Liberty’s Breanna Stewart narrowly wins WNBA MVP

Liberty’s Breanna Stewart narrowly wins WNBA MVP

For the second time in her career, Breanna Stewart has won the WNBA MVP.

Stewart, who also earned the award in 2018, topped the Connecticut Sun’s Alyssa Thomas (439) and Las Vegas Aces’ A’ja Wilson (433) with 446 voting points, the league announced Tuesday afternoon before Stewart and the Liberty host the Connecticut Sun in Game 2 of their semifinal series at Barclays Center.

Thomas earned more first-place votes, but Stewart’s total points topped the Sun’s forward.

Stewart averaged a career-best 23.0 points per game while adding 9.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.

She’s the first Liberty player to win MVP, as well as the eighth WNBA player to win the award multiple times.

“I think the three of us continue to make one another better, just really having respect for each other’s games,” Stewart said of Thomas and Wilson in an ESPN interview Tuesday. “Obviously, A’ja and AT had tremendous seasons this year and continue to do so year in and year out. 

“And I think that what’s the most exciting part about this is the ability to have more conversations around multiple players and show how great we are at a lot of different things, and continue to use that to amplify the message of the WNBA and where we’re going and to continue to fight for respect and equality.”

Breanna Stewart and Alyssa Thomas finished top two in the WNBA MVP vote.
Breanna Stewart and Alyssa Thomas finished top two in the WNBA MVP vote.USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

The battle for equality served as a prominent storyline throughout Stewart’s free agency sweepstakes.

She advocated for charter flights throughout the entire WNBA, while also continuing her push for gender equality that dated back to her 2016 ESPYs speech.

When Stewart ultimately signed with the Liberty in February, she became the foundational piece of their superteam.

She joined Jonquel Jones — acquired via trade — and later Courtney Vandersloot as new pieces of a group that won 32 games, took the Commissioner’s Cup for the franchise’s first title and set a team record for wins in a single season with their 24th victory.

Stewart, the former UConn star who’d already made four All-Star appearances across her six-year career, continued advancing her individual legacy, too.

She set the league’s single-season record for points, though the Seattle Storm’s Jewell Loyd eventually surpassed that mark before the season ended — with Loyd’s 939 narrowly topping Stewart’s 919.

“I think that Year 8 in the league for me, in the WNBA, and I want to continue to be great and bring greatness wherever I am,” Stewart said during her ESPN interview, “and that’s a standard that I set for myself, and making sure that I do that.”

Stewart set Liberty record after Liberty record throughout the season, and while Vandersloot became the facilitator and Sabrina Ionescu became the 3-point specialists, Stewart, 29, became the link that helped make the spacing and movement principles of Sandy Brondello’s offense operate efficiently.

Breanna Stewart celebrates a basket with Sabrina Ionescu.
Breanna Stewart celebrates a basket with Sabrina Ionescu.Getty Images

Her scoring bursts exceeded 40 points in four games. In June, she also became the fastest WNBA player to score 4,000 points.

Stewart called this recent stretch a “rollercoaster of a journey” Tuesday.

Her wife, Marta Xargay Casademont, is expecting their second child, and Stewart added that this will be the first time that their 2-year-old daughter, Ruby, can watch Stewart accept an MVP award. 

The only thing that made her cross-country transition smooth was the people around her, Stewart said Tuesday. Seattle to New York — the Storm to the Liberty — reflected a massive transition. 

But then those emotions turned to excitement. The Liberty kept winning games. Stewart’s mid-career leap, perhaps daunting at first, started to pay dividends. 

“She embraces the pressure,” Brondello said Sept. 7. “I think she embraces the opportunity to have greatness, because she’s great. She’s a great player. We already know that. But I still think there’s a ceiling for her, that she’s gonna get better and better.”