Sabrina Ionescu, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA draft, is the new face of Nike Basketball. The former Oregon Duck inked an exclusive multiyear endorsement deal with the sportswear juggernaut fresh off making headlines after being selected by the New York Liberty.
This move has the potential to make Ionescu something of a pioneer as the sole current WNBA star with her own signature shoe.
According to Go Ducks editor Rob Moseley, the 22-year-old confirmed the news via a conference call with various media outlets.
You built a program. You broke records. You won awards.
You still have unfinished business.
You’re ready to move the game forward,
and now your name has been called.
— Nike Basketball (@nikebasketball) April 18, 2020
She later confirmed it on her Instagram:
The report doesn’t come as a surprise, considering Ionescu’s been on Nike’s radar for a while. In her final year at Oregon, the California native enrolled in a master’s program that focused on advertising and branding. During that tenure, she spoke candidly about The Swoosh’s responsibility as a global brand, and more importantly as her alma mater’s merchandise partner.
“Everyone knows their commercials. Everyone knows kind of what they stand for, what they’re lobbying for,” Ionescu told Yahoo Sports’ Cassandra Negley. “It’s always equality [for] women in sport [and] in race. And so that’s why after we had talked and learned about that I thought it would be a perfect time to make some noise about [the jerseys].”
It didn’t take long for her remarks to go viral. Several days after her call to action, Nike debuted a $75 replica Oregon #20 basketball jersey, which sold out within hours.
Despite not profiting off the sales, the incoming rookie believes this is a step in the right direction for the representation of women in sports at the college level and beyond.
“A lot of my teammates are highly known and a lot of people would buy my teammates’ [jerseys] and quite frankly a lot of other [women’s] NCAA players from other schools,” Ionescu said. “So it wasn’t necessarily just me wanting mine to be sold. That wasn’t really kind of the route of what I was trying to advocate for. It was more just the representation of women in sport should be out there. And Nike says they believe in equality — which they do — they should do something about it. And they did.
“It was awesome to see them come forth and put their money where their mouth is and advocate for that.”
The superstar disclosed to NBC Sports Bay Area that she was contemplating between Nike, Under Armour and Puma, adding that Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry was leading an active campaign to get her to join forces with Under Armour.
“I have a great relationship with Steph and so that part’s kind of hard,” Ionescu said to reporters Logan Murdock and Kerith Burke. “Because I’ve been Nike for 10 years. And then Puma’s also kind of on the up-and-coming. So there’s a lot of pros and cons to all of them. And so it’s kind of been hard trying to figure out who I want to go with and what the best fit would be.”
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