Spin Cycle: Former Husky Stewart wins MVP 

Breanna Stewart (30) plays in a game against Notre Dame. She has been named the 2023 Women’s National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player in her first season with the New York Liberty. Photo courtesy of UConn Athletics

UConn basketball legend Breanna Stewart has been named the 2023 Women’s National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player in her first season with the New York Liberty. 

According to ESPN, it was the closest vote between the three MVP award finalists in WNBA history. On a ballot composed by 60 national sportswriters and broadcasters, Stewart wracked up 446 total points while the Connecticut Sun’s Alyssa Thomas finished seven points behind Stewart for second place. The Las Vegas Aces’ A’ja Wilson came in third trailing by 13 points, the fewest points separating the first and third place finishers ever. 

“A tight MVP race is amazing for this league because that means multiple players are being talked about that can do a lot of different things,” Stewart told ESPN

On the campaign, “Stewie” tallied 23.0 points per game, the highest single-season total of her career and the second-highest scoring average in a player’s first season with a new team, according to ESPN. She finished second in the league in both scoring and rebounds averaged, as she pulled down 9.3 rebounds per game. Stewart also dished out 3.8 assists per contest, proving that she is a versatile player on the hardwood. 

According to ESPN, Stewie’s four 40-point games set a WNBA single-season record. That included a 45 point, 12 rebound effort in her first game at Barclays Center in front of the New York City crowd on May 21. She also had three games with 40 points and 10 rebounds this season, also the most in WNBA history. 

Stewart spent the first six seasons of her professional career with the Seattle Storm after the franchise selected her with the No. 1 pick in the 2016 Draft. She found success early in her career, winning the Rookie of the Year award before being named the 2018 MVP. She became a two-time WNBA champion in Seattle, winning the Finals MVP award both times. In addition, she was named to the All-WNBA First Team in four of her six seasons with the franchise. 

Despite her success, anticipation began to mount that Stewie would depart the team that drafted her after becoming a free agent following the 2022 season. She eventually landed with the Liberty in perhaps the biggest free agent signing in league history. According to ESPN, “Stewart was attracted to the franchise’s progressive viewpoints toward the WNBA’s development and playing in the country’s largest sports market, all in hopes that she could help, in her words, push the needle forward.” After a bumpy start with her new team, New York finished the regular season with a 32-8 record, just behind the first-place Aces. The team caught fire after the All-Star break, winning 81.8% of their contests and defeating the Aces in the in-season Commissioner’s Cup championship. Stewart won the Commissioner’s Cup MVP. 

“To be able to come to a franchise like the Liberty and make an impact this quickly, it’s unbelievable. It’s something that is really difficult to do,” Stewart told ESPN. “In the beginning, there were bumps along the way, but we continued to trust the process and grind out wins and do whatever I had to do to help this team get the win.” 

Stewart adds a second MVP award to an already-stacked trophy closet. In addition to her professional accolades, Stewie was a three-time National Player of the Year while attending UConn. She is a four-time NCAA champion and Most Outstanding Player, a two-time EuroLeague champion and Final Four MVP and a two-time Olympic gold medalist. 

“I want to be great every time I step on the floor, and that’s something that I pride myself on in my career, is bringing greatness wherever I am, whether that’s on and off the court,” Stewart told ESPN. “I’m just proud of myself and really want to share this moment with everyone.” 

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