NEW YORK, NY--This week Nike unveiled the Olympic basketball unis that Team USA will debut in Rio. And while designers at the Nike Innovation Summit detailed the years of research behind the technology that went into both Dream Teams' gear (there's a lot of wicking involved), we cornered WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne to give us the low-down on how the women's teams' jersey needs are different, and what's ahead for the women's game this year.
So tell us about the Nike Vapor uniforms. You'll actually have more options than the men's team, right?
I think the greatest part is how tailored it is and the little innovations that they’ve made where even the slit in the shorts is now more to the front of the leg instead of the side of the leg and is actually doing something so when you get in a defensive stance it moves with you and it’s not restricting. And then just the cuts and the different cuts [the women's kits have two different fits--closer cut armholes and higher and lower rises on the shorts], where for me a longer slimmer fit works, where for Sue [Bird] she needed shorter cuts. That’s the special part, we don’t have to all fit into one certain cut because obviously we all have unique bodies. That’s what you see in the women’s basketball line that is so special and has been needed.
What about the new Flyknit Hyperdunk 2016 that the team is debuting? Those are different from the Zooms Nike has given you in the past.
This is completely different and it’s actually the first time I’ve been in the Flyknit but I love it. It’s like wearing a sock. A lot of people say that about shoes but this is like truly wearing a sock when you’re in a Flyknit. It’s so light. It hugs your foot but the bottom is still your normal basketball shoe. It all works great together and I can’t wait to wear it on-court. These are reserved for the Olympics so I won’t get to play in these til I’m on court in the Olympics. Obviously I’ll get to train in them but truly on-court? Olympic time.
Now obviously because of your stats, your shooting and the MVP award, a lot of people are comparing Steph Curry to you. What’s your pregame routine like and should it go viral too?
Mine is not nearly as interesting as Steph’s but I do a lot of shooting and I do wall dribbling. That’s probably my most unique part, where I get against the basket and I do crossovers where my opposite hand touches the ball. I think we’re all trying to just get our feel for the ball and get our shots up that we’ll take in games. He gets really creative, though. I might have to incorporate some of that.
This is probably going to be the last Olympics for Tamika Catchings and Sue Bird. Have you all talked about that much as a team?
It’s such an understanding that this might be their last go at it. For newbies like myself, if I do make the team, we want to make this the best experience possible, obviously, and come away with the gold. I feel honored that I get to learn from two of the greatest to ever play our game so I’m just gonna be soaking up every minute of it, just trying to be a sponge and learn from them.
The biggest name who’s back for the Olympics and the WNBA regular season is Diana Taurasi. What’s it like to have her back both as a teammate and an adversary?
To be honest I’ve looked up to Diana most of my basketball career, was a huge fan of her at Connecticut and followed her ever since. When I finally got to play on-court with her this past tryouts it was so incredible. I’m like, "oh my God. I’m playing with Diana now." I feel like we just all elevate one another’s games. When we put on that jersey we’re a team and we all love each other and we play really tough together.
How do you feel about the new WNBA playoff format?
I’m not quite sure until we get there. I think if it draws visibility and more people to watch, then great. I’m all for that. But obviously it’s tough when you play a full season if you don’t get that top seed you could be a one-and-done type of team. It puts a lot on that one game. But if it’s going to drive the viewership then great.
Does it bother you that it might do away with some of the natural rivalries that have been formed in past playoffs?
I think it certainly will [affect them] and it will probably bring on even more rivalries with that one and done game because it’s going to be crazy. We’re gonna be fighting and scrapping.