The WNBA launched 18 years ago, and has since expanded from eight to a dozen teams; basketball is the most popular women's sport. Yet Nike, the gold standard for athletic garb and the world's most valuable sports brand, has never made a performance-oriented women's basketball line...until now. It's called the Elite Basketball collection, and women were highly involved in designing the pieces. Pro players Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins, Chiney Ogwumike and Sue Bird — a.k.a. women who really know how to dribble and dunk — consulted on the line. If you want to see the threads in action, check out Chicago Sky player Donne's smooth moves in this behind-the-scenes video. "This is giving us what we want and need. I have been waiting for this forever," Diggins said in a release. Nike also had the women's basketball team at the University of Connecticut weigh in on the design process. Insights from pro and college athletes resulted in the collection's four pieces: a contoured tank, lightweight shorts, mesh-paneled hoodie, plus a pair of tapered pants that would be excellent for long flights and grocery runs. Prices range from $35 to $80, and the collection is already available online.
"We did a lot of focus groups with both high school and professional basketball players from across the country to make sure we were creating the right styles and incorporating the wants and needs for the female athlete,” Chris Burke, the global basketball apparel director at Nike, said in a release. Women's basketball still gets sidelined as far as the relationship between sports and gender goes. (The NBA's widest-broadcast game in 2014 had 18 million viewers; the WNBA's largest audience for a game was 828,000.) In terms of pro athlete salaries, tennis is the only sport that gets close to gender parity in terms of the game's top-12 earners, five of whom are women.) At least Nike is starting to look at the needs of female ballers finally, but maybe it'll expand the line to more than four pieces for future collections.