During a panel discussion with New York Liberty players Jonquel Jones and Breanna Stewart at last week’s ESPNW Summit in New York, moderator LaChina Robinson mentioned that both women’s college basketball and the WNBA are growing in their metrics—“in their viewership, in their merchandise, in their social engagement,” she said. However, in a league in which many players are Black, marketing opportunities tend to be greater for white players.

“To be one of the select few to have a signature shoe was a bittersweet feeling,” said Stewart. “There are so many amazing basketball players in this league, there should be more…We’re in a league that’s majority Black women. There are a lot of stories that need to be told.”

One powerful story told at the ESPNW Summit was “Hoops Family: The Iveys,” which featured Niele Ivey, head women’s basketball coach at Notre Dame, and her son, Jaden Ivey, a player with the Detroit Pistons. 

Niele gave birth to Jaden between her first and second years in the WNBA and raised him as a single mom. In the off-season, she played overseas, taking her son with her. In 2007, she joined the coaching staff at Notre Dame, where she remained until 2019, when she accepted an assistant coaching position with the Memphis Grizzlies. In 2020, she returned to Notre Dame, becoming head coach after the retirement of Muffet McGraw.

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Jaden was alongside Niele during her basketball journey as a player and coach, and women players like (Notre Dame alums) Skylar Diggins and Arike Ogunbowale were his role models. “I remember being in the gym with [Arike] and losing in one-on-one games,” said Jaden. “I really thank her for inspiring me, putting that strength in me.” 

Stewart also spoke about the nomadic life of a women’s professional basketball player. Stewart and her wife, Marta Xargay, have a daughter, Ruby Mae, and they travel as a family. This past WNBA off-season, Stewart played in Turkey. 

“We’re experiencing all these different countries,” Stewart said. “To be able to do it with my wife and my daughter—it’s opening her eyes to everything she can do in this world. Being surrounded by so many amazing role models in the women’s basketball world and the professional world in general, I hope that she will realize that she can do whatever she wants.”

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