Tamera “Ty” Young is a 12-year WNBA veteran and CEO of TY1 Gear LLC. She was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2008 WNBA draft, and the first female from James Madison University to ever get drafted. She also embraces being more than an athlete, and speaking on the racial and social justice issues that impact the country today. Check out her thoughts on how women’s basketball players have always been actively involved and on the forefront of change.
Q: Women’s basketball players have been extremely active in driving awareness to racial and social justice issues this season. Have you noticed this, and what are your thoughts on the subject?
A: Yeah, women’s basketball players have always been at the forefront, fighting for justice and fighting for equality. And there’s still things that are happening where we have to continue to try and bring more awareness to the issues. It’s not something that just happened either. It’s something that’s been happening, but because there are issues we’re still facing, whether that’s racism or whether that’s equality, we’re still having to fight for it. I think that the quality of social media is also helping bring more awareness to the issues, but overall women have always been at the forefront of this fight. It’s something we’ve always had to fight extra for too. We’ve already been fighting for our own rights, and that makes us more aware and makes us want to be in a position to use our platforms to fight for it.
Q: What did you think about the WNBA’s decision to dedicate this season to addressing these issues?
A: I wasn’t surprised by it. Because, like I said, women have always been at the forefront of these fights. We’ve always been finding ways to fight for social justice, for equality, to fight against racism. So when I saw that happen I thought it was amazing. But I wasn’t really surprised by it the way others may have been surprised. I just feel like women have always been using their platform for good. Women are the most marginalized group, so we have to fight the hardest.
Q: What do you thinks needs to be done by athletes and people in this country to spark substantial change?
A: To really spark the change, I think we all have to fight together and stand together. Not just athletes, everyone in general, and especially Black people. When you’re all together on something, it’s harder for people to be against you. We can put pressure on companies that we work with to take a stand. We have to lead the people who look up to us.
Q: What about the people that think who athletes shouldn’t speak on social or racial injustice issues?
A: Those people are part of the problem. You’re telling someone, just because they’re an athlete, that they need to “shut up and dribble.” But the majority of these athletes are Black. So how can you tell them not to fight against racism? If an athlete educated themselves, then they should be able to speak on what they know and believe.
Q: You’ve inspired so many young girls to be unapologetically themselves. What advice do you have for the next generation of female athletes?
A: I’ve just always been self-motivated to fight for what I want. They were my goals and dreams and I never wanted to just do what others thought was best for me. I am a firm believer of hard work, being a good person, and being myself. That took time, of course, but playing sports helped build my own self confidence. Throughout my whole journey, the three things that remained constant were to work hard, be a good person, and make the sacrifices that needed to be done for whatever future endeavor I had. So for the girls, I always tell them to be themselves, believe in themselves, and prove the doubters wrong. It’s hard for others to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself first.
Less than a year
ago, A’ja Wilson moved from her home state of South Carolina to the desert
lands of Nevada to begin her professional basketball career. Since then, she’s
allowed nothing to deter her from rising to the top. Her journey has not been
without struggle, but Wilson has learned to celebrate her successes along the
way and use her experiences (both good and bad) to shape the future.
Respecting the Past
Wilson is a new name in the basketball biz, she’s already rubbing elbows with elite
basketball icons, broadcasting college games on television, and judging professional
dunk contests. However, there was a time when she could barely get on the court
to log any minutes at all.
“When I was 13 or 14 years
old, I was absolutely horrible at basketball,” Wilson said. “My dad was the
assistant coach, and I still didn’t get in.”
Though times have
changed, Wilson remains grateful for those moments that shaped her into the
athlete she is now. She fondly remembers the first time she made it off the
bench with only 20 seconds left in the game.
was my defining moment,” Wilson said. “From that experience I really wanted to
get more time on the court with my teammates. It motivated me to work hard and
focus on my craft, and it’s helped me become the player I am today.”
