Liberty’s Commissioner’s Cup Triumph supports Tsais’ history-making vision for New York franchise

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

While one of the three signature colors of this version of New York Liberty basketball is black, it can still feel like yesterday when the Liberty were mired in the dark days of playing at Westchester County Center and losing more than winning. 

On some occasions, it can feel as if those days of New York consistently being in the loss column ought to have been as recent as yesterday. On other occasions – particularly this season – we have seen the Liberty be at its best and it conjures up memories of the vast majority of the franchise’s history as perennial winners. 

The Liberty’s recent triumph in this year’s Commissioner’s Cup over the Las Vegas Aces is obviously more latter than former. The latest contest between the two so-called superteams emanated from the Aces’ home court of Michelob Ultra Arena. 

New York triumphed over Las Vegas by a final score of 82-63. Fittingly, the woman who won Commissioner’s Cup MVP was one of the Lib’s most recent acquisitions in Jonquel Jones, who is beginning to find her footing in Brooklyn. 

Jones finished the contest with a double-double of 16 points and 15 rebounds. Marine Johannes led the Liberty’s scoring charge with a 17 point performance. It was a 13-point, seven rebound performance for Breanna Stewart and a 12-point, eight rebound outing for Sabrina Ionescu. Courtney Vandersloot also finished with a double-double of 11 points plus 10 rebounds. 

Jackie Young was the Aces’ leading scorer with 16 points plus four rebounds while Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray each finished with 15. Plum’s also came with six assists. Gray’s came with six boards and five dimes. 

But here is a statistic more significant than anything listed on the stat sheet for that game…

Callen-Lorde is a New York City-based health entity that specifically serves to improve the health and well-being of the LGBTQ+ community. Given all of the vile attacks this community has endured lately, it needs all of the support it can get. 

Last month when we were at the All-Star Game in Las Vegas, we asked Ionescu about if she felt the Liberty had found their footing at that point in the season. New York suffered a disastrous defeat at the Washington Mystics to open the 2023 campaign only to go into the All-Star break with a 14-4 mark. 

We asked Ionescu about where she felt New York was at the midway point of the season during her media availability at All-Star.

I think for us…we haven’t really let external pressure creep in. I think for us, it’s just giving ourselves grace in the process of continuing to build chemistry and building what it is what we want to build in New York. And there’s obviously highs and lows of every season and I think for us it’s just not getting too high or too low and controlling the controllables and everything else will take care of itself.” 

–Sabrina Ionescu, New York Liberty

The Liberty are not simply any WNBA franchise. It is the league’s flagship franchise not to mention one of the W’s original eight franchises. 

But unlike the other original franchises that are still around today – including the Aces (Utah Starzz), Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury, the Liberty have yet to win a WNBA championship. New York has been to four Finals in its history, but none since 2002 and the lone win in a Finals game for the Liberty occurred in the 1999 Finals vs. the Houston Comets. 

When Joe and Clara Wu Tsai bought the franchise and rescued them from the clutches of James Dolan and MSG, the vision was clear. Give the Liberty the top-notch venue that is Barclays Center for its games. 

Invest real money into making the Liberty’s product the envy of the WNBA – including training facilities. 

And ultimately bring the franchise its first-ever WNBA championship. 

The Liberty’s triumph over the Aces in the Commissioner’s Cup Final is another step in the vision of the franchise being fulfilled. New York has had the sort of season one would expect from a team whose front office pulled off landing three of the league’s premier players in JJ, Stewie and Sloot over the offseason. 

This timeline of WNBA basketball will see the Liberty and Aces do battle on many occasions over the next few seasons – and there is a high possibility we will see both teams qualify for this year’s WNBA Finals. Given how much of a basketball town Gotham is and the significance of the Liberty chasing its first ring, expect for the Tri-State area from Newark to Westchester rally around this team like never before. 

If one thought the celebration following a victory in a mid-season tournament was one, imagine what that same celebration would be like at Atlantic & Flatbush following a New York Liberty WNBA championship. 

Not to mention a parade down Lower Manhattan’s famed Canyon of Heroes. Or should we say…Canyon of Heroines.