Inside a sneaker room of Tamera ‘Ty’ Young — a WNBA’s biggest sneakerhead

SMYRNA, GEORGIA — The room is a ideal stretch for an office. Not too big, not too small, a singular window, and a closet for storage. Yet Las Vegas Aces brazen Tamera Young had other skeleton for a space when she changed in a chateau 4 years ago. She hasn’t been around much, given her basketball career led to a pierce out West, to join a new team, in a new city, and to take on a delegate residence.

But there’s no place like home. “This is a no-shoe house,” says Young’s girlfriend, existence star Mimi Faust from VH1’s Love Hip Hop Atlanta. Oh, yet in existence a chateau is a ultimate shoe sanctuary.

It’s a second week of August, and a two-game highway outing brings Young, a member of a Las Vegas Aces, to a blisteringly wet capital of Atlanta, nearby that Young — an 11-year maestro who sealed with a Aces in Feb — keeps her primary residence. She’s usually been behind once this season, and that was months ago.

True to a bubbly nod from Mimi, Young — famous to many as “Ty” — pleasantly asks that we take your boots off on entering. That’s her order — a irony of that is oozing, given what lies in a room on a subsequent floor, directly above a house’s entryway.

You have to transport adult a stairs, and spin right during a framed print of mythological Chicago Bulls contingent Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. Then go around a banister, and past a wall featuring photos and plaques from her excellence days during James Madison University (where she became the initial actor from a propagandize to be drafted into a WNBA). And then, true ahead, adjacent to a guest room, there it is. Young’s possess tiny sneaker shrine, with one purpose: to be packaged to a margin with kicks she’s collected for roughly 15 years.

“It’s one of my happy places,” says Young, 31. “I take honour in meaningful we worked tough to get … a things we have. My shoe room is one of them.”

Young, who some consider should have been an All-Star this year, used to keep her sneakers in sold containers. But final year, she consecrated a handyman to mountain shelves that widen opposite a room’s dual categorical walls. There are some-more shelves in a compress area of a behind left corner. In all, there are 5 sets of shelves, any with 9 rows. And after a shelves were installed, Young spent vast hours organizing a kicks. She authorised her (self-diagnosed) obsessive-compulsive commotion lead a way.

Eventually, a North Carolina local staid on starting with one of her favorite sneakers of all time, a Retro Air Jordan 1s, during a tip left of a initial organisation of shelves. Young’s endless garb of 59 pairs of 1s transitions to her Air Jordan 2s and 3s. On another set of shelves opposite a room, a run of Jordans continues with a 4s, afterwards a 5s, a whole quarrel and a half of 6s, dual rows of 10s, and a few pairs of 14s, 15s and Spizikes. The final 3 shelves reason her low arsenal of Jordan CP3s, as good as pairs of Pippens, Pennys and LeBrons. Wait a notation … aren’t we blank some Jordans? “I don’t like 7s like that,” she says of a initial apparent opening in her organization.

Her sole span — the N7s — lay on a floor, subsequent to usually dual pairs of 8s — the Aquas, her favorites — that she wore so many in college that she had to buy them again when they re-released a few years ago. And there is a tiny stand of 9s that includes a superexclusive pair designed by a common of customizers famous as the Canvas Project. Young has a whole territory of a room dedicated to Air Jordan 11s, 12s and 13s, and a tiny behind dilemma wall is for Air Maxes and Air Force 1s. The final remaining arrangement of shelves underline what she considers miscellany: Adidas Ultra Boosts and NMDs, Nike Huaraches, and PUMA Fentys.

“Close to 500.” That’s Young’s determination of sum pairs.

Ty Young consecrated a handyman to build tradition shelves for her collection of sneakers: an endless garb of 59 pairs of 1s transitions to her Air Jordan 2s and 3s. On another set of shelves opposite a room, a run of Jordans continues with a 4s, afterwards a 5s, a whole quarrel and a half of 6s, dual rows of 10s, and a few pairs of 14s, 15s and Spizikes.

Lynsey Weatherspoon for The Undefeated

Unaccounted for in this series is a soaring smoke-stack of 4 full cosmetic tubs — one of that contains tighten to 20 pairs of Kobes. Stray boxes are scattered, and a closet doorway opens to additional piles. “In my lifetime, I’ve substantially owned thousands of pairs … maybe some-more … given I’ve given divided so many,” Young says. “I try to get divided from them, and say, ‘OK, look. I’m not shopping any more.’ But it’s so hard. It’s like an obsession … The smell of a uninformed span is like ahhhhh … I’m dependant to that uninformed span of kicks, we know?”

