One week before Jordan Brand announced the historic signing of 16-year-old basketball phenom Kiyomi McMiller, the hooper was in New York City at PMC Studios for her first-ever cover shoot.
McMiller, the company’s first name, image and likeness (NIL) signing at the high school level, was joined by Jasmine Jordan, basketball field rep for women’s sport marketing at Jordan Brand, who has been in pursuit of the young baller since last summer.
Until their late-February shoot, the relationship between Jordan and McMiller, who plays for Life Center Academy in New Jersey, had played out from a distance. Their first in-person meeting was in the studio.
And now that they both play for the same team, they are poised to redefine the look of sports. McMiller, who is electrifying on the court, is aiming to use her creativity to bring more eyes to the women’s game. As for Jordan, the daughter of NBA icon Michael Jordan, who has worked at Jordan Brand since 2017, she has become an integral figure in shaping its women’s athlete roster.
However, while McMiller is ready for the spotlight, Jasmine finds comfort working behind the scenes, where she has created a lane for herself at the company.
In fact, she was admittedly torn on whether or not to appear on this month’s cover.
The deciding factor for Jasmine was to shine light on its two newest athletes: McMiller and UCLA star Kiki Rice, who became Jordan Brand’s first NIL athlete in October 2022. (Rice, with March Madness approaching, was unable to travel to New York for the shoot and instead was shot separately in Los Angeles.)
“What got me to say yes is because it’s not about bringing myself to the forefront. It’s a moment to be able to connect with Kiyomi and Kiki in an authentic way — specifically Kiyomi because this was her first shoot,” Jasmine told FN. “I have to be selective on the opportunities and conversations I have because I don’t need to be everywhere. I have no desire to, that doesn’t fill my cup. What does is making sure my athletes are being seen.”
Although her father is a worldwide icon known near and far, Jasmine has quietly built up her own bonafides. She is a Syracuse University graduate, having earned a degree in sports management in 2014, and has considered going back for a master’s degree in either sports psychology or sports law. Prior to joining Jordan Brand, she was the basketball operations coordinator with the Charlotte Hornets.
Although her resume could take her anywhere, Jasmine said she’s more comfortable working for a family business — even if they are a leading sneaker and apparel brand and an NBA franchise.
“I can go anywhere off my name, my degree and merits, but am I going to find myself? Probably not,” Jasmine said. “And I love my family. It’s a huge part of why I do what I do. I love that anything I do is driven from a place of heart and genuine care.”
In her six years at Jordan Brand, Jasmine has developed her own relationships without leaning on her famous father.
“I don’t need to say, ‘I’m Michael Jordan’s daughter.’ That’s not necessary,” she said. “Acknowledging the elephant in the room and not letting it dictate how I move is important, so I can carve out my legacy. My dad’s shoes are big shoes to fill, and I have no desire to fill them.”
She continued, “I honor and respect him by being my own person, because that’s what he wants. When working with me, you’re going to forget I’m Michael Jordan’s daughter. You’re just going to focus on Jasmine.”
Her ability to lead isn’t lost on her colleagues.
“Externally, specifically with our athletes, she is admired. She’s also very down to earth, someone people can connect with. Internally, people see the potential in her,” said Anthony DiCosmo, Jordan Brand VP and GM of sports marketing. “There is no task too great or too small. That’s one of the things I love about working with her. She wants to be the best, that’s very clear, and she is willing to do whatever it takes to learn and to deliver at a high level.”
He continued, “There is no sense of entitlement. There is only the grind.”
As far as her day-to-day responsibilities are concerned, Jasmine spends much of her time scouting players, a task that has increased significantly with the inception of NIL, which has become a national conversation and given young athletes the opportunity to receive financial compensation much earlier than in years past.
While discussing NIL, Jasmine shared how things would have been different if it was an option for her legendary father.
“Maybe that first Nike deal wouldn’t have been as low as it was,” she said with a laugh. “It would have changed the game. He would have potentially approached his contracts with Nike differently. Looking at his Funko Pop collectibles or the fact that people still wear his UNC jersey, to reap the benefits from it today, we’re talking making trillions at this point.”
Recently, Jasmine has also become more involved in creating those contracts.
“That’s a new muscle for me that I didn’t have to tap into during my first years at the brand,” she said. “Nobody wants to sit there and be like, ‘This is the value of an athlete.’ It can be boring, and it’s been challenging, but I try to make it as fun as possible.”
When it comes to shaping the Jordan Brand women’s athlete roster, specifically for basketball, DiCosmo explained there are nuances that the men’s game simply does not have. He said Jasmine is a master at navigating those differences.
