WNBA championship features ‘superteam’ showdown for the ages


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WNBA championship features ‘superteam’ showdown for the ages

TOUGH. New York Liberty forward Breanna Stewart (30) grabs the rebound against Connecticut Sun forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa (10) during the 2023 WNBA playoffs.

David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

New York Liberty’s Breanna Stewart and Las Vegas Aces’ A'ja Wilson, the MVPs in the last two seasons, banner a highly anticipated WNBA title showdown

NEW YORK, USA –  A “superteam” showdown fans were clamoring for tips off on Sunday, October 7, as the defending champion Las Vegas Aces play a New York Liberty team hungry for a maiden major title in the WNBA Finals.

The two sides earned the label “superteam” after amassing some of the league’s top talent in the off-season and ultimately lived up to the hype, with MVP Breanna Stewart leading the Liberty to the Finals for the first time in 21 years.

The No. 1 Aces lost two-time MVP Candace Parker to injury in July, but never missed a beat as last year’s Most Valuable A’ja Wilson propelled Sin City to a WNBA record 34 wins.

“We saw a different level of excitement in the off season this year because of the superteam narrative,” said ESPN commentator and former WNBA All-Star Rebecca Lobo.

“This build started in February and now here we are in October and it’s the two teams that especially the non-WNBA fan has been talking about for the last eight or nine months.”

The WNBA had its most-watched regular season in 21 years and the marquee Aces-Liberty pairing gives the league exactly the buzz it craved as it announced its first expansion team since 2008, a San Francisco Bay Area squad as it was awarded to the Golden State Warriors franchise, on Thursday.

‘Great rivalries’

The best-of-five series starts in Las Vegas, where the Aces welcome the Liberty after slicing through the playoffs, with Wilson in no mood to hand over the title after losing her MVP crown to Stewart.

“This really could become one of those great rivalries,” Lobo told reporters, likening Wilson and Stewart to the bicoastal rivalry between former NBA greats Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

“They’ve been an incredible foil for one another and for their fanbases.”

Wilson has been dominant as ever as she averaged an astonishing 25.8 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks per game during the post-season, and the Aces swept the Chicago Sky and Dallas Wings in the first two rounds.

The Liberty have been buoyed by a standout post-season from 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones but had to fight against a formidable first-round foe in the Washington Mystics before seeing off the Connecticut Sun, 3-1, in a tense semifinal series.

New York coach Sandy Bronello said relief was her primary emotion as the Liberty eked out an 87-84 win in Game 4 against Connecticut.

“We made a few errors, they made some big shots,” she told reporters. “(You) can never get comfortable.”

Brondello, who led the Phoenix Mercury to the title in 2014, will go head-to-head with another of the league’s toughest tacticians, the Aces’ 2022 Coach of the Year Becky Hammon.

Both All-Stars during their playing days, the two are the first former WNBA players to face one another as head coach in the Finals, and Hammon was on the Liberty roster the last time they reached the Finals in 2002.

“The chess match begins now,” Brondello said. “It’s going to be a hard-fought battle. But we’re battle-tested.” – Rappler.com

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