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Breanna Stewart wins the first MVP in Liberty franchise history

The Liberty keep racking up firsts and Tuesday, Breanna Stewart became the first Liberty player to be named MVP, a week after being named AP Player of the Year in the W.

2023 WNBA Playoffs - Connecticut Sun v New York Liberty Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s always a special feeling when your work gets acknowledged. All of the preparation, hard work, and dedication to your craft means something and is noticed by your peers and outside observers. If you keep at it and stay true to who you are and what you do, good things will happen and the blessings will follow.

Breanna Stewart has done just about everything imaginable on a basketball court. Whether it’s national championships at UCONN, gold medals at the Olympics and FIBA, two rings with the Seattle Storm, championships in overseas play, etc. Simply put, she’s one of the game’s greatest players and winners of all time. And on Tuesday, she added an extra special accomplishment to her mantle.

This year’s Most Valuable Player race has been one for the ages. A’ja Wilson has kept the Las Vegas Aces atop the league standings as they try to be the first repeat champion in decades and had a historic season for the Aces. Alyssa Thomas was a triple double machine and got the Sun to third in the standings despite the loss of Brionna Jones to an Achilles tear. And Stewart helped build this Liberty attack on the fly and has been the focal point of their overwhelming successes on both sides of the ball. There was truly no wrong MVP winner and all three players had deserving candidacies. But ultimately, there could one be one.

In one of the closely contested MVP races in WNBA history, Stewart beat Wilson and Thomas to bring the MVP award home to Brooklyn.

In a season of firsts, Stewart is the first Liberty player to win MVP. Stewie ultimately won by seven points over Thomas and 13 over Wilson.

Liberty legend and WNBA Hall of Famer, Teresa Weatherspoon, did the honors

Prior to Stewart winning, Tina Charles was the closest Liberty player to win MVP. TC finished third in the voting in 2015 and second in 2016 and 2017. Taking a broader look at the entire New York City basketball scene, this MVP was a long time coming. Stewie was the first New York pro basketball player to win MVP since Julius Erving did it from 1974-1976 with the New York Nets in the ABA and Willis Reed did it in 1970 with the New York Knicks. Stewie also made another fun bit of WNBA history per Alford Corriette of Her Hoop Stats

That’s the good stuff.

Liberty General Manager Jonathan Kolb spoke about what Stewart has brought to this Liberty franchise:

“The constant resiliency, belief, selflessness, toughness, and professionalism she has brought to the Liberty on a nightly basis is an incredibly rare combination – culminating in such a special season, both personally and collectively. We could not be more thrilled for Stewie to receive the highest individual honor in our game, which is incredibly deserved, and for her to continue propelling both our organization and the WNBA to new levels.”

The WNBA is continuing to rise, and Stewart and the Liberty’s contributions have played a major part of that. Having a leader that is a role model on and off the court is inspirational and encourages others to follow in her footsteps.

Here’s how Stewart found out she won the MVP

The Liberty have been guided by a sense of heart and togetherness. This team has stuck together amidst all the outside pressure and lifted each other up at various points. It’s a bond that makes them such a tight knit unit on and off the court. With all of the superteam pressure on their shoulders, being able to be solid for each other goes a long way and makes a tough job a bit less daunting and a lot more fun.

The evolution of the game

Chicago Sky v New York Liberty Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

With Stewart, Wilson, and Thomas, we have bigs that can do everything on the court. Need someone to bring the ball up and run the offense? Check. Need someone that can guard positions one through five? Check. Need someone that can represent the franchise and the league with pride and honor? Check!

At practice prior to the start of the semifinals last week, Doug Feinberg of the Associated Press asked Liberty coach Sandy Brondello about the evolution of basketball and through the lens of players like Stewart, Jonquel Jones, Elena Delle Donne, and Lauren Jackson:

“I think it’s the innovation of the game where bigs are multi-skilled and kids are growing up handling the ball. They’re not put in the position [of] “You’re [only] a post player.” I think that’s so important. Versatility, we say it’s so key, and bigs should be able to post up but they should be able to dribble and shoot threes as well and create for everyone. And the guards should be able to post up, too, and do other things that a guard likes. I think it’s positionless, to be quite honest. We still want to get post ups, but you know it’s how we want to play, it’s the movement now not just punching it in.”

At Stewart’s press conference, Myles Ehrlich of Winsidr asked her how she’s seen the W evolve from her first MVP in 2018 up to now:

“It’s been an unbelievable season as a whole for the WNBA and really to see what all the top players have done is only going to continue to make this league shine brighter and be better. And the fact that there’s multiple people in the conversation — obviously AT and A’ja had amazing seasons — just show that we’re reaching new heights and we’re doing things that have never been done before and we’re continuing to show that greatness shines in many different ways. And the fact that this race was unbelievably tight is kind of crazy. But I’m happy to be standing up here today.”

Stewart has talked before about the game’s evolution and with the top three MVP candidates, we get to see the next step in this wonderful game. There’s so much amazing talent in the league and even more on the horizon in the NCAA ranks.

A family affair!

Commissioner Cathy Engelbert was at Barclays Center to hand out the MVP award. Joining her was Liberty/Brooklyn Nets co-governor Clara Wu Tsai, Liberty CEO Keia Clarke, GM Kolb, the Liberty coaching staff, and Stewie’s family. Also, her daughter Ruby stole the show and got to celebrate MVP with mom!

The journey back to MVP for Stewart has been an arduous one. She’s four years removed from her Achilles tear, is on a new team after spending seven seasons in Seattle, and is the mom of a two year old with another baby on the way this fall. She was asked how she felt motherhood and being a wife has impacted her as a person, on the court and how it’s made this experience of winning MVP this time different from 2018:

“I think motherhood has given me perspective. And the same of having a wife and having a family is understanding that there’s so many things that happen throughout a basketball game. Good, bad, turnover missed shot and it’s like, “but look at who I get to come home to” and understanding that and wanting to be great for them and show Ruby that if she wants to play basketball someday, then these can be her goals or whatever she wants to do and having that type of approach and perspective. And I think that also comes from coming back from injury. Understanding that you never know when your last moment on the court will be or when you’re going to have to come back from something tremendous and appreciating every second after that.”

It’s great to win and succeed. It’s an even better feeling when you get to do it with your loved ones and make them proud of what you do.