“We’ve been in the men’s space for a while, but it’s not apples to apples at all. That transition from college to the NBA and college to the WNBA is completely different,” DiCosmo said. “Players play to an older age in the WNBA, and there are fewer teams and fewer slots. Just because you’re drafted top five doesn’t mean you’re promised to be on a roster for a significant amount of time.”
Although the women’s side of basketball has its unique challenges, Jordan Brand has assembled a roster of hoopers with broad appeal.
“We would love for young Black girls to look at our roster, find someone and see themselves in that athlete,” DiCosmo said. “We don’t have these athletes just to play basketball. The more important thing is that they’re great, interesting people who appeal to everyone.”
Tonia Jones, Jordan Brand VP and GM of women’s, has faith that the diverse roster will have a long-lasting impact.
“We’ve got all these different personalities, but they are all about building a community. Everyone has the same goal in mind,” said Jones. “One person may be performance-led or style-driven. Another may be more about community. But when we come together, we have all these different ideas to challenge us and make us think differently.”
Vanessa Wallace, Jordan Brand senior director of marketing, added, “We have some incredibly talented, multifaceted individuals. Women aren’t monoliths. They have different interests and leverage their interests as a platform.”
Jordan Brand has also expanded its roster internationally with athlete signings in key markets where basketball is important, such as Chinese basketball player Yang Shuyu. Just like its athletes stateside, Shuyu has goals for the sport beyond personal performance that Jordan Brand has supported.
“They support me to give back to basketball in the best way of my heart. I have always been eager to help children in poor rural areas of China, where basketball is out of reach. After communicating with Jordan Brand, we will fulfill my dream in the future through the Jordan Wings project to help as many children as possible,” said Shuyu, who played for bronze medal-winning Team China in 3×3 Basketball during the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The Jordan Brand roster of women athletes is taking shape as it continues hit noteworthy milestones and deliver attention-grabbing moments.
For example, a June 2022 earnings call for parent company Nike Inc. revealed the Jordan Brand women’s business has tripled since fiscal 2020 — one of several reasons it was named 2022 FNAA Brand of the Year.
A year earlier, the company released a celebrated series of images featuring its WNBA athletes, including an instantly iconic shot with the ballers and MJ in the center. The images, captured by Ming Smith, were part of the “Here for a Reason” exhibition in NYC, which were on display at the Nicola Vassell Gallery.
Although the year is still young, Jordan Brand has already produced several moments that have captured the attention of women.
For instance, the company revealed “Beyond” during NBA All-Star Weekend last month, a campaign created to inspire youth — particularly young women athletes. The highlight is a short film revealing the powerful journey of a female basketball player, including the challenges and triumphs, which built strength and confidence.
Right after NBA All-Star Weekend, Jordan Brand gathered several members of the group who will make up this year’s Women’s Collective in Utah, an initiative that debuted in 2022 and includes mentorship, panels, retreats and events.
And the best for this year is still ahead.
For Jones, she’s excited for how Jordan Brand will activate around one of its newest partners, Teyana Taylor. As for Wallace, this year’s Jumpman Invitational college basketball tournament is something she’s looking forward to, as well as the storytelling surrounding Banned Day, a sneakerhead holiday that takes place Oct. 18 to celebrate MJ’s sneakers from 1984 that violated NBA color scheme rules.
While Jordan Brand has made several splashy basketball signings as of late, most notably Rice and McMiller, the company has also ventured outside of hoops, adding beloved Peloton instructor and ESPN College GameDay host Jess Sims.
Ideally, Jasmine would like the roster to have representation in all sports that women are invested in.
“Between signing Jess Sims and NIL, Jordan is showing up in different spaces,” Jasmine said. “We’re not just basketball from a female lens. We show up in the male space in different sports and avenues — we’ve got NFL athletes, MLB, golfers — and my goal is to do the same for women.”
At the same time, she is also championing a culture of women supporting other women, which plays out both internally and externally.
“We hear so much how the sneaker industry is male-dominated, sports are male-dominated, but they’re really not. It’s just that the light has never been shined on women. So instead of waiting for it, just take the light. That’s what we’ve got to do,” Jasmine said. “We have incredible women at the brand like Tonia and Vanessa, and we’re going to extend our hand and bring somebody else forward and continue to elevate and support one another.”
THE TEEN PHENOM
On set during her first-ever cover shoot, McMiller was quiet and unassuming, a bit of a surprise for a supremely talented athlete with jaw-dropping moves who had just signed an NIL deal with an iconic sneaker label.