But while her road
to stardom was influenced by key moments on the court, her path to leadership
was influenced by a specific person. Without hesitation, Wilson will tell you that
her biggest role model and shero was her grandma.
was so special to me,” Wilson said. “And the beautiful thing is she never
watched me play basketball, but she always had a listening ear and led me in
the right direction. I hope I’m half the woman she was.”
Acknowledging the Present
career with South Carolina ended in 2018 after making it to the quarter finals
of the national basketball tournament. Although it ended sooner than she would
have liked, it didn’t hinder her move to the pros. She was the first overall draft
pick in 2018 and was selected by the newly formed Las Vegas team.
Less than 10
games into the 2018 season, Wilson set a record with 35 points and over 10
rebounds in a single game (only the second rookie in league history to do so).
By the end of the season, Wilson led her team in points, rebounds, and blocks making
her an obvious contender to win Rookie of the Year, which she did. But despite
the addition of the young superstar, the team finished in ninth, one spot short
of the playoffs.
inaugural year, the Las Vegas team faced challenges adjusting to a new coach
and a new city, but Wilson looks forward to the potential of the upcoming
“We know each other now,”
Wilson said. “We know how each of us plays, and we can feed off each other, so
I’m excited to see our chemistry in the game.”
Embracing the Future
Wilson’s past has
impacted who she is today, but those are only the early chapters of her story. There
are records to be broken and glass ceilings to shatter, and Wilson is prepared
to forge her own way.
“I think mentally I’ve changed the way I approach
certain things in life, not just on the court, but off the court as well,”
forward to her future playing professional basketball and seizing opportunities
to advocate for female empowerment.
didn’t understand the voice I had until I got to the professional league, and I
saw how people listened,” Wilson said.
“So, I’m not going to just sit here. I’m going to speak on empowering women
because we deserve a change. There has to be a change.”
Wilson also looks
forward to seeing her non-profit organization, the A’ja Wilson Foundation, grow
and make a difference in the lives of kids struggling with learning disabilities
was diagnosed with dyslexia in high school, and I absolutely hated it,” Wilson
said. “It took a long time for me to come to terms with it. Once I found the
resources, they really helped me overcome the fact that I had a learning
disability. So, I wanted to start the A’ja Wilson Foundation to ensure schools
have those resources.”
The foundation is
still young, but, working with her parents, Wilson is excited to be raising
money and dreaming of the impact it’ll have down the road.
Wilson understands that the moments and mentors of
her past have helped bring her to where she is now and that, by investing in
the lives of the next generation, she can pass on the torch.
“The reason I play, and the reason I am who I am is because I want young kids, both boys and girls, to look up to me and say, ‘Okay, she did it the right way. She succeeded, and it can be done,’” Wilson said.
Wilson has only begun writing her story and making a difference in the world around her. And as she continues to be a leader, on and off the court, you won’t be able to ignore this superstar.
Diana Taurasi is the all-time leader in points scored, Sue Bird in assists. Their careers have been defined by the sustained greatness they play with in every season. They’ve won every type of award and championship the league and world has to offer. Now though, as they enter the twilights of their career leaving the game they each love so much is closer than ever before. The question of legacy is now more pressing than ever. Even the younger stars such as Elena Delle Donne, Breanna Stewart, and Jewell Loyd have thought about the impact they would like to leave on the game when they hang it up.
For Bird, winning is the most important thing, “I think when it’s said and done I want to be known as a winner. I really don’t care about anything else. I want to be somebody that teammates spoke highly of, who they looked at as somebody who helped them play their best and ultimately we won.”
The young guns are trying to focus on their impact outside of basketball as well. About her legacy Loyd said, “I want people to look at me and know it’s bigger than just basketball. I’m not here to just score or defend, I’m here to be the voice for other people and let them see there’s something more than just a scorer on the court. I’m trying to help as many people as I can. If you look at me, just know I’m not all about basketball, I’m here to help and encourage people.”
Stewart may have said it best, “When my basketball career is all said and done, the impact I want to have is someone who is a competitor, but also who touched a lot of lives on and off the court and who made people better.”
