Words: Elle Clay

Photography: Ming Smith

Jordin Canada has a winning mentality. Growing up in Los Angeles, she displayed natural athleticism and instincts for the game. After switching to basketball from track, she spent her youth league days readily defeating opponents. The honors piled up, starting with Jordin’s first nationals in third grade, all the way through high school, where she earned first-team All-League, League MVP and first-team All-CIF honors. Jordin brought home the Los Angeles Times’ All-Area MVP in 2013 and played in the McDonald’s All-American Game as a senior in 2014.

Known as a playmaker with incredible speed and crossover skills, Jordin’s game seamlessly transitioned to the collegiate level at UCLA, where she earned the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year distinction. Following a university career adorned with honors, she was selected with the fifth pick by the Seattle Storm, in 2018. Then, as a rookie, Jordin won her first WNBA championship. She ended her second season as the league steals leader and a member of the All-Defensive team.

When the women of the WNBA entered the 2020 season, they were playing for something far bigger than basketball. They collectively used their platform to advocate for social justice, dedicating their season to the Say Her Name movement. In a league that’s majority African-American, Jordin took to the court with an extra sense of pride, visible when she and her teammates captured the 2020 WNBA Championship.

Jordin’s activism took center stage once again, when she and fellow basketball players launched the #WeGotUsChallenge in support of Black-owned businesses. Jordin is focused on being a conduit for change, providing tools and representation for the next generation.

We caught up with Jordin to talk about her style, the evolution of her game and what else she wants to accomplish on the court. Welcome to the family, Jordin.

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

It’s an amazing feeling. I’ve always wanted to be a part of this brand, ever since I was in college. It’s something I always dreamt of. I love what the brand represents and stands for. I’m excited.

We can’t really continue the conversation without saying congratulations on winning the championship! How was this championship different from the first one?

There are a lot of reasons why this one was different. My rookie season was a difficult adjustment, going from college into the pros. I was focused on learning a new system and connecting with my teammates. It was still an awesome feeling to win in my rookie year. Not a lot of people can say that!

Now, after my third year, I’m more experienced, I know what to expect and I know my role on the team. I know how I can make an impact. I put in a lot, whether making sure my teammates get the ball or just pushing the pace of the game.

This past season, it was bigger than basketball. As a league and as teams, we agreed that the season was going to be about the Say Her Name movement. It was truly special to be a part of that — to advocate for the Black community and use our voices beyond basketball. It made this season a lot different than my first one.

Given that the season was in many ways dedicated to Black women, would you say that you played with an increased sense of pride?

Yes, definitely. I know that I have a platform and a bigger purpose off the court. We have the power to show the youth that we’re more than basketball players. To be part of a league that’s majority African-American women is something that I’m extremely proud of. I go out there and show how proud I am to be Black each and every game.

Right after winning the championship in 2018, you found yourself playing in Poland. Looking back, how did you develop your game there and evolve your understanding of how basketball is experienced around the world?

It’s a different league with different aspects of the game. There were things I learned overseas that don’t apply in the WNBA. The shot clock is different. Game management is different. I had to learn different coaches and different players — people from all over the world. Trying to communicate was a big thing for me. Being there helped me grow my voice as a leader, which was something I needed to do.

You’re such an accomplished basketball star, from childhood until now. What else do you want to accomplish on the court?

Honestly, my next goal is going to the Olympics. It’s something I’ve always wanted. Besides winning a WNBA championship, playing in the Olympics is the biggest milestone that I personally want to accomplish.

As a Bruin alum, how did you feel about the newly-announced partnership between Nike, Jordan Brand and UCLA?

I felt great about it. I was a little bitter, at first, because I didn’t get to experience it during my own college years! [Laughs] I’m extremely happy for the university and for some of my former teammates, who are really excited, too. I’m also glad that I got to be part of the partnership announcement. That was very special.

“I go out there and show how proud I am to be Black each and every game.”

You bring heat to the tunnel with your ‘fit pics. How do you prepare your looks, and how would you describe your style overall?

My style is very street fashion. I have friends who have clothing lines, and I try to represent and support them as much as I can. When I’m thinking of ‘fits, I usually go for shoes first. Everything else just flows after that, depending on what I’m doing that day or what my mood is.

Speaking of style, there’s a certain swagger and confidence that comes with being a Jordan Brand athlete. How would you describe that?

I think it’s very unique. Every Jordan Brand athlete has their own individual style, creativity and uniqueness, on and off the court. I think that’s what makes the brand so special. It’s diverse throughout all of the athletes and sports, but it all comes together.

In your experience, what are the most important features in a basketball shoe and why?

The first feature is comfort. You obviously want to play in a shoe that’s light, too. Then, there’s the style of the shoe. I’m pretty big on style, so the colorways are also important.

What are your first impressions of the Air Jordan XXXV? Do you have any favorite features?

I love how light they are. I noticed how quick I was able to move in them from the first pair I put on. It’s my favorite on-court shoe, so far. I’m looking forward to rocking more styles and colorways.

You’ve been a sneaker collector for a while now, and you even named one of your dogs MJ. Do you have any favorite Air Jordans or MJ moments?

I’m trying to figure out how you guys knew that! [Laughs] My favorite silhouette is the AJI. I love them all, honestly, but I think the Is are really special. There are so many different colorways, and you can dress them up or dress them down. I probably own more Is than any other Air Jordans.

One of my favorite MJ moments was shown in The Last Dance. There was a scrimmage around the Olympics that showed the new generation versus the old generation. I love how MJ stepped in and knew it was his time. It speaks to his character and how he carried himself throughout his career.

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

It represents diversity through so many incredibly unique individuals. You don’t see that with a lot of other brands. It sets Jordan Brand apart.

Jordan Brand has committed to a mission of “action over words” when it comes to supporting the Black community. You recently opened your platform to Black-owned businesses with the #WeGotUsChallenge. How did that come together, and why is giving back so important to you?

Some friends and I came up with the idea of a #WeGotUsChallenge to promote Black businesses on our social media platforms. Every week, we’d find different Black-owned businesses to support. We’d share their stories, buy their products and talk about what they’re providing, from food to fashion, hair and skin products.

For me, giving back to the community is necessary. Additionally, representation really matters for the youth who are coming up. They need someone to advocate for them — to tell them they matter. I’ll always be someone who steps up to do this work.

Learn more about our WNBA family members here.