mixture of Taboo and charades. We’re competitive. The problem is, everyone thinks I cheat in Clue. Even if I leave the room and let them shuffle and put it all together, I figure it out. I’m brilliant.

The last show you binge-watched?

I was watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, and I’m also watching This Is Us. And then, I didn’t finish binge-watching Narcos. I’m on season two. I completed Power and now I’m like, damn, I can’t do without Power. My No. 1 show is Game of Thrones. I also finished Insecure, which is excellent.

What’s your favorite throwback TV show?

Probably be an episode of Martin because my husband loves it. Now something I’d seek out — I’m so corny — but mine would be I Love Lucy. And if I really throw it back, I would probably sit and watch an episode of Gidget. No one would know that.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Keep God first.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.