Other players want to help promote greater equality for athletes. They believe it is vital for everyone to feel they have a place in sports in order to grow participation and increase the sense of community sports create.
Delle Donne said, “If I can somehow change that gap of equality in sports between men and women, if I can leave that legacy, make it far better than when I came in, then that will be way bigger than any championship or statistics.” This desire for their impact to transcend what they do on the court will ultimately draw even more people to the league.
This forward thinking approach is necessary for the long-term success of the league, but there are also present-day issues that need to be addressed. The exposure the league has received in the past couple seasons has been massively important. More fans are making their way to the arenas and more games are being shown on ESPN. However, there is still work to be done. Delle Donne said, “Seeing us on billboards, being able to watch our games, being able to order your favorite player’s jerseys with ease. There’s a lot that has been done, but there’s a big way to go.”
A bigger spotlight helps dispel negative perceptions about their league which is critical to continued growth.
“I find a lot of people who have negative thoughts about our league haven’t even been to a game. It’s kind of what has been spewed around and I think the more we do to change that the better it will be in the long run,” said Bird.
Loyd concurred, “Just trying to get more visibility to the sport is a work in progress. It’s hard for me to find a person who’s come to games and says they don’t love or enjoy the game. Everyone who has ever come has said, ‘It’s my first time coming to a game and I’ve never been, but I love it!”
While it is imperative the league and players continue to work together to grow the game Taurasi believes the league is in a more stable place these days, “I think the future is very bright. With so many great players and faces and personalities, the game is trending upward and that’s what we need to do – we need to make sure that the product on the court gets better every year and I think you see that happening.”
Finding the perfect basketball shoe is about more than just picking which one looks the coolest. It’s about finding a shoe that’s tailored for your game. Whether you’re a shifty guard who requires a lot of grip for cutting and exploding or you’re a bruising big who needs more stability and support there’s a shoe out there that’s perfect for you. Eastbay recently sat down some of the top athletes in the WNBA to discuss a variety of topics including what shoes they wear on the court and why they feel those shoes go best with their style of play.
Sue Bird And The Kyrie 4
Sue Bird continues to put on a show every night even at the age of 38. A three-time champion who is the all-time leader in assists, Bird is a living legend. Her ability to manipulate defenders with a series of hesitations and ball fakes is similar to her friend Kyrie Irving. The two became friends during a Team USA autograph session, and when Irving discovered Bird was wearing his shoes on the court, he went to Nike and told them to give her whatever she wanted. Bird said, “I’m just a huge fan and a subscriber to look good, feel good, play good. Whenever I put on the Kyries, that’s how I feel.”
While the shoes are stylish they’re also designed for Bird’s style of play. She needs a shoe that has incredible grip so she can accelerate and cut without any fear of slipping. “There’s so much start and stop that’s part of my game, so the shoe fits my style in that regard,” she said. The Kyrie 4’s outsole has a zigzag cutout along the bottom that enhances traction while still allowing for flexibility. Under the heel, there’s Nike Zoom Air cushioning to help provide a responsive feel with every move. “They’re obviously made for somebody who’s out there doing spin moves, going left, going right over here over there.” Wrapped around the midfoot of the shoe, Flywire cables provide support for quick cuts and tough drives. All these features allow Bird to focus on the things that make her incredible without worrying about whether her shoe will hold up.
Bird compares herself to a tornado on the court. “My game is the type where I’m trying to help my teammates out by being the leader on the floor and trying to organize things,” she said “As it pertains to attacking the other team, I think before you know it, things are happening around you and you’re spinning around and suddenly we’ve scored.” This up-tempo style of play that encourages attacking early in the shot clock, constant movement, and pinging the ball around the court suits Bird’s style of play, and the Kyries help maximize her game so she is consistently at her absolute peak.
In addition to excellent performance, the 4’s also feature several spectacular colorways that draw inspiration from previous decades, paying homage to the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. You can check out these styles and more at Eastbay.