“Her sneaker room is like Foot Locker,” says Bria Smith, co-founder of a @WNBAKicks Twitter and Instagram accounts, that were launched in Feb to showcase a dopest boots women players mangle out nightly. In early May, before a start of a season, a platform teamed adult with ESPN’s Brooke Weisbrod to betray a countdown of a tip 10 players in a WNBA who move a feverishness on their feet, on and off a court.” Young claimed a No. 1 spot, and warranted a amicable media climax of “Sneaker Champ.” But, many importantly, she is assisting diffuse a parable that women can’t adore sneakers as many as their masculine counterparts.

“She brings a tenure sneakerhead — and womanlike sneakerhead — to life,” Smith says. “She could wear a span a day for a year and not repeat.”

Yet a booty of sneaker cache lead to some tough character choices, generally on this Aug evening, as she sifts by her collection about 25 hours before a Aces face a Atlanta Dream. “I haven’t motionless nonetheless what shoe I’m gonna wear tomorrow,” she says slyly. “Because I’m home now and have a room full of boots that we can collect from.”

TY Young binds adult a span of Jordans in her Smyrna, Georgia, home. She and Michael Jordan share a hometown (Wilmington, North, Carolina), attended a same high propagandize (Laney High) and both played pro round in Chicago.

Lynsey Weatherspoon for The Undefeated

On Christmas of 1995, Tamera, afterwards 9, perceived her initial span of basketball boots — a Fila Grant Hill 1s. She never wore them on a basketball court, yet a span of a Fila Grant Hill 2s, that she copped when they retroed in 2013, now lay on one of a tip shelves in her sneaker room as a pointer of her sneaker beginnings.

Young’s mother, Lynda, gave her a strange Filas – and she hasn’t bought another span of sneakers for her daughter since. “My mom was never a fan of profitable hundreds of dollars for shoes,” she says. “But we would ask my father and he would come through.”

In 1996, Greg Young succumbed to Young’s begging, and purchased her initial span of Air Jordans — a “Taxi” 12s, that she pennyless out with black shoestrings, accented by white specs, for a Girls Inc. basketball joining in Wilmington, North Carolina. In Mar 2001, a special early recover of a Air Jordan “Cool Grey” 11s landed during noon on a weekday. Despite being in school, a preteen Tamera had to be in that line. So she calculated sick, and called her father to ask if he’d come to a rescue. “After he picked me up, I’m like, ‘Daddy, it’s these Jordans that’s about to come out during 12 o’clock that we unequivocally need to get’ … and he took me to get them,” she remembers. “I didn’t go behind to school. It was pointless. we was ‘sick,’ and we had my sneakers.”

Ty Young frequently pays reverence to her dad, who died in 2015 from pancreatic cancer during age 59, by essay “4/16/2015 RIP DADDY” on her CP3 10s.

Lynsey Weatherspoon for The Undefeated

On her shoes, Young frequently pays reverence to her dad, who died 3 years ago from pancreatic cancer during age 59. She has a span of CP3 10s from her time personification with a Chicago Sky that she customized around Nike I.D. for a WNBA’s annual breast cancer recognition game. Yet once she became wakeful of studies that envision pancreatic cancer to turn a second deadliest cancer in a United States by 2030, she wrote “4/16/2015 RIP DADDY” on a heel of any shoe. Greg Young was diagnosed right before Young flew to Brazil in 2015 to play overseas, and died while her organisation was in a playoffs.

So on her “Brazil Pack” CP3 7s, there are handwritten messages honoring her late father. In dual games with a Aces this season, Young sported 1-of-1 purple, red and white CP3 10s, with “RIP DADDY” professionally embellished on a boots by Los Angeles customizer Kickstradomis. She wore them final on Father’s Day in June.

“My father upheld my adore of sneakers,” she says, “wholeheartedly.” He’s a one who initial bought Young her all-time favorite kicks — a “Concord” Air Jordan 11s — that she wore radically her whole time on a justice during Wilmington’s Laney High School.

Yeah, that Laney. The same propagandize Michael Jordan attended, yet Young isn’t bashful to fun that, distinct a biggest of all time, she played varsity all 4 years. “I scored some-more points than him, as well,” she adds with a smile. Both her No. 11 and Jordan’s No. 23 are late and unresolved in a rafters of Laney’s gym. It was also in high propagandize that she began operative part-time jobs during places such as Chuck E. Cheese, and as a waitress with her aunt’s catering business — to save income to buy her possess shoes.

