Breanna Stewart Says Her Latest Signature Sneaker Is an Ode to Working “Sunrise to Sunset”

It’s a sunny Thursday afternoon in Paris, and Breanna Stewart has come down with food poisoning. The decorated New York Liberty power forward is in town to unveil her latest shoe, the Puma Stewie 3. A group of media have gathered on a basketball court in the 2nd arrondissement for the launch, but just minutes before Stewart is scheduled to arrive, we're informed she might not make it. The night before, we're told, she ate something that isn't sitting right with her.

But much like Michael Jordan in the '97 Finals, Breanna Stewart managed to brave the pain and gamely pull through. “I came all the way to Paris for this,” the two-time MVP said, taking a seat before the press. “It’s too important to miss it now.” That’s just what Stewie does: She makes you feel like she can do anything.

Stewart’s first shoe with Puma, the Stewie 1, marked a groundbreaking moment for the industry. The first signature sneaker for a women's basketball player in over a decade, it announced the arrival of a new generation of WNBA superstars and paved the way for a wealth of acclaimed women's basketball shoes.

The new Puma Stewie 3, which drops May, improves on the previous iterations in virtually every regard. A sturdy low-top built with a dense, grippy outsole and dual-density Profoam midsole, it's durable but agile, with solid bounce and a ton of traction. It’s also extremely stylish: The initial colorway, dubbed the Stewie 3 “Dawn,” is decorated with flowers that nod to Tokyo and Rio—the two cities where Stewart won Olympic gold—and wrapped in a yellow-orange gradient meant to evoke the rising sun. Why? “Because women’s basketball players work from sunrise to sunset, every day,” Stewart says with a smile.

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GQ: The Stewie 1 was the first WNBA sneaker in ten years. When you came into the league, was getting your own shoe even on your mind at all, or did it just not seem possible?

Breanna Stewart: Honestly, I don’t think I really thought about my own signature shoe until I was with Puma. And then everything seemed to be a little bit easier and more realistic. I’m a sneakerhead and I have a ton of shoes—growing up, I was waking up every Saturday morning trying to get the latest pair—so to be able to have my own is a surreal feeling.

What was the first conversation you had about it?

It was during Covid. We had a meeting. I remember going into a conference room in Indianapolis and there were just pictures everywhere—material, designs, all these things. I was like, okay, we’re getting into the nitty-gritty. I’d never done this before, so it was a bit overwhelming. But we had a great team to help figure it out.

What shoes were you wearing before?

KDs, LeBrons.

What were some of the things you wanted to integrate into the new Stewie 3?

I knew I wanted it to be low. I wanted it to have cushion around my achilles, because I’d had those injuries. And I wanted it to be a shoe that anyone can wear, whether you’re a big or a guard—whatever you do best on the court, I want this shoe to be able to make you feel like you're even better.

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What was the impact once the shoe came out?

People were excited, happy, shocked. Just supporters of it. Especially the fans. When someone’s weaning your shoe, you notice it. And I see them all the time. I just appreciate people getting behind me and women’s basketball in a different way.

Since then, of course, there have been a few other WNBA athletes with signature shoes. Do you feel like your deal with Puma helped break that barrier?

I hope so. Because you don’t know what the timing would have been, but because we brought signature back to the table in women’s basketball, it puts pressure on everybody. This is what we’re doing over here. If you want to elevate yourself, then come join us.

We’ve all heard that women’s basketball is having a moment. In terms of logistics, this affects your contract negotiations and broadcast deals. Do you keep a close eye on that side of the business?

Absolutely. Because after this WNBA season, we have an opportunity to opt in or opt out of this current CBA. And with that ties directly to the media rights deal—it’s around the same timing. If we have games that are doing 18 million viewers, alright, let’s lift things up a little bit more. Salaries will go up, benefits will go up. So it’s an exciting time.

Do you feel there’s generally been more attention on women’s basketball in the Olympics than in the league?

Yeah, because it’s the Olympics, you know? It’s the best of the best. Everything is high end. Everything is connected, too. This momentum that’s happening, it’s even more helpful that it’s an Olympic year. Now we have the media behind it where everything is going to be seen.

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With all the social media buzz, has there also been an increase in attention from the traditional media?

For sure. I have definitely noticed a lot of increase in media opportunities. Everyone is kind of getting on the same page. I would say the one thing is that, because women’s sports is growing, it doesn’t mean it has to be me versus someone else. We can all kind of thrive together, because there’s so much media and viewership out there. We don’t have to choose.

Yeah, now it’s always immediately about the GOAT conversation.

For sure. And you have the fans who are the ride-or-dies and the fans that are new. But it’s a good conversation to have. I mean, that’s what you have on the men’s side—who’s going to go down as the greatest of all time. It sparks conversation, controversy, but again, it’s more people talking about women’s basketball.

Is it worth dealing with the controversy to benefit from that extra attention, though?

There are certain situations where I guess negative attention can not be good, but you can always turn it into a positive. Take chartered flights for example. There’s reasons why we haven’t had it happen yet in the WNBA. And there’s people that have other ideas behind it—people who think we don’t need it. And there’s other people who say, yeah we do. But it gets people talking. You can see someone on the street, and they ask you, how do you fly? It starts the conversation and gets the debate going.

Originally Appeared on GQ

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