The elite ath­letes of the WNBA know how to score style points both on and off the court

InStyle (USA) - - Directory - by SARAH CRIS­TO­BAL pho­tographed by MARTIN SCHOELLER styled by RYAN YOUNG

Clock­wise from left: Elena Delle Donne in a Gucci bomber, Levi’s jeans, and Con­verse x Comme des Garçons sneak­ers. Sky­lar Dig­gins-smith in a Ver­sace wind­breaker and boots. Bre­anna Ste­wart in an Un­ravel hoodie, Ba­len­ci­aga sweat­pants from­saks Fifth Av­enue, and Off-white c/o Vir­gil Abloh sneak­ers. Sylvia Fowles in an Un­ravel hoodie, Roa­man’s leg­gings, and Fendi sneak­ers. A’ja Wil­son in a Roa­man’s bomber, a Moschino hoodie from Saks Fifth Av­enue, Hel­mut Lang shorts from Saks Fifth Av­enue, an Ap­ple Series 3 watch, Uniqlo socks, and Pierre Hardy sneak­ers. Brit­tney Griner in a Ba­len­ci­aga sweat­shirt from Saks Fifth Av­enue, her own jeans, an Un­ravel but­ton-down (around waist), and Nike Air Jor­dan 1 x Vir­gil Abloh: The Ten sneak­ers. Pho­tographed by Martin Schoeller.

Bas­ket­ball is the great equal­izer. It doesn’t dis­crim­i­nate on the ba­sis of skin color or so­cioe­co­nomic back­ground. Ei­ther you can play or you can’t. It’s a game that re­quires a cer­tain amount of at­ti­tude, style, and grace, which these women, six of the great­est in the WNBA, all have. But those aren’t their only at­tributes. They are also com­pas­sion­ate lead­ers who give back to their re­spec­tive com­mu­ni­ties. Their voices need to be am­pli­fied, their work cel­e­brated. So this past July, Instyle trav­eled to Minneapolis dur­ing the WNBA’S All-star Games week­end to cap­ture these ballers all to­gether for a fash­ion shoot—re­mark­ably the first in the league’s 22-year his­tory. (“We’ve al­ways been told that mag­a­zine ed­i­tors wouldn’t be able to pull clothes in their sizes,” ad­mit­ted one agent on set.)

Only 12 teams are in the league, and this year the WNBA ath­letes have been out­spo­ken on the sub­jects of bet­ter pay and travel con­di­tions, es­pe­cially given what their male coun­ter­parts are ac­cus­tomed to. Of the 144 play­ers in the WNBA, 89 signed up to play dur­ing the off­sea­son in leagues over­seas, where the salaries are much higher. “I re­al­ize that we aren’t pulling in nearly as much as the NBA, but I think that falls back on the lack of me­dia cov­er­age and the lack of big-name com­pa­nies sup­port­ing women,” says Wash­ing­ton Mys­tic Elena Delle Donne. “And to be a fan, you have to be able to see peo­ple. You want to know their story. You want to see them on bill­boards. You want to see them in com­mer­cials. There’s just not enough of that in women’s sports.” Get to know the women who are mov­ing the ball for­ward.

ELENA DELLE DONNE Wash­ing­ton Mys­tics

“I take be­ing one of the lead­ers of this league se­ri­ously,” says the Mys­tics for­ward, who, de­spite play­ing with an in­jured knee dur­ing this year’s semi­fi­nals, helped her team ad­vance to the next round. Though the­mys­tics ended up los­ing to the Seat­tle Storm, the Delaware na­tive can feel good about giv­ing it

her all. Delle Donne, 29, is pas­sion­ate about her causes: the Spe­cial Olympics ( her older sis­ter has spe­cial needs), Lyme dis­ease re­search (Delle Donne was di­ag­nosed in 2008), and women’s rights (in the sports world and be­yond). “If women are do­ing the same job as a man, they should def­i­nitely be paid the same,” says Delle Donne, who has writ­ten a mem­oir and three chil­dren’s book­sand­helmsa wood­work­ing busi­ness (Delle Donne De­signs) with her wife, Amanda. “When you turn on any sports chan­nel, you’re see­ing all­male sports 95 per­cent [of the time]. This year’s WNBA play­offs were some of the great­est yet, and you turn on the TV and you hardly hear about it. The cov­er­age has to im­prove, and it’s got to get equal.”


At 6 foot 9 and with a wing­span of more than 7 feet, Griner, 28, has a cer­tain swag­ger in her step. ( You would too if you led the league in blocks and dunks.) The five­time WNBA all-star spent a chunk of the fall play­ing for the U.S. Na­tional Team and then is headed to Rus­sia for roughly seven months to play with UMMC Eka­ter­in­burg. While abroad, she’ll also do a bit of wed­ding plan­ning (she re­cently got en­gaged to her girl­friend, Cherelle), and, un­like in Phoenix, where she’s earned rock-star sta­tus, she’ll be able to roam freely. “I love how peo­ple come up and take pic­tures, but when I go over­seas, I ac­tu­ally feel nor­mal.”


In ad­di­tion to av­er­ag­ing 18 points and six as­sists per game, Dig­gins-smith, 28, is killing it off the hard­wood as well. As the first fe­male ath­lete signed to Roc Na­tion Sports (owned by Jay-z), she se­cured deals as a spokes­woman for Puma (the­first bas­ket­ball player to do so since Vince Carter in 1998), Zap­pos, and Body Ar­mour. Those en­dorse­ments, as well as her speak­ing en­gage­ments and the trav­el­ing kids’ bas­ket­ball camps she runs, mean she can stay closer to home with her hus­band and fam­ily rather than travel abroad to play in the off-sea­son. “I un­der­stand how I’m blessed just to have this op­por­tu­nity,” says Dig­gins-smith. “I’ll play as long as I love it, but I also un­der­stand that my im­pact in the game will go be­yond my ac­tu­ally be­ing on the floor. My abil­ity to con­nect with peo­ple through the game of bas­ket­ball will be some­thing I ex­pect to take ad­van­tage of for the rest of my life.”


Stewie, as she’s af­fec­tion­ately known through­out the WNBA, broke all kinds of NCAA records in col­lege while play­ing for the Uconn Huskies, the best women’s team of all time. This year she helped the Storm take home the cham­pi­onship tro­phy, earn­ing her the league’s MVP award. With all the ac­co­lades comes op­por­tu­nity: “I want to take ad­van­tage of do­ing more photo shoots in some­thing other than a bas­ket­ball jersey,” says Ste­wart, 24, who cites Gigi Ha­did as a fash­ion in­flu­ence. Like Ha­did, she em­braces so­cial me­dia to con­nect with her fans: “You’ve got to have an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for them and be the one who’s reach­ing out to them in­stead of the other way around.” Ste­wart is also among those play­ing in Rus­sia in the off-sea­son. “It is frus­trat­ing, but it’s some­thing we’re try­ing to change, and un­til then, whether we like it or not, we have to go over­seas to make the ma­jor­ity of our money,” she says.

SYLVIAFOWLES Min­nesota Lynx

There are two sides to Fowles, 2018’s de­fen­sive player of the year. At 6 foot 6 and 220 pounds, she is a re­bound­ing ma­chine who grew up play­ing against her older broth­ers. While she’s a pow­er­house on the court, in per­son she’s a soft­spo­ken in­tel­lec­tual who reads po­etry, lis­tens to jazz, and is study­ing to be a mor­ti­cian. As one of the league’s ven­era-

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