Sue Bird Discusses The Evolution Of Women’s Basketball Fashion And A Wild WNBA Offseason

Sue Bird is entering her 18th season in the WNBA this year, as the 11-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer continues to be one of the best in the game. Bird missed last year with a knee injury, as both she and superstar teammate Breanna Stewart were forced to sit the season for the Storm. Both are back this year, though, and have been tuning up with the USA women’s team this winter.

Off the court, Bird has become an icon in the fashion world, particularly with regards to her incredible sneaker collection. Over NBA All-Star Weekend, Bird joined Kemba Walker, Grayson Boucher (aka The Professor), and the Shoe Surgeon for a panel with JBL at their Sounds of the City activation on basketball fashion and culture.

Prior to the panel, she sat down with Dime while wearing a pair of the Off-White Air Force 1s. We talked about the wild summer the WNBA has had as well as her thoughts on the new CBA, but first, we discussed the evolution of her personal style and why it’s been important for brands to open up the basketball culture to the full spectrum of women that want to be a part of it.

So much of basketball culture now is the fashion and the sneakers. How would you describe your personal fashion transformation over the years since you got into the league?

Oh man, there has been one. There has been one [laughs]. Truthfully, I think — not to get too deep — but the WNBA, we were kinda sorta figuring out who are we as a league and what are we, and I think early on a lot of the marketing was pushing the feminine side. And I think one of the cool things about female athletes is we’re like a mixed bag, when we’re out on the court it can be aggressive, some of the athletes do wear makeup, I don’t. So, my point is, there’s a spectrum, and we all are sprinkled all over it.

Early on, I was trying to be a little too much, let’s just say not myself. Trying to dress a certain way, act a certain way, and present a certain way. Through the years, you get to know yourself a little better, you figure out your style, and now we’re at a point — which is amazing for me — I always joke I’ve been waiting literally 15-20 years for sneakers to become a thing. For it to be like the cool thing to wear, even with a dress or even with a suit, whatever the case may be. So, for me, that’s been the transformation and now, I like to say I’m like somewhere in a tomboy chic category — probably a little more tomboy than chic, but I’ll take it.

Within that, how important has it been to have partners whether it’s the sneaker brands or something like this panel with JBL, where it’s not just about “shrink it and pink it”? I remember when Maya Moore came out with those 12s, I think it was, and like, doing actual stuff that is for women but it’s not just pink or trying to just highlight the femininity. How important has that growth you’ve seen in that to bring in, like you said, the whole spectrum into the basketball culture?

Yeah, I think the key word is expression. I think we all as athletes, whether on the court or off the court, doesn’t matter, you’re expressing yourself in these ways, and you have to have the tools to do it. And for awhile, we didn’t really have, for female athletes, the proper tools, right, to really fully express yourself. Like, maybe some people did, but for me personally it just didn’t exist. So to have companies start to kind of see that and see that spectrum, that there are a lot of different ways as us as female athletes to express ourselves, and now we are starting to get the tools. It just, there’s something genuine about it and it’s really cool to be a part of it.

And now the NBA and the WNBA do it now with the walk-ins and everybody gets dressed up. How fun is that to be able to have that platform for expression and show it on the court and off the court?

It’s fun. It’s fun. You get to show people sides of yourself. You get to be playful with it and try different things. My teammates, they definitely take that tunnel walk very seriously. But it’s fun, it’s a conversation point. It gets people talking about things. I love following like all the Instagram accounts that are going to have all the outfits on. I steal, I will be the first to tell you. I’ll be like, “Ooh, what’s LeBron wearing?” Like, “Oh, the red with the… and the green, I see,” and I’ll try to like take from people and that’s a lot of fun. And before it just wasn’t happening like that. And like I said it’s just really cool to be a part of it now.

It’s been a pretty wild offseason in the WNBA, with a lot of player movement. What’s that been like to watch from a pretty comfortable spot since y’all have things fairly settled in Seattle?

Yeah, thank god. I think it’s great. I think that’s something we’ve been missing in the WNBA is player movement. Truthfully, we were, for a long time as a league, not really money motivated, because the money wasn’t really that different from team to team. So that wasn’t really going to push you to another city and you were probably going to stay where you were. So now we have situations where another team can offer you more money and that kinda, that money starts to talk. I mean, we’re athletes, we play a sport, but it’s a job, so you gotta make the money while you can. To see it happening like that, I think it’s great for the league, it’s great for us, it’s great for the storylines. People are talking about it, and that was one of the goals, to be honest.

How pleased were you with how the CBA and everything turned out? Obviously money comes up and you see, like, DeWanna Bonner moving to Connecticut on a sign-and-trade, and that’s really rare in the WNBA.

Yeah. I mean, amazing. I thought we killed it with the CBA. It’s been great to see everything unfold the way we thought it would and be in this positive way. Really quickly, I always felt like there was a negative vibe around the WNBA, like, “Oh, they only make this?” And now it’s, like, “Oh, they make that?!” So the vibe has totally changed for players, for outsiders looking in, so the CBA has definitely started that off.

Who are some of your favorite point guards in the NBA to watch and who are some of the young, up-and-coming guards in the WNBA that you really enjoy seeing what they can do on the court?

Well, my favorite player in the NBA now is Kyrie, by far. Just like, I’m not saying anything no one doesn’t know. He’s wildly entertaining. I always judge as a fellow basketball player, you put it in this category of who would you pay to see. And I’m sure a lot of people do that, but I go, “Would I pay to watch them?” Kyrie? Pssh, I would pay in a heartbeat to watch him, so he’s my favorite.

In the WNBA, we actually have a lot of good point guards. Courtney Vandersloot is doing great things in Chicago. Chelsea Gray is also on the come up the last couple years. One that we haven’t seen, she’s a UConn grad so I’m gonna give her some love, is Mariah Jefferson. So, she’s a player that because of injury has been kinda in and out, but I mean, if she gets it going in terms of her health, pssh, it could be go time for her.

Last one, I won’t ask for the favorite.

[laughs] OK.

But the top-3 favorite sneakers in the collection?

I mean, number one is the Sacai’s. Every color, doesn’t matter. They’re the perfect shoe, I think. Number two is the Jordan 1 Off-Whites — the red and black. Although I do like the all-white. The UNC’s are alright. The all-white ones are sick. And number three? I’m trying to think…oh, the Travis Scott’s.

The 1’s?

Yeah the 1’s. The low-tops.

Oh, really?

Yeah, but I do like the high tops. I actually just got the high tops. They’re just now being worked into my rotation, but the lows are so sick.