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New York Liberty’s Breanna Stewart Named 2023 WNBA MVP

Photo courtesy of Sarah Stier via Getty Images

The 2023 season marked the beginning of Breanna Stewart’s journey with the New York Liberty which ended successfully with Stewart becoming the WNBA MVP. In her first season with the Liberty, Stewart earned the franchise’s first MVP award and brought the team to the WNBA Finals. Stewart had previously spent seven seasons with the Seattle Storm, winning two WNBA championships. The Liberty forward became the eighth player in league history to win multiple MVP awards, her first coming in 2018 when she was with the Storm. Stewart became the second player to win MVP with multiple franchises and the fourth player to win MVP in their first season with a team.

This MVP race was the closest three-way race in WNBA history. The race was between Stewart, Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas, and Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson. In voting for WNBA MVP 60 sportswriters and broadcasters are selected to rank their top five choices. Players receive 10 points for every first place vote, 7 points for every second place vote, 5 points for every third place vote, 3 points for every fourth place vote, and 1 point for every fifth place vote. 

Stewart won 20 first place votes, 23 second place votes, and 17 first place votes, totalling 446 points. Thomas received 23 first place votes, marking the second time that the MVP runner up has won more first place votes than the winner. Thomas also received 12 second palace votes, and 25 third place votes, totalling 439. Wilson garnered 17 first place votes, 25 second place votes, and 17 third place votes equaling 433 total votes. The 13-point margin between first and third place shows the razor-thin margins between the best of the best of the WNBA, and the ever increasing improvement of the league’s stars. The next closest margin was in 2005 between Candace Parker, Maya Moore, and Elena Delle Donne, with a difference of 45 points.

The high level of excellence with which Stewart has played throughout her career has been present since her youth. Stewart attended high school at Cicero-North Syracuse High School in Cicero New York. Stewart started on the varsity team as an eighth grader, averaging nine points, almost nine rebounds, and seven steals a game. During her freshman year she began averaging 17 points per game and took her team to their regional finals game. Stewart never stopped improving throughout high school; in sophomore year she averaged 22 ppg, and in junior year she averaged 24 points and 15 rebounds per game, and declared her commitment to the University of Connecticut. The game following her commitment she recorded her first ever in-game dunk, and soon after hit 2,000 points. Stewart was then chosen as a member of the 2012 McDonald's All-American team, and played in the 2012 WBCA High School All-America Game. Stewart was also named the 2012 Naismith High School Girls' Player of the Year, and Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year. Stewart was one of six finalists for the Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Hill via the Associated Press

Stewart’s college career was unforgettable as she took UCONN to four consecutive national championships and was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player a record four times. She also earned recognition as the national player of the year three times. 

Her freshman year she started off hot, scoring 169 points in the first 10 games of the season, breaking Maya Moore’s record for points in a player's first 10  career games. She starred in the March Madness tournament, scoring 105 points in the last five games after missing the first round due to injury. She became the first freshman to win the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four since 1987. 

Her sophomore season showed no slowing down as Stewart led the Huskies with 19.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game. Stewart claimed AP Player of the Year and became only the third sophomore to win the title. Junior season Stewart continued her dominance averaging 18.1 points on 53.3 percent shooting, and 10.7 rebounds, and again winning AP Player of the Year.

Stewart’s senior season was sensational as she posted career-high averages in rebounds (8.7 rpg), assists (4.0 apg) and blocks (126), all while shooting 57.9% from the floor. She won her third straight Naismith College Player of the Year award, Wade Trophy, Associated Press Women's College Basketball Player of the Year award, and USBWA Women's National Player of the Year award. Stewart was also voted American Athletic Player of the Year for the third time and a third straight unanimous First-Team All-American in WBCA, USBWA, and AP polls. In her four years at UCONN Stewart won 151 games and only lost 5. She became the first NCAA basketball player to record 400 assists and 400 blocks. She became one of six Huskies with 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, finishing second on UConn's all-time scoring list at 2,676 career points, fourth with 1,179 career rebounds, and first in blocks 414.

When Stewart graduated to the pros she was drafted first overall in the 2016 draft and named 2016 WNBA Rookie of the Year. She was drafted to the Seattle Storm where she dominated for seven seasons, winning league MVP in 2018, and becoming an All-Star in 2017, 2018, 2021, 2022, and 2023. She won championships with the Storm in 2018 and 2020 and won Finals MVP on both occasions. In her first season with the Liberty she was again an All-Star and MVP and once again reached the WNBA Finals, but lost to the Aces.

Stewart lives with her wife, Marta Xargay Casademont, who is pregnant with the couple's second child, and their 2 year old daughter . The couple is expecting their baby in October. Stewart reflected on her journey and her excitement to share her accomplishments with her family: "That's something that is really special to me when I think about it. My first one was in 2018. I was still under my rookie contract and now look to 2023, I'm married to a beautiful wife, have a baby, and we're having another one." Stewart looks to continue building her legacy in New York and hopefully bring home a championship for the Liberty. 

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