Diana Taurasi And The LeBron 16
There is no more accomplished player in the WNBA than Diana Taurasi. An MVP with three championships, four Olympic gold medals, nine All-Star appearances, and nine All-WNBA selections, she is a force on the court. In order to stay on top of her game, Taurasi competes in another GOAT’s signature shoe: the LeBrons.
Taurasi signed with Nike coming out of college and has been an avid supporter of the LeBron 10, which she says is her favorite pair ever made. Taurasi competed in the 10s for about five years before stepping into the LeBron 15s this past season. When talking about the Lebron series Taurasi said, “I think they have suited the way I play the most, you know for one I like to wear a basketball shoe that is comfortable, that’s got some girth to it.”
Taurasi is known as one of the fiercest competitors in all of basketball, a gunslinger from three who hits 38% on over eight attempts per game, who also has the ability to get into the lane, draw contact, and still finish. “I think LeBron’s shoes always symbolized the way he plays, going downhill, very powerful. Those are things I try to bring to the court too, so it’s kind of mirrored the way I play.” The recently released LeBron 16s have combine Max Air and Zoom Air in order to help absorb impact from tough landings while staying flexible. It’s also made with Flyknit material which means it’s lightweight, ultra-strong, and provides excellent support.
Having played in Phoenix her entire career, Taurasi compares herself to a sandstorm. During the season, she loves to “sweep into a city, cause some havoc, and get on out.” This take-no-prisoners mentality is what has allowed her to dominate the league as long as she has. It’s a competitive spirit that has been recognized by The King himself who sent her multiple colorways of the 15’s including the Metallic Gold and Graffiti styles. Right now, the Multicolor and Fresh Bred colorways for the LeBron 16 are available at Eastbay so you too can become a force on the court.
Breanna Stewart And The KD 11
Breanna Stewart has dominated the hardwood at every level. In high school, she was a McDonald’s All-American and the Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year. At the University of Connecticut (UConn) she was a four-time National Champion, three-time Naismith College Player of the Year, and finished as the all-time leader in blocks in UConn history. She left UConn as one of the greatest players in program history, which, given the players that have come before her, is an incredible accomplishment. In just three seasons in the WNBA she’s already a two-time All-Star, MVP, and Champion.
Her game is defined by her versatility. She’s a forward who has the ability to dominate in the post with a litany of moves, step out and knock down the long ball, and take her defender off the dribble. That’s why Stewart compares herself to a tsunami hitting the court. “I’m dangerous on offense,” she said. “I’m powerful, and I wipe out every defense I’m up against.” There is perhaps no other player who can impose their will as well as she can. It’s impossible to stop her. Smaller defenders don’t have the strength to handle her down low and have no hope of blocking her shot, while bigger players are often too slow to keep up with her on the perimeter. She has drawn comparisons to another versatile forward in the NBA, Kevin Durant. Both players can impact the game from anywhere on the floor, and both wear the KD 11s.
“I think the KD 11s fit me because KD’s style of play is similar to mine. It’s a comfortable shoe, very compact, light, and I think it’s his best one yet,” Stewart said. The KD 11 has Flyknit material that covers your foot for flexibility and incredible support, while still allowing your foot to breathe. A rubber sole extends up the sides of the shoe to provide stability as you move and cut. Nike React foam and Zoom Air provide responsive cushioning, allowing you to explode into the air.
The KD 11 is the ideal shoe for players who prefer to rock a low-cut on the court, and features a unique style that you can check out at Eastbay.
Jewell Loyd And The Kobe AD
Jewell Loyd only knows how to play basketball one way: attacking full throttle. Never stopping until the whistle blows. It’s the same mentality that has pushed her from the small town of Lincolnwood, Illinois to starring for Notre Dame, to being the No.1 overall draft for Seattle where she averaged 16 points and 5 rebounds per game to help secure a third championship for the franchise. Her willingness to attack the rim and take tough shots is what turned her into a star.
