Maya Moore isn't the first women's basketball player to transcend her sport. We can go back to Cheryl Miller or Lisa Leslie, or maybe even former UConn star Diana Taurasi. But Wednesday Moore became the first female basketball player to join Nike's Jordan product line.
"As the first female basketball player to sign with Jordan, Maya has more than earned the right to rock the Jumpman," reads a Nike press release. "At UConn, Maya was not only an honor student, but she was the all-time leading scorer in Big East history, won two national titles, and only lost three games in her four-year collegiate career (including two perfect seasons and a 90-0 winning streak)."
Michael Jordan, the guy responsible for all this, also weighed in: "I am thrilled to welcome Maya Moore into the Jordan Brand. Not only has Maya proven to be a prolific winner on the court, but her hunger and determination to make an impact off the court makes her a valuable addition to the Jordan family. We look forward to working with Maya as she carries her success to the next level."
And Moore, ever appreciative despite her prodigious talents, offered this: "As a student of the game, it is a dream come true to align myself with a brand that has a rich history in sports. Like most kids, I grew up idolizing Michael Jordan and continue to work relentlessly to reach his iconic status on the court. I'm truly motivated to take my career to the next level as a member of Team Jordan."
Moore's not kidding with that "student of the game" line. She didn't become the first overall pick in the 2011 WNBA Draft, a two-time national player of the year, a gold medalist on the US National Team, or any of the myriad other distinctions she earned since arriving in Storrs in 2007 by not working hard.
So while this is just the latest in a long line of accomplishments for Moore, SB Nation's Andy Hutchins wonders why it took Nike so long to sign a female basketball player to its Jordan brand. Hutchins recognizes that it likely comes down to economics -- there are more NBA fans than WNBA fans, and they buy a lot of shoes -- but he also makes a point worth considering:
"But if Mike Bibby can be a Jordan Brand representative, couldn't Ticha Penechiero have been one? Diana Taurasi wasn't a more worthy tentpole than Michael Finley? Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker, maybe the most marketable women's basketball players ever, couldn't have gotten a deal, but D.J. Augustin still has one?"
And it's not like signing Penechiero or Taurasi requires all the resources of Nike's R&D. No one's looking to invent a new shoe, just finding some of the biggest stars in women's basketball to wear the current ones. All that requires is a contract and a signature. Put differently: is Augustin selling more sneakers to his fans than, say, Taurasi would be to hers? And more than that, why can't Nike have both players under the Jordan brand?