Made for the Sole: A Conversation with Dawn Staley
Dawn Staley joined us on the Made for the W IG Live for a little fireside chat with our very own Tiona Deniece. Tiona caught up with Dawn at her home and had a nice talk about everything from her experience with the ’96 Olympic team, her unforgettable appearance on the culturally iconic show “Martin”, the Lady Gamecocks, and of course her signature shoe, the Nike S5. The conversation was filled with nostalgia, a few laughs, and as always some dope sneaker talk.
It started with Dawn reflecting on her time with the 1996 Olympic team in Atlanta. She said that was pretty much the birth of women’s professional basketball in the states. It was the first time we got to see the game’s best players in their primes. We usually only got to see them in heavy doses during their college years. Dawn went on to explain that it was a taxing and challenging experience but the camaraderie got them through and it was one of the most gratifying experiences of her career.
The success and profile of the ’96 Olympic team brought about two pro women’s leagues in the states, the ABL and of course the WNBA. Dawn started in the ABL but ultimately transitioned to the WNBA. The larger crowds and better accommodations were enticing but I’m sure her knees appreciated the shorter season more than anything. Dawn paid homage to the OG’s of the women’s game saying that without them, the WNBA could not have become a reality.
The tide then turned to sneakers. Dawn was one of three female hoopers to get their own signature shoe in the ’90s. She was preceded by Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie before debuting her own silhouette, the Nike S5. Dawn was a sneakerhead herself so getting her own shoe was a dream come true. She gave some insight into the process of how the shoe came to fruition. Her involvement went well beyond lending her name to the footwear. She sat down with product developers and laid out what she wanted from the mold and fit to even what type of leather to use. Coincidentally it was the same leather that was used on that year’s signature Jordan model. Guess it’s safe to say GOAT’s of a feather use the same leather.
Nike embodied Dawn’s femininity and also captured her fierce nature on the court and delivered a sneaker for the ages. Dawn also came out and said that she had the best women’s signature. I’m sure Sheryl and Lisa will have something to say about that. Wouldn’t mind seeing them check ball to settle that dispute one more time.
With the WNBA at the height of its popularity and the heavy female influence in the sneaker game, this would be a great time for Nike to retro the S5. In this climate, the shoe would fly off the shelf. Dawn says if they do bring the shoe back they would definitely have to give us a Gamecocks colorway. As we all know, nothing about Dawn Staley is boring. During the conversation, she revealed that she would also want some neon splashes on them as well. Oh, and of course, a classic shoe isn’t a classic shoe without a BRED mockup.
Much of the tail end of the conversation revolved around Staley’s coaching career. After starting in her hometown at Temple, Dawn moved to South Carolina and has built them into one of the best programs in the nation during her tenure. She’s racked up two Final Fours, a national championship and a Coach of the Year award. Her coaching resume rivals her playing career and that’s really saying something given how she tore through the ACC and the rest of the country during her days at UVA.
She definitely sounded like a proud coach when highlighting some of her players. She said she was anxious to see how Destanni Henderson would develop while filling the void for Tyasha Harris next season. She made sure to note that Zia Cooke was going to be a problem in the NCAA and Aaliyah Boston was probably the most unique big in the country. Dawn was ready to lead her troops to another deep tourney run but unfortunately the current pandemic halted athletic competition.
The interview ended with some sneaker confessions. Dawn said that her parents would take turns on sneaker duty for her. Mom was all in on keeping Dawn’s feet looking fly but dad took the frugal approach. Not to worry though because mom always batted clean up. The pair that got away from Dawn was the Adidas Tennis Super OG worn by Ivan Lendl. She had to wait until she graduated from college to finally get them. When asked what her sneaker game is looking like today, Dawn said she owns about 300 pairs of shoes. She doesn’t discriminate either. It’s more than Nikes in her closet.
She also warned of the perils of becoming a sneakerhead. Staley said she’s had shoes for years that have never been worn. If she ever starts unloading the dead weight you’ll have to get in line behind Tiona. She already put her bid in since her and the hoops legend wear the same size.
Staley also might have broken a sneaker head cardinal rule and gave up her plug on the live but we’ll let it slide this time. Oh and if anybody has a line on the Red Octobers, Dawn is looking for you. This was the first of many awesome conversations so please make sure you stay in tune with Made for the W so you don’t miss out!!! Until next time.