Loyd likes to think of herself as an earthquake because, “When I enter the game, I have a tendency to shake things up and keep opponents on their heels.” With a penchant for taking and making tough shots – fadeaways, stepbacks, and stepthroughs – she is the ultimate game changer. Those shots leave defenders shook because they quickly realize that even their best defense is no match for Loyd. Watching her work magic from the mid-range is reminiscent of another star and the inspiration behind her shoe choice: Kobe.
Loyd has always worn the Kobe series. “The whole concept of the lower-cut shoe, how it completely grips your foot giving you complete control. The pattern on the bottom, the way you cut and shoot, it feels like the shoe is part of your foot,” she said. This mix of comfort and grip is vital for Loyd to play her game. As she blows by defenders weaving her way into the lane, Loyd knows her shoes won’t let her down. “The grip is phenomenal and it’s super light.” The Kobe AD has a micro-blade outsole pattern allowing Loyd to explode in any direction without slipping. It also features a hidden lacing system that lets you to lock in by simply pulling a cord.
The Kobe AD features some of the brightest colorways of any shoe with its fluorescent purples, greens, and yellows. Those and others are available at Eastbay.
Elena Delle Donne And The Hyperdunk X
Elena Delle Donne has overcome a lot in her career to make it to this point. She’s weathered multiple injuries and has been fighting an ongoing battle with Lyme disease since she was a sophomore at University of Delaware. Her incredible perseverance and belief in herself is the reason she has become the superstar she is. After playing volleyball her freshman year, she switched to basketball and became a force, eclipsing 2,000 career points and helping Delaware advance to the Elite Eight her senior year. She was drafted No. 2 overall, helped lead Chicago and Washington to the Finals, and was an MVP in 2015.
Delle Donne describes her game as being like a hurricane. “Hurricanes might bring a ton of wind, a ton of rain, a lot of force, or all three,” she said. “They’re versatile, and you really never know what you’re going to get.” It’s pretty clear that defenders never know what they’re getting with her either. One minute she’s pulling down a rebound and going coast to coast for a layup, the next she’s pulling up off the dribble for three, or she’s posting up picking out open shooters or taking it herself. Her ability to do whatever she wants on the court has turned her into an offensive wrecking crew capable of tearing through defenses in any way she wants.
When deciding which shoe she wants to wear, Delle Donne takes several factors into consideration. “I definitely look for it to fit like a glove. I want it to be light, and then grip. It’s super important.” Delle Donne is a modern day point forward who can comfortably run the break, shut down opposing guards, and knock down shots from anywhere on the floor. Having a shoe that doesn’t weigh her down and allows her to cut smoothly is a must.
One shoe that fits this mold is the Nike Hyperdunk X which just celebrated its 10th anniversary. You can find a plethora of Hyperdunks both mid- and low-cut at Eastbay.
Eastbay and Nike teamed up to provide an all-access look into basketball’s brightest young stars. These athletes are tomorrow’s biggest superstars, and we wanted to peer into their mindset. Scoop Jackson conducted the interviews. He writes for espn.com and ESPN The Magazine, and he also appears on ESPN Radio and TV Shows. He worked as a copywriter and author for Nike from 2001-2005 and has previously worked for XXL Magazine, Slam Magazine, and other publications.
Jackson sat down with Breanna Stewart, who recently won the Rookie of the Year award by averaging 18 points, 9 rebounds, and nearly 2 blocks per game. Before being taken with the first overall pick by Seattle, Stewart won four national championships at UConn and picked up three-straight National Player of the Year awards. Check out the Q&A between the two, where they discuss Stewart’s upbringing, how she developed her game, and what’s next for her.
Scoop Jackson: Was there a specific court growing up where the Breanna Stewart legend was born?
Breanna Stewart: There was a gym downtown. It was cool, because when I was younger I went with my dad. My dad played. He played pick up – he didn’t play anything like college or anything like that, but he played pick up down there. You know three-on-three, five-on-five. Saturday morning, Sunday morning, I used to go with him. And at first it was just me hanging out with other kids down there – you know not even interested in basketball – but just being there. And then eventually as it progressed over time, we started going down there for me. And he was going for me, and we would play one-on-one, and he used to beat me. And then eventually we got to a point where I was growing with my body to figure out if I had some type of skill set, and then I would beat him. And I remember it’s funny just because I would go through all these losses, one-on-one, getting frustrated and throwing the ball and then all of the sudden, I’m on the other spectrum of things.
