On the top of the heel of Elena Delle Donne’s first player edition Nike shoe are the words “Path Less Traveled”. The saying is a mantra that Delle Donne has lived all his life.
Delle Donne went through a lot to become one of the best players in the WNBA. EDD has always chosen its own path. As one of the top prospects in the 2008 high school basketball recruiting class, Delle Donne first committed to GenoAuriemma and UConn before changing her mind and heading home to college. of Delaware. The reason? She wanted to stay close to her family, especially her older sister Lizzie, who is blind and has special needs. Exhausted from basketball, Delle Donne decided to take a year off and played volleyball for UD. She returned to basketball a season later where she received Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year honors. She has also been battling Lyme disease since 2008 and became the first National Ambassador for the Lyme Research Alliance.
Due to his inspiring history and dominating game, Nike honored EDD on Monday with their very own Nike Hyperdunk 2016 PE that pays homage to his unique journey. There are approximately 15 symbols on the heel and tongue silhouette that represent the ups and downs of his life. One of the features: a sign language “I love you” symbol that appears on the tongue to show appreciation for her older sister.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with the former MVP about her new Nike PE and what it means to join the line of WNBA greats who received their own shoe.
JH: What was your reaction when you found out you were getting your own Nike PE?
JED: “I was super excited. I think I called everyone I knew. It was really one of those times where you don’t know what to say. I’m just humbled and so excited that I’m going to be able to have a one shoe that tells your story that you can share with others and hopefully inspire people, so that was a big moment for me.
JH: What was your contribution to the design of the shoe?
JED: I had a ton of input with the design and the sneaker. A few Nike designers came to my house and spent most of the day with me and we kind of just talked about the style of shoes I like, the colors and they even went to my shoe room to see some more. And obviously I told them all about my basketball journey and my life in general off the court and it was crazy what they could come up with. My whole journey is in this shoe and it’s pretty amazing to me.
JH: What was it like working with Nike on this silhouette?
JED: It was great because you always hear how players have a big impact on the design of their shoes, but I didn’t know they had so much impact. They just let me lead and tell them what I like. They gave me ideas because obviously I’m not a shoe designer, but the ideas they were throwing around were so cool and I was able to just choose what I wanted to see and it was a great experience.
JH: There are a lot of symbols found on your sneaker. Is there one symbol that stands out more than the others?
JED: The biggest thing I like is that some details are brought up because my sister is blind. So all of our communication is through touch. So part of the shoe is about her. There’s my tattoo of her name, there’s an “I love you” symbol. Even her perseverance, I was able to watch her and learn that from her, but unfortunately I thought there was no way she could see that shoe. And shoe gurus came up with this idea with materials like braille so she could feel it.
JH: What makes the HyperDunk your sneaker of choice?
JED: I think they fit my game really well. I’ve played in highs and lows and had a few ankle injuries in the past so they give me great support in the ankles and they are super light and I like how tight they can be around my foot because I have kind of a narrow foot too. So this has been a great shoe for me and I ask others how they feel after wearing them and they are obsessed with them as well. So it’s a great shoe.
JH: Where does your sneaker rank among the sneakers that are in your closet right now?
JED: (Laughs) Number 1. I put them front and center
JH: You hear these players keeping their sneakers in all these crazy places like safes and storefronts. Are you going to keep them somewhere special?
JED: Definitively. Luckily I have a contact at Nike so they send me a bunch, but there is a pair that will never be worn and in a case that will be on display.
JH: How does it feel to join a strong line of WNBA players such as Sheryl Swoopes, Cynthia Cooper, Lisa Leslie, Dawn Staley and others to receive your own signature Nike shoe?
JED: It’s so humiliating. I remember when the Swoopes shoe came out and I was an obnoxious little kid begging my parents to take me to the store to pick them up and the second I got them I never took them off. I was outside playing and pretending to be her. So I think it’s a huge moment where I could inspire some young people by wearing these shoes; because I know that moment for me was huge.