Paige Bueckers is only 20 years old, and in her first two decades has already made an outsized impact on the sport of basketball. Late last year, we welcomed her to StockX as a brand ambassador, and now she’s lending her voice to our Built Different campaign, a series and a message that celebrates the defiance and versatility of women in current culture who don’t need a seat at the table – they’re happy to build their own table.
Bueckers is no stranger to forging her own way as we’ve seen on the court playing ball and owning the conversation in a ballroom. We caught up with the NCAA player between games (and before leading UCONN to the Sweet Sixteen) to get her perspectives on faith, inspiration, and opportunity.
StockX Senior Director of Brand Voice, Jamie Delaney: What is your definition of “Built Different”?
Paige Bueckers: My definition of “Built Different” would probably just be about your mindset for me. Having a competitive edge in everything that you do. Trying to be the best in everything that you do. Working super hard at it, having a great faith. And I think that’s what makes people different.
How have the women that you’ve looked up to made a difference in your world?
I think the women that I’ve looked up to have always been really great people. Always selfless and always putting others before themselves. Making sure everybody eats, and making sure that everybody’s taken care of before themselves. And that’s inspired me to be such a giving person and to help others.
A meme has been going around that says, “Surround yourself with women who will say your name in a room full of opportunities.” What do you think is important about showing up for, and championing, other women?
Celebrating others doesn’t diminish your success. And I think that in order for everyone to grow, you have to be able to be selfless in that, and just spread your light. And use the platform that you have to help others as well. Because not everybody gets the same opportunities. I mean, white women get more opportunities than Black women and other minorities. So, for us to speak out, it’s your right privilege to help that. I think that’s really huge.
Who are you inspired by?
I’m definitely inspired by my faith. Just seeing all that God has done for me, in my life. To see where I came from, and to see where I started, to see where I am now. And then my parents raising me in the way that they did. They kept me humble. They kept me grounded. They showed me how to be a great human being.
What would you tell your 12-year-old self about where you are right now?
I think when I was little, I didn’t picture myself doing all the things that I’m doing now. But I think with hard work, dedication, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of time in the gym, and making sure you’re a great person first, and then everything else comes after that. And huge faith. I mean, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.
Looking back at your career thus far, what have been some memorable moments for you?
A memorable moment for me was making my first USA team. I think it was my freshman year. Being able to represent my country and then winning gold medals with them, it was incredible. That still leaves me speechless to this day.
And then winning a state championship in high school was really fun. I loved doing that. And then committing to my dream school and having the season that we did last year, making it to the Final Four. Those are all great moments for me.
Can you tell us a little bit about some of the frustrations you’ve faced so far?
Last year was really eye-opening for the women’s NCAA tournament and seeing the disparities between what the men got and what the women got. And I’ve been fortunate enough to play with programs that have treated the women’s basketball teams really well. But that tournament, seeing the disparities between the gift bags that the men got, and then the weight room that the men got, and what we got, was really my first eye-opening experience. Just seeing the pay gap between the WNBA and the NBA is something that’s always existed, and every woman has always seen it. So just seeing those types of things is really eye-opening.
I hope we can help you bridge that gap.
Have you ever been underestimated?
Being from a small town in Minnesota, I wasn’t really talked about. I wasn’t really known growing up. And then my first USA Basketball camp, everybody thought I was just this little white kid from Minnesota, didn’t really know much about me. I kind of like that though, having that chip on your shoulder, being the underdog, being underestimated and proving everybody wrong, and proving yourself right. I think I like that a lot.
What’s a piece of advice that’s always stuck with you?
I think my dad always tells me to be you, and be great. And keep working on yourself and trying to be the best version of yourself. And don’t let anybody get to you, don’t let any outside noise change the person that you are, and just continue to have fun in life.
What do you hope the younger generation of little baby girl hoopers learns from you?
I want the younger generation to know that they can do incredible things. Doesn’t matter if you’re a woman if you’re a man, but you’re definitely available to do great things. And once you get an opportunity, just run with it and dream big. The bigger your dreams are, the more attainable they can be, just because you think you can do it. And, so, I just want them to have that positivity that they can achieve their dreams.
What does women’s basketball look like 10 years from now?
I think it will have a lot more publicity, a lot more attention in the media, a lot more respect from not only men but everybody in general. And I think that it’s going to continue to grow. We’re going to continue to get that spotlight, more viewers, and more attention in the game.
How do we, as a community, help women to continue to break boundaries?
I think the huge thing for women and breaking boundaries is just giving them a platform and giving them opportunities. And I think people will be surprised with what just one chance can do, what a woman can do with just one chance. Women are very capable of doing great things as well, just as men are. And I think we just need the platform to do it and the opportunities and chances.
What’s the most empowering thing about being a woman?
Being the underdog. I mean, when all the odds are against you when nobody thinks you can do it. I think what makes women so powerful is that even with the odds stacked against them, they’re able to do great things. Men get more opportunities, but with the opportunities women get, they just take off. And I think that’s really inspiring.