When your parents flee Communist oppression in their native Romania the warrior spirit is something you’re born with. When your middle school doesn't have enough participants to field a girls basketball team and says “you should be at home playing with dolls” you learn that you’re going to have to fight harder than others to make your way in the world. When you are the hand-tutored prodigy of the Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant, you learn how to use that all as motivation to achieve greatness unseen in ordinary hours.
That was life for Sabrina Ionescu.
Born with two brothers, Sabrina learned early on how to compete with the boys. Even though she is a natural-born scorer like her mentor, the boys and older girls she used to play with would never want to give the ball to the younger female. Knowing she would have to fend for herself, Sabrina focused on rebounding every shot she could. If they wouldn't give her the ball, she would take it. Not only did Ionescu have a fighter's mentality, but she was also wise beyond her years. After successfully recruiting enough girls to force her school into fielding a team she realized that though she could score she was still a sixth grader playing with bigger, more developed eighth graders. Understanding her physical limits, Ionescu took these formative years to learn how to see the court, find the open look, and pass the ball like a true court general.
What the youngster didn't realize at the time is that the struggles she went through during these years rounded out her game in a way that made her a walking triple-double machine. She was able to mold her work ethic, maturity, and God-given ability into a baller that would go on to set the NCAA record for triple-doubles recorded in a collegiate career.
Now at the age of 25, Sabrina has laid out a basketball resume that hasn’t been seen before. In high school, she was not only a McDonald’s All-American, but the USA Today Basketball Player Of The Year and the MVP of the national All-American game. While in college at Oregon, she was National Freshman Of The Year, 3x Pac-12 Player Of The Year, 2x John R. Wooden Award Winner, USBWA Player Of The Year, AP Player Of The Year, Naismith Player Of The Year, and the only NCAA Basketball Player (woman or man) to ever record 2,000 points, 1,000 assists, and 1,000 in a career. Though she ultimately decided to play her full 4 years, she also considered being the first woman ever to leave college early and declare for the WNBA draft.
Ionoescu has also won 4 gold medals while representing the U.S.A. in various international competitions. She was the first pick of the WNBA draft and is now an All-Star.
Given her basketball chops, close relationship with Kobe Bryant, and the fact that she went to college at the birthplace of the Swoosh, one could say that she was tailor-made to be a Nike athlete. As soon as Ionescu finished college, Nike offered her an endorsement deal that included a signature shoe.
Now, that signature shoe is here.
The Nike Sabrina 1 was designed to be a basketball shoe. Not a women's shoe or a men’s, but the best basketball shoe Nike could put together. When building the shoe Sabrina gave designers 3 focal points to hit: enough support to increase speed and reduce foot fatigue, a responsive foot feel, and a lightweight structure. Nike understood the assignment.
The engineers behind the shoe used a full-length react foam unit to aid with responsiveness, and a top-loaded Zoom Air Unit towards the front to make it more explosive and faster. They also used medial banding to bring a locked-down fit while still remaining lightweight.
As for the design, the Sabrina 1 found a way to pay tribute to the Ionescu heritage with superior embroidery around the toe box and eye stays drawing inspiration found in traditional Romanian Artwork. The first colorway, Photon Dust, features an iridescent sole with a primarily white upper and a hollow swoosh outlined in black. The inner side of the shoe features a vertically reversed black swoosh and an exposed air unit. The shoe also finds a home for some truly genius details such as the words “anyone, anywhere” on the top and bottom wall of the air unit as a nod to her warrior spirit. The signature SI logo was also drafted to look the same upside-down as it does right-side-up as a testament to how well-rounded her game is.
Along with the initial offering of a Purple Oxygen colorway with Lilac and Mango tones and a White Black model. No firm release date for the Sabrina 1 has been announced but we do know it will be sometime in Summer ‘23 with a $125 price tag. While the release is sure to happen via Nike and other select retailers, I’d be willing to bet the brand rolls out the red carpet for the young icon and does some sort of special release. For the latest information on sneakers, clothing, and collectibles and to stay up to date with the latest drops, connect with us on Instagram and Twitter.
Images via Nike