WNBA Rookie Shoni Schimmel Shines with Most Popular Jersey
Shoni Schimmel has always been busy breaking records. But this one is even more special as it's one of the firsts of her pro basketball career. Rookie Schimmel's No. 23 Atlanta Dream jersey is the top seller among all players in the WNBA this season, the league announced.
Schimmel and her younger sister Jude, members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla in eastern Oregon, have now been the trailblazers and inspiration for Native American athletes and tribes across the country for many years, and this recent accolade only establishes her status further as a groundbreaking Native American athlete.
At her Louisville senior night this March, Native Americans from as many as 40 states and as far away as Alaska traveled in biting cold, spending sleepless nights on the way, to watch Schimmel play. Eventually it was a crowd of more than 22,000 people. Schimmel signed autographs and met with fans for four hours after the game, and the evening was dubbed Native American Appreciation night.
"We're witnessing something that hasn't been done in women's basketball," Schimmel's teammate at Louisville, where she played in the NCAA for four years, Tia Gibbs said that night. "We go anywhere in the country, and we've got more fans in red than the other team has on their home floor. What they're [Shoni and Jude] doing for the whole Native American culture is very special. And they're kind of showing them what can be done, just if you jump out on a leap of faith."
And now Schimmel's popularity has made sure that she beat Skylar Diggins, Elena Delle Donne and WNBA favorite Brittney Griner in the jersey sales this season. Schimmel's popularity among Native Americans has also made Dream the No. 1 on the league's team merchandise list for the first time in the franchise's history.
But they were prepared for this kind of a reception for Schimmel when they picked her. When Schimmel was selected as the eighth over all in the draft, she became the highest drafted Native American player in WNBA history. Brad Gust, spokesperson for Atlanta, said the followers of Dream's social media sites skyrocketed when Schimmel was drafted. And when Atlanta plays on the road, Gust says even opposing teams ask Schimmel to make post-game appearances for their fans.