Her demeanor, however, quickly changed when her father, Michael McMiller, handed her a basketball they picked up from the Nike store on Fifth Avenue prior to the shoot. With a beaming smile (and her mother, Ravilia McMiller, watching over FaceTime), Kiyomi revealed just how electrifying her ball handling could be, leaving everyone in the studio in awe.
Kiyomi first connected with Jasmine in June 2022 via Instagram — a fitting place, since that’s where Jasmine discovered her mesmerizing talents. The baller’s father said he saw a DM from Jasmine on his daughter’s phone and ran it over to her to respond.
“My first DM was like, ‘I’m a fan of yours, you’re on my radar, you’re killing it. Keep it up. I would love to have a conversation,’” said Jasmine.
Not long after, they spoke via Zoom, then developed a relationship over text. And the deal with Jordan Brand was signed in January.
Since that first conversation, Kiyomi said Jasmine has been nothing but supportive. “She’s very approachable and easy to talk to. I see her as a mentor,” Kiyomi said. “Anytime I have questions about anything, she’s always there to answer them. She’s really cool and I’m excited to learn from her.”
Jasmine added, “Kiyomi and I text every other day. I’m sending her gifs or memes, and she loves to text me questions. On a random Thursday she’s like, ‘Hey, can I do this?’ or ‘What does this look like at the brand?’ or ‘How do I learn this?’”
During the shoot, Kiyomi saw a text message Jasmine had received while on set from Jordan Brand-backed WNBA baller — and FN cover star — Aerial Powers, who said she loved her game and would be happy to take her up as her “little sister.”
The support of Powers is emblematic of the family-like atmosphere Jordan Brand has fostered among its women athletes. Being able to one day support those who are next up is something Kiyomi said she is looking forward to.
“They uplift each other, and I will support the people who are after me,” she said. “I’ll try to inspire them to be creative. I want everyone to be their own player and bring out their creativity.”
Although young, Kiyomi is a student of the game. She said her style of play has been inspired by modern greats, such as Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, and basketball’s all-time best, a lengthy list that includes MJ, Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Penny Hardaway and Steve Nash, among several others.
“The girl’s handles are sick,” Jasmine said excitedly, referring to Kiyomi’s ball handling and dribbling skills.
But playing with extraordinary flash and style hasn’t come without criticism. Detractors have been quick to label her a showoff, an assessment Kiyomi believes is inaccurate and unfair.
“They have no clue what I’m doing. It’s very annoying. They say these things because they can’t do what I’m doing,” McMiller said. “When they say, ‘You’re doing too much,’ that’s how I’m scoring. You score your way, I score mine.”
On the court, Kiyomi is tenacious. Off the court, she describes herself as a kind person who is approachable. She is also value driven, specifically when it comes to sustainability. “I’m big on recycling. I make my family recycle and want to make it known that recycling helps the world,” she said.
She is also an advocate for helping the homeless, something she did with her father when living in Washington, D.C.
“When I worked in D.C., you’d see homelessness all over the place,” Michael McMiller said. “I used to work security overnight, the 11-7 shift, and sometimes I’d take Kiyomi with me and on my break, we’d drive around and give them clothes. People walk by them all the time and ignore them, so we’d also have a conversation with them.”
Kiyomi added, “It’s sad seeing people on the street. I’d think, ‘I’m out here for a couple minutes and I’m cold but they live out here. I give them food and clothes, just do whatever I can.”
Now living in New Jersey, Kiyomi said she hopes to continue helping people locally and is working on organizing a trip to volunteer at a soup kitchen with her teammates.
These off-the-court efforts are something Jordan Brand hasn’t directly been a part of, Jasmine said, but now Kiyomi offers the company a lane to participate. “Because we haven’t tapped into these spaces organically from a brand standpoint, [this partnership] allows us to have conversations with Kiyomi like, ‘Educate us a little bit more on why you’re passionate about it, allow us to see this through your eyes,’” Jasmine said. “This will help inform us how we can support and push these initiatives.”
Kiyomi’s drive to win is fueled by her family. Aside from her parents, she said she wants to be an example of what’s possible for her two brothers, Michael and Jeffrey, and two sisters, Miku and Yuri, who are quick to defend her game when someone says they can play better.
The best advice she’s received, Kiyomi said, came from her dad, who tells her to always be herself and keep her creativity. That sentiment is shared by her grandmother, Pamela Williams, who is also one of the young athlete’s biggest cheerleaders. When the family found out about the Jordan Brand deal, Williams created a one-of-a-kind look for the baller, a denim jacket that she sported during the shoot.
Although Kiyomi has made a commitment to Jordan Brand, she has not yet decided where she will play after high school — but her game is in high demand. During the cover shoot, the baller, who has been recruited since fifth grade, fielded calls from two college coaches interested in having her on their teams.