That dispatch continued in college with her JMU teammate and roommate Jasmin Lawrence. The dual have remained best friends over a years, and Young is a godmother to Lawrence’s 5-year-old son, Josiah, who she frequently booty with new shoes. “One summer, we got a pursuit during Finish Line, usually so that we could get a sneaker discount,” says Lawrence from New York, where she works as a propagandize superintendence counselor. “She substantially doesn’t even remember.”

Ty Young in 2008, when she was a student-athlete during James Madison University. Her adore of sneakers was speedy by her then-coach, Kenny Brooks.

Cathy Kushner

Once a dual friends got sleepy of certain sneakers, after a few wears, they’d flip them on eBay, and use their increase from a sales to buy new pairs. They even sacrificed dishes for shoes. “When we’d transport for games, we’d get per diem money. How many depended on what state we went to,” Lawrence says. “New York was unequivocally expensive, so you’d get good dish money. We’d reason onto it … or eat inexpensive dishes … and buy a new Jordans, or whatever was entrance out.”

But no one upheld her passion for boots some-more than JMU conduct women’s basketball manager Kenny Brooks. “I used to consider we was a sneakerhead until we met Tamera,” says Brooks around phone. He’s now conduct manager during Virginia Tech. “She took it to another level.”

About mid by Young’s beginner year, Brooks beheld that she didn’t like to wear a organisation boots that were provided. She conformed during first, yet eventually wanted to work underneath her possess terms of swag. So Brooks looked out for Young, a initial partisan he sealed as a conduct coach.

“I always knew when a new Jordans were entrance out. Because she would come in my bureau … lay down … and she’d get this tiny laugh on her face,” Brooks says. “It was opposite from any other grin. So I’m like, ‘OK, well, that Jordans are entrance out next?’ She would unequivocally detonate out into delight … I’d have my executive of operations be on it to figure out when they would come out, and we’d kind of warn her with them.”

A fact of a hundreds of sneakers Ty Young has collected over a march of her WNBA career.

Lynsey Weatherspoon for The Undefeated

Because JMU was sponsored by Nike, Brooks could see that his star actor got radically any sneaker she wanted — even Jordans — within reason from a team’s apparatus budget. Between a kicks she perceived from her coach, and a ones she bought herself, Young began wearing a opposite span on a justice roughly each week. In college, she played in all from a triple-white Air Max 2 Charles Barkley 94 low tops, to a all-back Air Jordan 10s, a Nike Air Penny 4s and “Statue” Air Jordan 9s. Her go-tos were a “Grape” Air Jordan 5s and “Linen” Air Jordan 10s, both of that she’s repurchased given removing to a WNBA.

The Linens were tough to find given they’ve usually forsaken once, in 2005. But a few years ago, Young stumbled opposite them during a sneaker boutique in Atlanta, and threw them in a bag — even notwithstanding a vast $400 resale price. “There were several games where I’d go behind and watch film. In one half she’d have on a span of Jordans. In a second half, she’d have on a opposite span of Jordans. I’m like, ‘Why?’ And she’d say, ‘I’m not feeling that vibe … we wanted to go with a other ones,’” Brooks says. “She expresses herself by her shoes, and that was an instrumental partial for her to be means to play freely, to play loose, to play as good as she did.”

At JMU, Young finished as all-time heading scorer (2,121 points) in both propagandize and discussion history. “As we went by college and got a tiny some-more savvy with a money, her collection grew,” Lawrence says. “And as shortly as she went to a WNBA, and was creation a salary, she went crazy.”

Tamera Young of a Las Vegas Aces handles a round opposite a Los Angeles Sparks during a WNBA basketball diversion during Staples Center on Jul 1 in Los Angeles.

Leon Bennett/Getty Images

“Somebody’s salary, for sure,” Young says of her lifetime sneaker tab, jolt her head. “I’ve spent a lot.”

If there’s one tract turn to her tale as a sneakerhead, it’s that Young has never been permitted by a shoe company. Even notwithstanding a decade-plus pro résumé that includes stops with 3 opposite WNBA teams in a vast markets of Atlanta, Chicago and Vegas. And a crazy collection to behind adult her expert-level sneaker trust — nothing.

Teammates and friends with shoe deals give her kicks, and extend her entrance to their code accounts so she can place orders. Hoping to gain off her substantial influence, pointless Instagram followers, generally customizers, will send giveaway pairs, usually for a shout-out. She also has a practical Rolodex of contacts and specific stores that demeanour out when a time comes for a prohibited new drop. She always looking for that men’s stretch 9. But some-more mostly than not, Young comes out of slot to feed her passion.

