You can be sad about Breanna Stewart leaving the Storm. But don’t be mad. | Storm

You can be sad about Breanna Stewart leaving the Storm. But don’t be mad. | Storm

You may be disappointed, maybe even depressed, but you shouldn’t be angry.

You can mourn the departure of perhaps the best player in the WNBA, but it would be a mistake to disparage him.

Free forward Breanna Stewart leaves the Storm and signs with the New York Liberty, ending a seven-year relationship with Seattle that produced two championships and a list of individual accolades. And while fans may feel sad, they shouldn’t feel rejected — Stewie delivered just about everything diehards could have hoped for.

The Storm picking Stewart first overall in the 2016 draft almost instantly reinvigorated the franchise. One of, if not the greatest, college basketball players of all time teamed up with established legend Sue Bird and upstart guard Jewell Loyd, the first pick in the previous draft.

Three years after finishing with the WNBA’s worst record, the Storm clinched a league title in 2018, when Stewart won the regular season and Finals MVP awards. They won it all again two years later (Stewart missed the 2019 season with a torn Achilles), as she won the Finals MVP once again.

Seattle has also been competitive in each of the past two seasons and likely would have knocked out eventual champion Las Vegas if it hadn’t let Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals slip away in the last second. And although Bird was the fan favorite, Stewart was the engine – dominating the WNBA in all advanced stats, even if she didn’t bring home individual material every year.

Lead your team to a championship in 20 years, you become a franchise legend (see: Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas). Take it to two over seven and you’re in more genteel territory.

Yet, as impactful as Stewart was to the storm, and as much as she seemed to embrace the city, she had a wandering eye. Two seasons ago, she sparked speculation about her long-term loyalty to Seattle when she met Liberty owners and head coach. She’s originally from Syracuse, New York, after all, and spent four years at UConn. She’s from the east coast. It was reasonable to think that she would want to return to the East Coast (though Bird, a New York native and UConn product, never left Emerald City).

But there are probably more tangible reasons than the simple desire to be close to home. ESPN reported that charter flights were a factor in Stewart wanting to wear a New York uniform. Chartering has been a point of contention between several players, and although the Liberty were fined $500,000 for it, they broke the rules of the negotiation agreement by having their flights chartered last season. .

More than the potential comfort in the air, though, it’s the company Stewart would have on the pitch. Bird retired from the WNBA, so the allure of returning to one of the greatest point guards of all time is gone. And the Liberty can sport the best point guard playing today in Sabrina Ioenescu, who averaged 17.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 2022. More importantly, they picked up the 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones in a trade with the Connecticut Sun in January. The team also plays in a city with a population of over eight million, which seemed important to Stewie (even though Storm attendance is nearly double that of Liberty).

“I wonder why not go to the biggest market in all of sports,” Stewart told SportsCenter on Wednesday. “And I’m really excited to go after their first championship.”

I think what the Storm crowd will be like when Stewart returns to Climate Pledge Arena, imagining the reception to be somewhere between Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner returning to Lumen Field. Wilson, who made his way out of Seattle with two years left on his recording contract, was booed emphatically. Wagner, who was released after 10 years in Seattle, had his name chanted in the stadium.

Stewart is somewhere in between. Took his team to the top of the mountain and never asked for his approval – but didn’t want to end his career in Seattle. You don’t have to be happy about it. It’s just hard to be angry.

Championships are extremely difficult to obtain. The Mariners haven’t won a World Series in their 46 seasons and the Seahawks needed nearly 40 to win their first Super Bowl.

Stewart brought two titles to this city. It should be celebrated, not despised.

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