By Doug Fienberg, Associated Press
Breanna Stewart could not turn down the opportunity to play in New York and possibly help Liberty win their first WNBA championship.
The season’s hottest free agent, who won the WNBA MVP award in 2018, announced on social media that she was going to New York with a photo of herself in a Liberty jersey on Wednesday. Stewart has spent her entire career in Seattle since the Storm drafted her first overall in 2016. She won two championships with the team in 2018 and 2020.
“I decided to go to New York because I wanted to continue to be great. And I wanted to go to the place where I think I can help this league become better, raise the bar,” Stewart said in an interview on ESPN. starring them.”
The 28-year-old winger averaged 20.3 points and 8.6 rebounds in her WNBA career. She missed the 2019 season due to an Achilles tendon injury.
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“New York is a basketball city and I can’t wait to be a part of it,” Stewart said.
Coming to New York brings Stewart closer to home. I grew up in Syracuse, an hour’s flight from New York. It is also the easiest flight to Spain to see his wife Marta’s family.
New York reps, including trainer Sandy Brondello and co-owner Clara Wu Tsai, met Stewart in Turkey last week. Stewart had narrowed her choices down to Seattle and New York before choosing Liberty.
This move turns Liberty into an immediate championship contender. New York is one of the original franchises of the WNBAs, but has never won a championship. Liberty has already added 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones and Kayla Thornton via a three-way deal to supplement 2020 first draft pick Sabrina Ionescu.
“I think this group has a lot of potential, a lot of great players,” Stewart said. “Selflessness helps us distinguish ourselves from everyone else.”
The news was met with elation on social media by Jones, Ionescu and Nets star Kevin Durant, who said on a podcast that he reached out to Stewart to get her to come to New York.
Stewart was the second big-name free agent to announce her intention to play for another team this season. Candace Parker said last weekend that she would sign with the Las Vegas Aces and she officially did so on Wednesday.
“When I go through free agency this time, I’m of course thinking about where I can compete for my third championship, but the words home and family are what I kept coming back to,” Parker said. “After assessing the landscape with my family, we have decided that the Las Vegas Aces are the right organization for us at this point in our lives. Playing in a tournament close to home is the perfect situation for us. I look forward to continuing the journey this summer in Las Vegas.”
Wednesday was the first day free agents could sign with teams. Among the other moves announced:
• Brittney Sykes with Washington
• Lexi Brown and Stephanie Talbot in Los Angeles
• Tierra McEwan with Dallas
• Alicia Clark from Las Vegas
Many free agents were waiting for Stewart to make her decision, including Courtney Vandersloot.
Vandersloot announced on social media late Tuesday night that she will not be returning to Chicago, where she has spent her entire career. She led the league in touchdowns in six over her 12-year career and helped the Sky win the 2021 WNBA Championship.
“To the Sky organization who molded the Junior Ranger out of a mediocre student and believed in me from the jump, I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Vandersloot wrote on Instagram. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I made my dreams come true because of you. Although I didn’t plan for this day to come, I decided it was time to pursue a fresh start.”
Stewart and Vandersloot currently play together in Turkey.
Stewart said, “My message to Sloot is that she knows I love playing with her, but I will support her in whatever decision she makes. Free agency is tough. It’s been a soulful game for everyone. It’s not just basketball these decisions are made in the back. It’s life.”
While Stewart and Vandersloot will play for different WNBA teams this season, Brittney Griner, also a free agent, announced in December when she returned home from her 10-month ordeal in Russia that she plans to stay with the Phoenix Mercury. Longtime Mercury teammate Diana Taurasi is also a free agent, but she is also expected to return to Phoenix.