Erica Wheeler’s professional basketball career didn’t start with a slam dunk. After playing four years at Rutgers, she wasn’t picked in the 2013 WNBA Draft, nor was she invited to a team training camp that offseason.
Her playing career then took her to Puerto Rico, Turkey, and Brazil, before making it to the WNBA via short stints with Atlanta and New York – while also growing her paychecks and status internationally in Israel, Spain, and Russia.
Wheeler eventually landed with the Indiana Fever, where the 29-year-old has flourished and became the first undrafted player to ever win the WNBA All-Star MVP in 2019. Now, she is using this recently found platform to build out a business portfolio
“All-Star tipped everything over for me,” Wheeler said. “I had a few endorsements before that, but All-Star took another turn and allowed people to see me a different way.”
“My story speaks for itself, and now they hear my voice and my story,” she said.
Wheeler is an Adidas athlete, and recently signed a deal with electric scooter rental company Bird, which sent her a scooter to use at the IMG Academy where the season will be played. She also recently signed on as a brand ambassador to Fitlight, a company that uses technology to tie brain and body training together. She also is co-owner of DSBG, a Miami-based clothing brand, and launched an interview series called “Undrafted Round Table Talk,” chatting with other undrafted athletes.
While endorsements are nice for Wheeler, she is looking to build connections in the fashion industry and study to get into real estate investments. She also is interested in auto, food and beverage, health, sports technology, and travel.
“It’s all about what makes sense,” she said.
In June, Wheeler signed a marketing deal with Miami-based Distinction Agency to help build out her growing portfolio of deals.
“There’s always room for growth and improvement,” Wheeler said about her basketball and business career. “I believe in growth and being the underdog, and we’ll work hard to get me deals and gigs, and we’ll keep growing.”
Distinction Agency CEO Alex Onaindia said Wheeler’s determination that helped her stick in the WNBA would help her build her off-the-court businesses and foundation, The Wheeler Kid Foundation.
Wheeler said her most important goal now is to continue to spread her story, particularly in the impoverished area of South Florida she grew up. While she’ll continue to build her business portfolio out, she also wants children in similar situations to her youth to know the possibilities.
“My job is to give back to the community the same way someone did for me,” she said. “You don’t know who you might pass the torch to. But I need to spread the story because everyone has a dream, but some kids don’t have a direction. That was me, but I can let them know they can be whatever they want to be.”
Wheeler is where she wants to be, preparing to get back on the court in Florida.
“I’m in my dream job, playing the game I love,” she said. “There are a lot of people who have lost their jobs, housing during this pandemic. I’m grateful I have a job, but this has put us all into situations that make us uncomfortable, but thankfully we’re still doing what we love.”