Nearly every NBA superstar has his own shoes: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo. But Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard isn’t wearing their designs, nor is he sporting kicks from All-NBA teammate Jayson Tatum.

When Pritchard steps onto the court, he wears WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu’s sneaks.

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“Me and Sabrina are in the same class, and we went to [the University of] Oregon together as freshmen,” he said this week. “I’ve known her for a long time and her shoes are probably the most comfortable out right now. It’s light. I like it.”

As an added bonus, Pritchard says the sneaker’s white and green color scheme matches his Celtics uni.

Payton Pritchard on why he wears Sabrina Ionescu’s shoes:

“Me and Sabrina are in the same class, and we went to Oregon together as freshmen. Her shoes are probably the most comfortable out right now. It’s light. I like it.”

— Noa Dalzell ? (@NoaDalzellNBA) May 3, 2024

With toxic ideas about masculinity ingrained into their psyches, NBA players from previous generations probably would’ve scoffed at the notion of playing in shoes designed by… a woman! But Pritchard is one of many NBA mainstays who rock Ionescu’s sneakers.

According to kixstats, which tracks NBA players and their kicks, Ionescu’s design with Nike is the 21st most popular brand in the league.

“Sabrina Ionescu’s game is unique, hard to define and built with an undeniable craft,” the description reads. “Her signature shoe helps you unlock your versatility with a snappy forefoot Zoom Air and cloud-like React foam to help keep you energized.”

Celtics point guard Jrue Holiday is also a big fan of the look, as he’s worn Ionescu’s shoes 57 times this season. Dallas Mavericks center Dereck Lively II said over All-Star Weekend that Ionesco’s design is simply the most comfortable, and he told her as much.

Pritchard is one of many male pro athletes who’s bending gender norms. Famously, Duke star Jared McCain paints his nails, and enjoys a sponsorship deal with the beauty brand Sally Hansen.

The high-scoring forward recently declared for the NBA Draft, and is expected to be picked in the middle of the first round. He’s going to take his mani pedi with him, by the way.

“I mean, at an early age I’ve always been told to just be myself, like I’m always just gonna be myself,” McCain told Complex. “As for the painted nails, I saw it during [lockdown] and I just started doing it. I never saw anything wrong with it like. I understand girls do it. I understand men have started to do it a little more recently, but it was just something I saw and I like to get manicures and pedicures. I take care of my body.”

Boston Red Sox slugger Triston Cases, who’s sadly on the injured list, also unapologetically paints his nails. He says he bonds with his mom during their frequent nail appointments.

“I just use it as an opportunity to spend time with my mom, a two or three-hour window every two or three weeks,” he said. “We get to bond, talk about whatever, put our phones down a bit and catch up. We use it as a little bit of bonding time.”

But perhaps no modern male athlete expresses himself more than Caleb Williams, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. The new Chicago Bears QB1 showed up to the draft with painted nails, outraging homophobes in the process.

Leading up to draft night, Williams was spotted with pink nails, pink lip gloss, a pink wallet and a pink phone case.

That really made the homophobes mad!

When asked about his irreverent persona, Williams told reporters his flamboyancy comes from a place of self-love.

“When I look into the mirror when I wake up around 7:00 a.m., I know who that guy is. I love that guy. I treat that guy with respect, just like I do any other human around me,” he said. 

“And that goes a long way for myself. That’s why I am who I am, I do what I do, and I treat myself the way that I do. I know who that guy is. I love that guy, and I’m going to treat that guy as if he’s somebody else who just met me, or is one of my best friends. That’s why I’m so unapologetic about who I am,” he added.

Of course, Pritchard wearing a WNBA star’s shoes isn’t on the same level as painting one’s nails pink. But it still is a nod towards individuality.

As one of the most dominant regular season teams in history, the Celtics are NBA title favorites. Pritchard, and his sweet kicks, should be hitting the parquet for weeks to come.

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