Angel Reese’s cultural impact is only beginning to be felt

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

Throughout the history of the WNBA, there have been great players that not only made an impact on the court but also on the culture. 

Lisa Leslie is on that comes to mind. Candace Parker, who recently retired from the game, is another. And, of course, we cannot forget the effect that Skylar Diggins-Smith had coming out of college when she played at Notre Dame. 

Angel Reese may only be a rookie in the WNBA but she has already had a massive cultural impact in addition to being really great at basketball. And as was the case before, that cultural impact was first felt in college. 

It was last year when Reese first became a household name both inside and outside of the sporting realm. Yes, it would also be when the country did begin to fall in love with Caitlin Clark, but Reese also being on the big stage at the beginning of a massive boom period for women’s basketball had to be gratifying especially to Black fans. 

We all know what had happened in that 2023 national championship game between LSU and Iowa. The Tigers defeated the Hawkeyes and Reese garnered more headlines for that John Cena “You Can’t See Me” gesture she directed at Clark even though Clark used that same gesture on numerous other occasions throughout the season – including at Hailey Van Lith who was at Louisville at the time. 

A lot of the flack she got from that gesture was mostly from white fans. Once that initial wave of hatred passed, we began to focus more on what should have been the focus – a great game and the NIL opportunities that were coming Reese’s way. 

In fact, this queen was even in a music video with Cardi B and Latto and LSU was even shouted out by Cardi herself in one of her lyrics. 

(Now we just need someone to drop a similar lyric about South Carolina. Looking directly at you, Plies.) 

Most recently, Reese attended the 2024 Met Gala in Manhattan and if there is anything we know about the Chi-Town Barbie is she will come correct every single time. Monday’s Met Gala was no exception. 

Between the Met Gala and last month’s WNBA Draft where she was chosen seventh overall by the Chicago Sky, Reese has become very familiar with New York City lately. Ironically, 24 hours after gracing Gotham with her presence alongside Teyana Taylor, Jennifer Lopez, Lil Nas X, Tyla and other A-Listers at the Met Gala, her next task took her back to the basketball court. 

Against New York’s team. 

For some inexplicable reason, the Sky’s opening preseason game on the road at the Minnesota Lynx was not broadcasted – but a Twitter streamer did the Lord’s work and that stream from Target Center garnered a massive amount of views. 

Chicago’s first home preseason matchup against the New York Liberty was broadcasted – thank you WCIU and Marquee Sports Network for righting this wrong. Gatewise, it was exclusively for season ticket holders and those that were in attendance at Wintrust Arena were treated to a Chicago rout of last season’s Finals participants. 

It was a 101-53 drubbing for the Sky over the Liberty. Reese only had to play 19 minutes given how lopsided the game was. She tallied 13 points in addition to five rebounds and two steals plus going 6-of-10 from the field. 

Her No. 5 jersey is selling like hotcakes. We are seeing not only young women but young men wear Angel Reese t-shirts. And a dedicated Black fanbase is going to do everything it can to ensure her “push” (in wrestling terms) is as every bit as big as Clark’s. 

Her latest move – being featured in a Good American Denim campaign aimed at taller women.

Reese gets it. She understands as Leslie, Parker, Diggins-Smith and countless others did that growing the game not only means being great on the hardwood but being a personality (and fashionista) away from basketball. 

She leveraged social media to her advantage while at LSU and those fans that first became familiar with her when she wore purple and gold (and even before when she wore red and gold at Maryland) are following her into the W where she is now wearing gold with sky blue. 

This Barbie is just getting started.