The “Jumpman” symbol has become synonymous with many things since its debut in the mid-80s. It’s come to represent one of the greatest players the game has ever seen, been slapped on innumerable articles of clothing and become a symbol that all but started the sneakerhead movement and bridges the gap between sneaker OGs and hypebeasts thirsting after the latest drop.
What it hasn’t symbolized is a great deal of inclusion. When Maya Moore signed with Jordan in 2011, she became the first female hooper to sign with the brand and provided an avenue for young girls to have their own superstar to see themselves in. Now eight years later, and with Moore sitting out during this WNBA season, two new faces have emerged to help drive the brand forward: New York Liberty teammates Kia Nurse and Asia Durr.
Durr, who was drafted second overall this year and whose ability to shoot the lights out has earned her the nickname Nite Nite; and Nurse, who was the second leading scorer on the Liberty last season, are the perfect ambassadors to help Jordan expand its brand in the WNBA. Both offer dynamic games and silky smooth jumpers that should fit right in with Jordan and help fill the void that Moore has left this season.
“Maya Moore was the reason that I wanted to play in the WNBA,” Nurse said. “She’s been a huge inspiration to me and now getting to be in this situation and getting to be in a place where a lot of young women are going to be able to see the faces of two women who have achieved their dream and know that they can do that too. That’s something that’s really special to me.”
Jordan could have hardly found a more worthy delegate than Nurse, who has been repping hard for the Swoosh since she got signed last year. Her header on Twitter as of Friday afternoon was of her lying in a giant swoosh on a Nike basketball court, and a quick perusal through her Instagram shows that she has spent plenty of time going hard for Nike.
Is she going to bring that same energy now that she’s with Jordan?
“When I was coming out of college and taking on brands and deciding what I wanted to do, the one thing my sister said was that 'whoever gets you is lucky' because I go hard,” Nurse said. “I’m excited for Jordan to be that next little step forward and be that adventure. There’s so many great things the brand does. It’s so visible and Michael was such an icon in our game, I’m so blessed and fortunate to represent a brand that he had a vision for.”
Durr is equally excited to see Jordan develop on the women’s side of the game. She said it’s good for the culture and for female basketball players to be getting more exposure.
This season has seen a potentially monumental tonal shift in how the league is being perceived. The WNBA is getting more coverage than ever before, more people are tuning in and the latest rebrand is helping quiet the haters while fans show support in unprecedented ways.
Trolls still lurk behind egg avatars and make their lame kitchen jokes online but the WNBA has an answer for those people too. And now Jordan Brand is showing more love for the women’s game, not only by signing two names from the league but two players on the same team who bring plenty of name recognition to the table.
“I think it’s so cool, especially to have my teammate playing by my side,” Durr said. “I don’t think you see too many teammates on the same team under the same shoe deal. So I think that’s pretty cool for me and her to be signed with Jordan, not only that but we’re the only two females players in the league [with Jordan].”
Naturally being in the same locker room will promote some friendly competition between who will sport the best kicks. Nurse appears to have the upper hand here, with a year of Nike gear in her closet and being known as someone who's no stranger to rocking heat, lacing up in Kyrie’s, LeBron’s, Jordan 33s and Hyperdunks as well as some rare joints off the court.
So how will they figure out who gets to wear what for each game? Nurse said she’ll make sure the two don’t match and that a little extra competition to keep their kick games up will be a lot of fun. When Durr is asked the same question, she asks what Nurse said. Hearing her answer, she responds with the fact that sneakerheads never want to wear the same shoes but that she’s customizing some sneakers now so there shouldn't be too much crossover.
But this conversation goes far past shoes and brands. This endorsement is a huge stepping stone for the WNBA and Jordan Brand. More shoe companies putting women front and center of their ad campaigns—as Nike has lately—leads more young girls around the world see themselves in the athletes of today and come closer to realizing their dreams.
“I absolutely love what’s going on in society with women’s empowerment,” Nurse said. “When I was younger we didn’t really have the social media that we have now where we could visibly see your favorite female athletes. Like I would have loved to follow Serena Williams when I was a little kid. I didn’t have that opportunity because I only had instant messenger.
“Now everybody can see you. They can see what you’re doing and I think that’s extremely important because there’s so much more to support than winning and losing and getting championships. … I’m excited that the brand, both Jordan brand and Nike brand, work toward that empowerment and to be a part of that.”
Durr added that the extra attention from the marketing campaigns is dope and helps spotlight female athletes at a time in which women’s sports are at one of the most pivotal points in their history. The “Jumpman” symbol no longer just stands for Jordan or a proclamation of clout. Things like this endorsement and what we’re seeing with coverage of the WNBA is likely to elicit a similar response from many fans and players around the league: It’s about time.
“I think it’s cool, especially what they’re doing for female hoopers,” Durr said. “I think we all deserve it, we put in the same amount of work as guys, if not more, so I think what they’re doing is great and I look forward to seeing what they’re gonna do for us.”