I heard you once say that you weren’t born a basketball player, but you pushed yourself to be one. Is that true?
Yes, that’s definitely true. I think that growing up I was one of those kids that – my parents put me into sports to keep me busy. I had no idea which one I was going to like or any type of thing like that. I played in community leagues and then central league – getting involved in AAU and that kind of thing. But, I really had to work hard and try to build my skill set and learn how to use my body. I had this long, lanky, stick-figure frame when I was younger. I mean, I guess I’m still like a stick figure, but not as much. But to kind of by aware of my body, I mean, obviously I’m pigeon toed, so learning to not trip over my own feet when I’m running up the court or dribbling the basketball and that type of thing.
What about the game pulled you in and pushed you to reach that level of a basketball player?
I think it was just a competitiveness in me. I loved playing basketball because of the relationships that you create and the friendships you have. Some of my best friends were on the first basketball team I was ever on. But also on the competitive side, I was in practice and I couldn’t push on things that they could. So I remember it was winter time, and we were doing a drill in the gym where you dribble the ball between your legs up to half court and that kind of thing and so on and I couldn’t do it. And I remember our basement wasn’t finished in our house, and I would go down to the basement and figure out how to dribble between my legs so that next time I went to practice I wasn’t the one person that was struggling to dribble between their legs.
Is there an underdog mentality inside of you that makes you work harder on the game and hustle harder on the court?
I think that when I was younger, it seem liked I was the – I mean not an underdog, but I was still trying to prove myself. Offense wasn’t my first skill set. Defense was a lot easier, because you didn’t have to shoot the ball or dribble the ball or anything like that. All you have to do is rebound it and try to block the shot. So that came a little bit more naturally to me. And then trying to evolve my game so it wasn’t one-sided or two-sided, it was multi-dimensional. Just showing people that I wasn’t the player I was last summer, last year, and continuing to grow my game.
Throughout your career, have you looked at your height as a gift or a curse?
Oh, I think it’s a gift. When I was younger, I was always taller than everyone in the classroom and that kind of thing. I think that it was good for me. Just that it makes you feel uncomfortable, because you’re different and that kind of thing, but I think I just really embraced it. Other than the fact that, you know, finding long-sleeved clothes is a little difficult, it’s put me in this great position to become such a versatile player that not that many people are fortunate enough to have this body type.
That’s the thing. You had to work on other aspects of your game, because you never wanted to be looked at as just a tall basketball player. You wanted to be looked at as a complete ball player, correct?
Exactly. I remember my dad saying that you don’t want to be the player that just runs to the ball. And that’s what you’re good for, that’s your one spot. You want to be the player that can go play all over the place, inside and outside the three-point line. That’s what I tried to do. And as I got older and figured it out, you know, decided to shoot a three pointer. He would ask before games, just shoot one three pointer, shoot it. Just because I wouldn’t. And then once I started to I started to realize that I could really lift my game in a whole bunch of different directions.
Do you feel that you’ve figured the game of basketball out yet, or no?
I think I’m still figuring it out. I’m only 22. This is my first year in the WNBA, in the professional level. There are still some things I haven’t done that I would like to do.
People have been talking about your game and what we think is going to happen with your career ever since you stepped foot in UConn. And I know it’s kind of early, and I just want to know, how do you not get caught up in people talking about your legacy already?
It’s hard. It’s hard sometimes when people say, “You’re going to be the change in women’s basketball.” And that’s great – that’s exactly what I want to do, but I have a long way to go. It’s humbling, and it’s motivating because people can see that and see the potential and that kind of thing. And it really helps me in what I do and how I continue to transform my game.
This interview has been condensed and edited for content, clarity, and length.