When all this is over, whenever that will be, New York basketball will almost certainly have a new face, a woman’s face. Sabrina Ionescu is expected to be drafted overall No. 1 by the Liberty next Friday and be the star Joe and Clara Tsai need to fill Barclays Center.
With the WNBA Draft a virtual affair this year, Ionescu says she’ll probably be seated on her couch dressed in jeans and a nice shirt. No need for a gown in this environment. She’ll remain humble and casual till she dresses up the Liberty’s opening game whenever that is. The opener, scheduled for May 16, has been postponed indefinitely.
No matter, writes Newsday’s Barbara Barker Friday. Whenever she steps on the court, things will change for the Liberty, the WNBA and basketball in New York, likening her arrival to that of Patrick Ewing in 1985. As Barker notes...
She has a chance to be a transformative athlete, someone with the right combination of drive, skill, personality and timing to push the Liberty, the WNBA and ultimately women’s team sports to the next level of fan recognition.
“I think her personality is perfect for New York,” ESPN basketball analyst and former Liberty player Rebecca Lobo said. “She has a swagger and confidence that fans in New York love. Obviously, she can play. The reason she is so confident is that her game backs it up. She’s personable. She’s funny. She’s competitive. Not only all the things that make a great basketball player, but she has the personality that seems to fit the city.”
She’ll also lead the Liberty into Barclays Center. After 21 years playing in the Garden, with mounting losses, James Dolan moved the team to Westchester County Center, a 90-year-old venue in White Plains with a 5,000 seat capacity ... and put the team up for sale. Finally, after 17 months, Dolan sold the team to Tsai and after Tsai bought Barclays Center, the move to Brooklyn was sealed. Now, he needed a star for Brooklyn and Ionescu should be it.
It will be a chance for the Liberty to re-connect with the city and win over new fans to the WNBA and women’s basketball in general. Her games is different, as Barker notes. It’s more wide-open, unbound from the strictures of the girls leagues around the country. Already, she has fans among the NBA’s elite. Barker writes...
LeBron James dubbed her “Queen Sabrina” on Twitter. Steph Curry attended both of her games in the Bay Area this season and posted a photo of the two of them on his Instagram feed, writing “S/O to the walking Triple Dub” (she finished her college career with 26 triple-doubles, the NCAA record for men and women). Kobe Bryant befriended her after watching her play her junior season and invited her to coach daughter Gianna for a weekend. The three developed such a tight bond that it was Ionescu whom the Bryant family asked to speak about Gianna’s love of the game at the memorial service.
It was gut wrenching...
In fact, later that night, before playing Stanford in a Big-12 game, she threw up repeatedly then went out on the court and dominated play...
She racked up a triple-double and her Oregon Ducks went on to beat the Cardinal and in the process became the first player, man or woman, to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds in an NCAA career. Her dominance can be tallied up in a number of ways but one is in the bagful of awards she’s won.
Just this year, the 5’11” point guard won the Naismith Player of the Year, the AP Player of the Year, the Basketball Writers Player of the Year (2020) etc., etc. National brands want her endorsement. In virtually every aspect of her game, she’s a game changer. Being in New York will help her stardom, Barker writes, quoting Joe Favorito, a long time New York sports business consultant.
“I think people want to see rising, telegenic stars who are very socially savvy succeed,” Favorito told Barker.
Joe and Clara Tsai are big supporters of womens’ sports. Their daughter, Alex, plays lacrosse for Stanford, and Clara is officially a co-owner of the Liberty. They’ll bring a new experience to the WNBA and Barclays Center this season with a player who is by her own description is unapologetic for her competitiveness and success. Should be fun.
- Sabrina Ionescu is an incredible talent, and she seems headed to Liberty - Barbara Barker - Newsday