“Of march we would adore to have a sneaker deal. It would save me money,” says Young, who has around 345,000 supporters on Instagram, and 14,000 thousand on Twitter. The comment for he possess lifestyle wardrobe brand, Ty1Gear, has 10,000 followers. “To get giveaway boots and sell from a sneaker association that we could also foster as well? I’m already doing giveaway branding. When we post a span of shoes, people wish to go get them.”

After she was comparison with a eighth altogether collect in a 2008 WNBA breeze — as a initial breeze collect in a story of a Atlanta Dream’s authorization — Young remembers being sent giveaway boots from Nike during her initial year in a league. She says shipments stopped entrance after she fell brief of that season’s All-Rookie Team.

“There were people drafted after me that got shoe deals. we didn’t know since we didn’t. Maybe given we came from a mid-major school?” says Young. “Had we come from a bigger school, I’m flattering certain we would’ve had a shoe deal.”

It’s excellent to be a first. Thank we @tyyoung11 for display me adore and wearing my kicks on justice final night. @wnbakicks @wnba

A post common by dwyanewade (@dwyanewade) on Aug 8, 2018 during 7:22pm PDT

In conversations with companies, she’s listened that her points per diversion normal is too low, and about specific mandate for WNBA players to be sealed to certain brands — creation a All-Star team, competing with USA Basketball, or ranking in a tip 10 in sold statistical categories. “I know players right now with shoe deals,” she says. “that aren’t in any of those categories.” She says she wouldn’t mind being with usually one brand. “But — no one’s given me a opportunity, so I’m here wearing whatever sneaker we wanna wear.”

The volume she switches adult shoes, and peculiarity of feverishness she serves adult on a hardwood, draws her comparisons to a “Sneaker Champ” of a NBA, who’s also deal-less. “She is a P.J. Tucker of a WNBA,” says Smith of WNBA Kicks.

Even Tucker would marvel during a steer of Young’s sneaker room, so orderly and vibrant. Hanging in a core of a room is a mural of Jordan, looking off into a distance, as if he’s safeguarding Young’s cherished possessions. If she had a choice of what code would pointer her? “Jordan,” she says but hesitation. Her and Jordan pity a hometown, attending a same high propagandize and both personification pro round in a city of Chicago? There’s not a fit some-more perfect.

Young, who owns her possess lifestyle code called Ty1Gear, believes an publicity understanding would advantage a code as many as it would her: “To get giveaway boots and sell from a sneaker association that we could also foster as well? I’m already doing giveaway branding. When we post a span of shoes, people wish to go get them.”

Lynsey Weatherspoon for The Undefeated

But truthfully, it’s tough to trust she’s isn’t already sealed — if not by Jordan, afterwards another company. Especially given a stream landscape of a WNBA, that is on a approach to a best deteriorate in history, with an uptick in ratings, and landmark partnership with PUMA. The joining is experiencing a informative renaissance, and Young is heading a sneaker movement. Yet, sometimes, she revels in being a sneaker giveaway agent.

“There are people who have shoe deals,” she says, “and don’t even have some of a kicks we have.” Like a “Vanchetta Tan” CP3 9s (only 33 pairs made), and a “Red Suede” CP3 9s (only 54 pairs made). Both exclusives were sent to Young by Chris Paul himself, who grew adult in North Carolina with Young’s brother-in-law. They’ve turn supertight over a years, and Paul mostly hooks adult her with his signatures.

Three-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade has also looked out. Last fall, he sent her a span of “The Edition x Li-Ning” Way of Wade 6s that forsaken exclusively in Miami during Art Basel. Young has span No. 134 of 500. They’re a boots she picked from her sneaker room to wear opposite a Atlanta Dream, that she found stealing underneath an unboxed span of “Solar Red” Nike Yeezy 2s.

The day after a game, Wade posted an Instagram photo of Young in his boots to honour her on apropos a initial actor in WNBA actor to wear Li-Ning. She also perceived a note from a joining — a warning of a $500 excellent if she wears a boots again. Because she’s not sealed to Li-Ning — and given a WNBA is sponsored by Nike — she can usually wear Nikes and Jordans.

“But even but a sneaker deal,” Young says. “I’m still out here creation history.”

Aaron Dodson is an associate editor during The Undefeated. Often mistaken for Aaron Dobson, before of a New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals, he was one minute divided from being an NFL far-reaching receiver.

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