How does one truly define someone’s ‘authenticity’? Is it intangible, like ‘greatness?’ Is it subjective like fashion? Or is it something we can absolutely feel, like wind or pride? When Erica Wheeler is mentioned, as an elite point guard in the WNBA, as an icon or as a sneakerhead, words like ‘authentic,’ ‘great’ and ‘fashionista’ dominate the zeitgeist.
Speaking with Erica, her joyful pride to be in this moment in her life is unabashedly evident. Erica is playing the sport she loves on the world’s biggest stage, absolutely slaying and celebrating her truest self with her fashion choices. “You know because I wasn’t drafted. I had to work for everything that I got and now to be in the position where I could choose where I go. If someone just had the urge to wanna give up, I just want them to find a story that says ‘Erica Wheeler’ and I just hope we give them inspiration to, you know, keep moving forward; because there’s so many times where I could’ve given up and I just didn’t.” An undrafted player out of Rutgers, who dealt with the grief of losing her mom, Erica’s relentless pursuit of her dream took her across the globe. Even after making it to the WNBA, she continued to travel and perfect her game overseas in the off-season. In 2019, Erica put her mark on the game, becoming the first undrafted player to make the WNBA All-Star team. She also took home the MVP trophy.
Erica’s style: a mix of ‘old school vibes,’ which she says she inherited from her mom, and a blend of new school that she picks up from the influences all around her. Her style is as versatile as her backcourt game, seeing just as much potential in an H&M shirt as a Gucci jacket, knowing that if she’s comfortable in it, she’ll pull off the look.
From Indiana to Brazil, Erica has dressed for every environment, and looked flying doing it. With her recent signing with the Los Angeles Sparks, Erica will have the opportunity to bring the Miami Heat to the City of Angels. “I mean, you know, I know that LA loves the whole Chuck Taylor, you know, with the high socks and shorts. You know I get all of that. You know I’m from Miami so I’m cool with the shorts but I’m definitely going to tap into LA’s style. I don’t mind, you know, wearing that kind of style with some Adidas.” Just as she does on the court, Erica is already cooking up a style all her own. “I’m definitely going to, you know, bring Miami to LA style, I’m going to mix it up. I’m gonna put both together. I’m gonna blend it.”
When it comes to Erica’s coveted shoe collection, it’s Adidas or designer, period. Erica signed with Adidas in 2020. When I asked about their partnership, ‘family’ was the first word out of Erica’s mouth, an adjective I’ve rarely heard used concerning endorsement deals. In speaking with Madison Ornstil, the sports marketing lead for female Adidas athletes, Madison echoed Erica’s sentiments. Suddenly, ‘family’ made sense. It all clicked.
Madison went on to share that all 18 WNBA players signed with Adidas are on a group text with her, cultivating a strong community of athletes who celebrate the highs and pick up the lows, all in the name of sports and fashion. “As women we don’t think that there’s enough seats at the table. In reality there is, like pull up a chair like let’s have a toast let’s drink let’s celebrate. The fact is that together we can do this but individually it will be super hard. And so that means that whenever I’m trying to sign someone I ask the group like do you think they’re going to fit in because that family environment is really important,” Madison divulged.
Family is a concept Erica has had to redefine in her life. She lost her mother in college. Her memory is a treasure Erica keeps close. Among those memories, Erica shared, is deeply seeded in her love of sneakers. “… My mom. My mom would, you know, buy me and my sister sneakers all the time. You know I just, I enjoy getting a new pair of sneakers and you know every other week or you know every month and it’s nothing like going to school with a new pair of shoes and you’re talking with your friends and they’re like, ‘Oh where’d you get those shoes from?’” Now, with her new family at Adidas behind her, Erica has put herself in a position to explore her passions.
The pairing of Erica and Adidas has thus far proven a walk in the clouds for both parties. For Adidas, it was Erica’s style and commitment to community, both on and off the court, that made her an ideal addition to their family. For Erica, it was the brand’s versatility. Footwear and fashion aside, Adidas stands behind their athletes. Not only in their sports, but in their lives. In their aspirations. In their dreams. “They put their athletes in front and really let us thrive. They don’t try to take the shine from us, they really put us out there,” states Erica.
Madison shared similar feelings, but from Adidas’ vantage. “I feel like I’ve known Erica my entire life because that’s how close we are. That’s a testament to her personality and how much she values relationships, how vulnerable she is and how willing she is to be herself and that’s how we build together. And that’s what I think is so special and I think it’s rare in this industry,” Madison elaborates.
Most people would agree, on some level, authenticity is as tangible as anything else. It can be felt, in the details. The details of Erica’s story prove her authenticity. Tough. Adaptable. A quality I could feel. As the world catches up getting to know Erica Wheeler, we’ll continue to admire her. Persistent, tenacious and one of pro sports flyest stylers.
Style Like Erica Wheeler:
“Right now the Yeezy 700’s are my favorite shoe right now. The Yeezy 700 is definitely my favorite shoe right now because they’re super comfortable and you can wear them with anything you want.
The V3’s, the V3’s are my second favorite.
Then now I would have to go with the Yeezy Boost. The Adidas Boost, those are pretty comfortable.
If you could design it though, what would be the original colorway of your own sneaker collab?
“Honestly, I’ll go the most catchiest color, it’s like neon orange, yellow. Like when you see these shoes, yeah they’re “me” shoes.”
Go-to spot for clothes: “Zara”