No Black WNBA players have a signature shoe. Here's why that's a gigantic problem.

In October of 2023, after Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon was asked a question: Does star player A'ja Wilson deserve her own signature shoe? Hammon's response was one of incredulity.

"You think?" she said. "You don’t need my thoughts. You already know my thoughts."

Then she gave her thoughts.

"She needs her own shoe," Hammon said. "She is the two-time MVP. I’ll toot her horn because she won’t. Olympic gold medalist, best defensive player two years running, her team’s (success). Stop. Stop."

Wilson's pedigree goes even beyond what Hammon described. She's been in the league since 2018. She's a two-time champion, won the MVP twice, and is a five-time All-Star. She's an Olympian. FIBA World Cup MVP. Wilson won a championship at South Carolina and was player of the year there. She's so revered in her home state there's a statue of her outside the arena.Wilson also just made Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World list. Oh, and she's a New York Times bestselling author.

Wilson is one of the greatest stars of our time. Any athlete of her caliber should already have a signature shoe. It is the order of things. In fact, it should have happened years ago. It would be like if you made signature shoes for Vulcans and you didn't give one to Spock.

In 2022, Las Vegas Aces forward A'ja Wilson told that the WNBA promotes only the players it thinks are marketable and “sometimes a Black woman doesn’t check off those boxes.”
In 2022, Las Vegas Aces forward A'ja Wilson told that the WNBA promotes only the players it thinks are marketable and “sometimes a Black woman doesn’t check off those boxes.”

"In due time, in due time," Wilson said of the shoe, at that 2023 press conference. "We’ll see what goes on, but in due time I believe we’re going to get something moving and shaking. But I’m blessed just to have my name in that conversation.

"A lot of players don’t get signature shoes so for people to say I should or demanding that I get one, I’m blessed to be in that situation. So, in due time, we’ll see ..."

That was last year. It hasn't happened yet. It likely will but the fact it hasn't yet is absolutely disgraceful. But there's something even worse occurring.

Wilson's lack of a signature shoe is getting a fresh look because Caitlin Clark is expected to get a signature shoe in the near future. If she does, Clark would join only three other WNBA players with signature shoes: Breanna Stewart, Elena Delle Donne and Sabrina Ionescu. You may notice a pattern there.

In a majority-Black league there are currently no Black players with signature shoes.

There've only been 12 players in the history of the WNBA with their own signature shoe. In the past, almost every signature shoe from 1995-2011 belonged to a Black woman. The fact that only white women hold the power of the signature shoe now, as the WNBA enters its most high profile and prosperous phase, shows how Black women are being ignored in a league that they dominate.

Stardom propels shoe deals, but also, shoe contracts, like a signature shoe, drive stardom. If you believe the only reason three (and likely soon four) white women are getting the shoes because they just happen to be more marketable, well, you're a fool.

ATTENTION GRABBER: Black History Month is over but keep watching Black athletes like A'ja Wilson

Wilson didn't make Time's list because she isn't marketable and doesn't have viability. She made it because she has copious amounts of both.

"A'ja Wilson is not just an incredible athlete, she is also an inspiration to all who witness her talent and drive. Her journey is a testament to the power of passion and fearlessness in achieving greatness," Tom Brady wrote in an essay for the magazine praising Wilson.

Brady added: "A'ja Wilson is not just a champion; she is a symbol of resilience, compassion, and unwavering dedication. Her story is a reminder that with passion and fearlessness, anyone can achieve greatness."

And before a bunch of you fire up your AOL email and "sent from my iPad" accounts, to be clear, crystal clear, really really clear, this is nothing against Clark. Clark deserves every endorsement she's getting. However, Wilson deserves it more, and has for some time. She is, after all, the best overall player in the world.

What so much of this comes down to is a lack of respect for the Black women of the WNBA. A lack of respect for Black Americans overall isn't something new to the marketing world. This is old hat. That doesn't change the ugliness of it.

Everyone knows this including the white stars in the sport like Paige Bueckers from Connecticut. She addressed the problem three years ago during her acceptance speech at the ESPYS after she was named best women's athlete.

"With the light that I have now as a white woman who leads a Black-led sport and celebrated here, I want to shed a light on Black women," said Bueckers. "They don’t get the media coverage that they deserve. They’ve given so much to the sport, the community and society as a whole and their value is undeniable.

"I think it’s time for change. Sports media holds the key to storylines. Sports media and sponsors tell us who is valuable, and you have told the world that I mattered today, and everyone who voted, thank you. But I think we should use this power together to also celebrate Black women."

"Even though our league is predominantly Black, I think it's hard for our league to push us, in a sense, because they still have to market, in their mind, what is marketable," Wilson told ESPN in 2022. "Sometimes a Black woman doesn't check off those boxes."

Yes, it's true, that it's likely Wilson will get her signature shoe, and maybe soon. It won't change the fact she had to wait this long. And it doesn't diminish that she could still be the only Black player to have one.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lack of Black WNBA players with a signature shoe is a gigantic problem