Even though, statistically, more women than ever before are becoming actively involved in professional-level sports, many female players are still treated like second-class athletes. Since debuting in 1997, WNBA games remain difficult to find on mainstream networks like ESPN, despite a growing interest in the league. And for those female basketball players, that deficiency also trickles down to apparel with a lack of options in the women's performance gear category. Even Nike, the biggest U.S. apparel company with $30.6 million in annual revenue, had yet to create a basketball collection created for female athletes in mind — until this week, that is.
On Tuesday, Nike Women unveiled its brand-new Elite Basketball performance collection, marking the very first time the activewear giant has engineered basketball clothing for women, designed by women. To produce a distraction-free fit and feel, Nike tapped a number of the game's premier players — including Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins, Chiney Ogwumike and Sue Bird, along with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team — for insight. Said Chris Burke, Nike Basketball Global Basketball Apparel Director, in a press release: "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."
While the collection itself is comprised of just four pieces, each item appears to be highly versatile for both practice and a competitive setting. There's a loose-fitting, mesh-paneled hoodie, a pair of sweat-wicking, tapered pants, a contoured, non-restrictive tank and a pair of lightweight, breathable shorts. This begs the question, though: Are accessories, like performance-enhancing socks, soon to follow? Nike didn't immediately respond to our request for comment, but has still put itself ahead of the curve when it comes to functional, appealing basketball clothes for women. Now, it's time for the rest of the market to follow suit.
Nike Women's Elite Basketball collection is now available at Nike.com and select retailers.
Homepage photo: Nike