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What's Your Deal

Get to Know the New York Liberty, So You Can Sound Cool & Knowledgable While They Crush the WNBA Finals

"Did you know backup center Stefanie Dolson's family goes back in New York State to before the Revolutionary War? Bet you didn't! I am soooo wise."

Sabrina Ionescu says “give the haters my regards.” (Brandon Todd/New York Liberty)

Greetings fellow WNBA fans. First things first, we have always been fans of the WNBA, and more specifically the New York Liberty. We have never slacked in our attention nor strayed from the course, we have hung tight with them through years both lean and leaner and we want to be abundantly clear an article like this is somewhat below us. But nevertheless, it wouldn't hurt to just do a brief refresher on New York's best professional sports team (by a fucking mile these days), and make sure that we're considered knowledgeable and wise about all things Liberty as we head into the WNBA finals this weekend, where our kickass team will face off against the hated and fearsome Las Vegas Aces (our enmity towards them is so fucking pure). 

So let's make like Ellie the Elephant and get down to it. 

I would never need to ask something as basic like this, but you know, while I'm here…the Liberty are…..

Our sole WNBA team! They are one of the initial 1996 WNBA teams and have been just as star-crossed as their male counterparts for most of their existence, mostly due to the putrid ownership of Knicks owner James Dolan who didn't care much for them, had them play in White Plains for a few years, and entrusted their fate to his widely disliked, bonehead friends (like Isiah Thomas). The vibes were bad. 

But in 2019, Nets owner Joe Tsai bought the Liberty, moved them to Brooklyn, gave them a cool new logo, spent money (but not a whole lot, because WNBA players are paid terribly for their skill level) on free agents and facilities for the team. Along with his wife Clara Wu, the Liberty were no longer treated like an unwanted stepchild. After the pandemic "Wubble" and a few shaky pandemic seasons, 2023 was the year that the Liberty were finally ready to make their mark. 

So what happened during the regular season?

We kicked ass, that's what. After an off-season that saw the Liberty sign or trade for two former MVP's (Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones), a veteran point guard (Courtney Vandersloot), and retain their budding young stars (Betnijah Laney and Sabrina Ionescu), the Liberty were set up to dominate—and that they did! They went 32-8 during the regular season and set a blistering pace for three-point shots, along with rebounding domination. Breanna Stewart cruised to a Most Valuable Player award as the Liberty looked basically unstoppable through several stretches of the season, blowing out opponents or toying with lesser teams before overcoming large deficits in the final minutes, showing that the Liberty didn't even really need to play a full forty minutes to win. They loved to move the ball, shot from anywhere past half court, and defended tenaciously (when they felt like it). They truly were the sum of their very good parts and the Barclays Center responded in kind—it was a summer of good vibes for the Liberty. 

That's great to hear! I mean uhhh, great to remember..because I was totally following along and in attendance! Remind me about the playoffs? 

Oh, those. Well, I wrote a little about that on Monday, but the Liberty didn't play very well. No matter! Because through sheer will and elbows they were able to dispatch of the lesser Washington Mystics and the absolutely cursed-by-God Connecticut Sun to set up the fated matchup against the Las Vegas Aces in the finals. 

Las Vegas…Aces? 

Hate them, fear them, but most importantly: Respect them. The Aces (formerly the Utah Starzz, the San Antonio Silver Stars, the San Antonio Stars, and then the Aces in the blasted sand hell of Las Vegas), are the reigning WNBA champions and are coached by former Liberty star and all around seething basketball nut Becky Hammon. 

On the floor they're led by two-time WNBA MVP A'ja Wilson (who easily could have won her third this year) and sharpshooter guard Kelsey Plum and they're battle-tested and good as hell. That being said, the Liberty and the Aces split their season series, and they're pretty evenly matched. The Liberty did absolutely demolish them in a very silly mid-season game that did not count, so technically the Liberty have defeated them three times already, which is important because…..the WNBA finals are best of five. 

Ok, enough about the Aces, tell me more about the Liberty! Who are the people I need to know (again, I already know them haha, but you know, just a reminder)?

It all starts and ends with….Breanna Stewart. 

"Stewie," the Syracuse native and two-time WNBA MVP came to New York in a free agent signing this off-season and has Kevin Durant-like abilities to make all matchups meaningless, as she can just as easily blow by you for a layup, spot up for a deep three, or pull up for a jumper in the lane. Most importantly however, like a true New Yorker, she loves riding the subway!

So if you're lucky, you might even run into her on the train just a few days before the biggest games in the Liberty's history!

But let's not forget the other big acquisition this off-season—Jonquel Jones. 

The former Connecticut Sun center asked out of Connecticut (who wouldn't?) this off-season after six seasons and an MVP award, landing with the Liberty this January. Jones, freed up from having to bear much of the scoring load, instead just dominated this season on the boards and the defensive end, creating a "no-go zone" for would-be opposing drivers, between herself and Stewie. Also, Jones, like a lot of WNBA players, plays overseas during the off-season, and as a result, collected Bosnian citizenship and now plays for the Bosnian national team! Wild!

While Jones and Stewart are the linchpins of the team, the rest of the starting five is filled out with three equally important players. 

There's Betnijah Laney, the versatile shooting guard who hustles non-stop and is a stand-out fan favorite, the homegrown sharpshooter Sabrina Ionescu who is also very good off-the-ball and set the WNBA record for three pointers in a single season this year, and the cagey veteran Courtney Vandersloot, who runs the offense, sets the pace, and calms everyone down when they get a little too excited about being so damn good. 

The Liberty run their starting five out for pretty much the entire game during the playoffs, so it's extra credit to learn some of the bench crew, but because she rules, keep an eye out for the ever-dependable Stefanie Dolson—a Hudson Valley ICON (her family goes back generations and generations in the area and her jersey is retired at Minisink High School). Earlier this season, Dolson, who is not a shooter, went off one night against the Los Angeles Sparks, drained FIVE straight three-pointers, and single-handedly won the game for the rest of her team, who were all playing poorly. