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Chicago Sky guard Dana Evans remembers when her love of sneakers began.
While playing basketball in elementary school, she found herself attracted to “funky colors” that didn’t match her uniform.
“I like to stand out on the court. I’ve always been like that,” she told the Tribune. “My favorite pair that started me on the path of being different was probably customizing my Nike Hyperdunks in all pink.”
Evans’ love of sneakers will reach a new height in the Sky’s final regular-season home game Friday against the Minnesota Lynx at Wintrust Arena. She will debut her Jordan Luka 2 player edition (PE) shoe, “The Intro,” a special colorway made for Evans of Dallas Mavericks star Luka Dončić’s second signature shoe. To celebrate the occasion, the first 400 fans will receive a sky blue T-shirt with Evans’ DE11 logo.
For Evans, the shoe is a dream come true.
“It means a lot because I like to express myself on the court, whether that’s just having my nails, lashes or hair done, and now I’m able to do it through a shoe,” she said. “I’ve always loved shoes. Being able to express myself within a shoe is pretty dope.”
Evans, whose sneaker fashion is documented on the Instagram account DanaEvansKicks, signed with Jordan Brand last year and was the first Chicago athlete — male or female — to sign with the NBA legend’s sneaker imprint.
“Dana overall embodies exactly what we like to see in our athletes,” Jasmine Jordan, a field representative in the Jordan Brand sports marketing division and the daughter of Michael Jordan, told the Tribune.
“When you look at Dana, you don’t think that she’s about to be taking you to the hole and cutting you and pulling back and hitting her jumpers. She’s so skilled and so agile for being so small, and it’s something that stuck out.”
One of more than 10 WNBA athletes signed to the brand, Evans is part of a movement to push women to the forefront of sneaker culture. She believes it’s important for female athletes to be visible within the space.
“To put ourselves out in that aspect is bringing more viewers, and having more eyes on us is important,” she said. ”We’ve talked a lot about that in the WNBA. Just having us being seen means people can relate to us and understand us more through different things.”
New York Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu’s signature shoe, the Nike Sabrina 1, was released earlier this month. Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne is the only other current female athlete to have a signature sneaker with the brand.
It’s a move Gregory Jones II of G2 Hoops, Evans’ marketing agent, says will have an impact on the league for years to come.
“Sabrina’s shoe is probably going to outpace some of the guys that had their first signature shoe,” Jones said. “It shows that there is a lane in the market for women to have signature shoes and PEs. It gives us the opportunity to say that women in the WNBA can sell sneakers, and what that turns into is being able to pay them more as far as their revenue share in that space.”
In addition to Evans, Sky players Kahleah Copper, Ruthy Hebard and Elizabeth Williams (Adidas), Isabelle Harrison (Jordan), Marina Mabrey (Under Armour) and Courtney Williams (Moolah Kicks) have sneaker deals.
Evans, who is averaging 8.7 points off the bench, said she “fell in love” with the Luka 1 while playing overseas because it’s a comfortable low-top. And now she’s excited to get a pair of the second version of the shoe with details that carry special meaning for her.
The shoe is in shades of pink, Evans’ signature color, and blue. The laces are made to look like DNA strands to represent her family. Evans’ dad, Damon, has said he would switch shifts with his co-workers at a Gary steel mill to see Evans play. The shoe also has the number 23 to signify this year, Michael Jordan and pairs of chromosomes.
On the insole is a cougar head, an homage to the nickname of Gary West Side, where Evans played in high school. She sits in the top five in scoring in Indiana High School Athletic Association history and was a McDonald’s and Jordan Brand All-American with the Cougars before playing at Louisville.
Evans believes West Side was a big part of who she is today.
“Coming from a school in Gary where a lot of people said I wouldn’t make it, a lot of people would talk down on it and say I wouldn’t be able to do it,” she explained. “But I love that I went through so many challenges and obstacles throughout my high school journey because I feel it made me so much stronger. It made me have to fight so much harder to get to where I am, and that will always stick with me.”
The sneaker also features pink pony hair on the upper to reflect her style of keeping her hair laid — an idea that she can be a baller while also looking good.
The tongue has both Dončić and Evans logos, with a Jordan logo on the pull tag. In the shoe’s webbing are lightning to represent her speed, a bull’s-eye for her sharpshooting ability and a heart for her family.
Though the sneaker won’t be for sale to the public, Evans hopes that one day a shoe with her name will be.
“I definitely would love that,” she said. “I think that’s important for the women’s game as well. I think it would be dope for us to be able to sell our own shoes. I think it will do really well if they give it a chance.”