Has anyone noticed that virtually every sports team representing the country’s largest city appears to be in the throes of winning ways?
The New York Jets finally landed their quarterback for the next … we guess couple of years at most with Aaron Rodgers and Jets fans for the first time in a long time are thinking Super Bowl. The New York Knicks have advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs. It is the first time since 2013 that the Knicks have won a playoff series even though the Knickerbockers dropped Game 1 of its second-round series with the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden.
At least one team from the New York metropolitan area is slated to advance in the NHL’s Eastern Conference playoffs. The New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils are tied at 3-3 as of this writing. The New York Islanders also qualified for this year’s NHL postseason but recently lost to the Carolina Hurricanes.
How the 2023 seasons will unfold for baseball’s New York Mets and Yankees is yet to be seen. As of this writing, the Metropolitans are in second place in the National League East behind the Atlanta Braves and the Bronx Bombers are in fourth place in the American League East with the Tampa Bay Rays perched atop that division.
But all of the sporting hoop-la that has engulfed Tri-State that is sure to translate to a certain seafoam, black and copper-colored franchise with its home base at Atlantic and Flatbush.
Following the last few seasons that have seen the New York Liberty conclude seasons with very unLiberty-esque losing records, 2023 will almost assuredly be different for the Lib. The team managed to qualify for the playoffs the last couple of seasons, but after the moves that were made by general manager Jonathan Kolb in the offseason, a championship is now the goal in Brooklyn.
Breanna Stewart finally put the rest all the speculation regarding her future throughout the past year and joined the Liberty following an illustrious career with the Seattle Storm where she won two WNBA championships. She also won Finals MVP honors on both occasions – in 2018 and in 2020 in the bubble.
Trading for Jonquel Jones was the first sign that the Liberty were done playing nice. Jones is a former league MVP and was the major catalyst behind the Connecticut Sun’s two Finals runs (in 2019 and 2022) during the Curt Miller era. Landing Jones also was a sign that the Liberty were getting real about addressing a glaring weakness throughout the team’s recent seasons – interior presence.
It was also well-known in league circles that Stewie and Courtney Vandersloot were likely a package deal. The veteran star point guard, whose career has been synonymous with the Chicago Sky, was a major factor in the Sky’s run to the 2021 WNBA championship. Sloot will be sporting New York’s colors this season and she and Stewie were introduced by the Liberty at the same press conference.
Sabrina Ionescu had a career season in 2022 – the sort of campaign many a women’s hoops pundit expected her to have when she first entered the league in 2020. Ionescu averaged 17.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game and also was named to last season’s All-Star Game.
A key question of the ambitious free agency that the Liberty successfully pull off was how New York could land Stewie, Jones and Sloot and still keep Betnijah Laney given the salary cap ramifications. The Liberty did just that and she also is another important piece to what will be a winning New York puzzle in 2023.
It has been a common topic of conversation within WNBA circles that the next few seasons are sure to see the Lib and Las Vegas Aces emerge as the class of the W. A New York run to a WNBA championship would be additionally special given it is the only one of the remaining Original Eight W teams that has yet to hoist a championship trophy, but it appears the Canyon of Heroes is finally in the future of the team that occupies the W’s flagship market.
It would also be euphoric for many Lib Loyals given it feels like yesterday that the team went through the turbulent 2018 and 2019 seasons. Those, of course, saw James Dolan and MSG shove the team into the Westchester County Center before they were rescued by Clara Wu and Joe Tsai prior to the 2019 season. The team was moved to a real basketball arena – Barclays Center – where the Liberty staged its first full season in Brooklyn in 2021 as the panic over the pandemic began to dissipate.
The Tsais have made Brooklyn an attractive landing spot for WNBA players – particularly with the building of brand new, state-of-the-art facilities at Barclays Center. WNBA players see the Tsais and Mark Davis at the Aces as owners willing to invest real money into their products – why it should not be viewed as a coincidence as to why so many free agents had either Sin City or The City at the top of their wish lists.
With all of this winning New York teams have been doing lately, one would think one of these teams would experience championship euphoria in their respective leagues. NYCFC was the last major Gotham sports team to claim a professional sports championship when it won an MLS Cup in 2021. In 2023, Seafoam SZN finally could be Championship SZN as New York looks to Show Up and make a Liberty Loud statement by Owning their Crowns as queens of the WNBA.