Unfinished Business – a must-see film documenting rise of WNBA, NY Liberty

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

Following a slow 1-7 start to the 2022 WNBA season, the W’s flagship franchise – the New York Liberty – appear to be hitting a stride.

Fortunes have turned in the right direction for the seafoam, black and copper as the Liberty currently stand at 6-9 after going 5-2 in its last seven games. New York almost went 5-1 in those last six following what nearly was a huge upset of the defending champion Chicago Sky at Barclays Center.

While the Lib have experienced its fair share of on-court victories lately, the Liberty picked up an off-court victory recently at the Tribeca Film Festival this week.

That victory came in the form of the new Unfinished Business documentary that premiered. Following the initial screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, a second screening of the film is scheduled for the 16th. In addition, the film will screen virtually until this Friday.

It is directed by Alison Klayman, a much-renowned director who has particularly made a name for herself over the years in the realm of independent film. Among her resume includes films about the fateful 2016 presidential election. Earlier this year, she also released a film called “White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch” that examines the business practices of the teen clothing outlet which reached its peak around the turn of the century in the 2000s. The A&F documentary was released via Netflix.

The documentary chronicles the rise of the WNBA, the rise of the Liberty and particularly New York’s 2021 season. It was the first full-time post-bubble season for the team under the new ownership of Joe and Clara Wu Tsai and the first full-time season for New York at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

It was also as roller-coaster a season as there could be for a WNBA team. The Liberty began the 2021 campaign with one of the league’s best records and were a near playoff lock at the time of the Olympic break. New York was led that season with a young core that included Betnijah Laney, DiDi Richards and 2021 Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere.

A second-half lull nearly cost the Liberty a berth in the playoffs before a victory over the Washington Mystics in the 2021 season finale all but clinched a berth to the postseason for New York – its first since 2017 when the Liberty last hooped at Madison Square Garden under the James Dolan umbrella. The Liberty then nearly upset eventual Finals participants Phoenix Mercury in the first round of the playoffs.

In addition to a look at the current crop of Liberty stars, it also took a trip down memory lane and reflected on those greats that defined Liberty basketball in its outset. Those included Rebecca Lobo, Kym Hampton and, of course, Teresa Weatherspoon.

Interestingly enough, the documentary was also released during Pride Month – an occasion that the WNBA and Liberty have completely embraced. For the team and the league, though, this was not always the case as it is today.

In fact, the WNBA’s early marketing efforts, as has been discussed in many a column this month, all but shied away from advertising to the LGBTQIA+ community. In addition, the Liberty were one of the teams (along with the Minnesota Lynx and Indiana Fever) at the forefront of the on-court protests that occurred following the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

While the WNBA initially condemned the protests, eventually it was in those protests where the league began to find itself as the progressive change agent it is today as opposed to simply being another sports business.

Unfinished Business is a perfect name for a Liberty documentary because of what Sabrina Ionescu has mentioned in many an interview – her desire to bring a championship to Gotham. Despite the Liberty’s storied history, a championship and a ticker tape parade down New York City’s hallowed Canyon of Heroes is the only accomplishment missing for the WNBA’s flagship franchise.

New York has found stability and newfound legitimacy under the ownership of the Tsai family and with its new full-time home of Barclays Center. Perhaps Atlantic and Flatbush will soon be where the third of the three remaining original eight franchises finally reaches the top of the WNBA’s lofty mountain.