Words: Elle Clay

Photography: Ming Smith

Coming into her fifth season, WNBA Champion Aerial Powers is already a legend in two games. She won her first championship with the Washington Mystics in 2019, and recently, she joined the Esports organization, Team Liquid, as a streamer and brand & diversity ambassador. Thriving in multiple arenas is just what Aerial does.

Aerial’s love of both basketball and gaming began in her hometown of Detroit, where she bonded with her family over video games and athletics. As a high schooler, she led her Detroit Country Day team to four consecutive regional titles and a championship. The winning didn’t stop there. 

Once Aerial arrived at Michigan State, she was prepared to continue that dominance; unfortunately, she tore her achilles during her freshman year and faced a tough recovery. She bounced back, and in the following three seasons, she accumulated a laundry list of honors. She was named to the All-Big Ten First Team, becoming the first-ever Michigan State freshman to be named to the First Team. Additionally, she led Team USA basketball to a gold medal in the 2015 World University Games. 

During the 2016 WNBA draft, Aerial was picked fifth overall by the Dallas Wings. She had a solid rookie year coming off the bench and made the All-Rookie Team. A trade sent her to the Mystics, and in 2019, she had her most productive season to date. Aerial achieved a new career scoring high that propelled her team through the playoffs. The Mystics defeated Connecticut in a 3-1 series, netting Aerial her first WNBA championship. 

Now, with the Minnesota Lynx, Aerial is excited to be part of another winning program. We spoke with her about champion culture, gaming and self-care. Welcome to the family, Aerial. 

How does it feel to be a member of the Jordan Brand family?

It’s crazy! The first sports-related DVD my dad ever gave me was an MJ one. I used to watch him play when I was a young. Being part of this Brand today is just breathtaking. It’s unbelievable, really.

Your hometown, Detroit, has a history of great ballers. How did the culture of the game influence you growing up?

Back in the day, we had the Detroit Shock. Seeing those women play helped me believe that I could be like them when I grew up. They paved the way for me.

Before picking up the ball, you were a boxer. Why did you decide to pivot sports? And do you still box?

I started boxing because of my dad. Once I started playing basketball, that was it. I love boxing; I think it’s because I’m aggressive. Basketball is my real love. I do boxing more for fun these days. 

In 2019, you had the best season statistically and won your first WNBA championship. How would you describe the feeling of being a champion?

Being a champion is undeniably one of the greatest feelings. When I introduce myself, I can say I’m a WNBA champion. There’s a lot of pride in it. There’s a culture in being a champion, and I feel it being part of Jordan Brand, too.

You’ve overcome some serious injuries, dating back to your freshman year of college. How were you able to persevere through those challenges and come back strong?

I just have a warrior mentality. My dad was also in the Marines, so he made sure I had that work ethic — that mentality of going through walls, not walking around them. Anytime I’ve been injured, of course, I’ve been sad. Then I ask myself, “What’s the next step to getting better?” That mentality is why I excel. Now, I feel completely healthy and ready to get the season going.

You’re also a professional Esports athlete. How did you get into gaming?

Gaming has been a part of my life since I was a little girl. My mom, my dad and my brother played. It was a way for us to be connected as a family. It’s always been a part of my life. I’m doing a lot in the Esports space, and I’m trying to empower more women in that space, as well.

There’s a certain swagger and confidence that comes with being a Jordan Brand athlete. How would you describe that?

It’s crazy because I thought I had it before. Now, I really got it. Joining the Jordan Brand puts you on a whole other platform. It’s a breathtaking experience. Now, not only do I have the swagger, I have the drip to go with it!

“I just have a warrior mentality.”

Do you have any favorite Air Jordans or MJ memories?

I love all of the Air Jordan 1s. I’m wearing some right now. I used to watch MJ highlights before my college games. I just wanted to be like him, score like him and get a bucket like him. The flu game always stuck out to me. I caught the flu when I was in college, and the only person I could think about was him — just how he pushed through for his team. 

The Jumpman has grown to represent more than just basketball or even sports. What does it represent to you?

It represents so many things. It brings a lot of dynamics to the table, on and off the court. I admire that the Jordan Brand and MJ are doing so much when it comes to empowering women. When you look at that logo, it’s not just one guy anymore. It can be any one of us. It’s incredible to be a part of this Brand as a woman, especially.

You’ve been in the league now for five seasons. How has your self-care regimen evolved since 2016?

It’s really evolved! I never thought I’d be doing yoga or pilates. I’m also eating better. I remember coming in as a rookie and not eating well. I drink more water. I get to the gym an hour early and leave an hour late because I’m putting in them shots. I’m getting there early to get my body warmed up. I’m consistent. I don’t miss a day.

Learn more about our WNBA family members here.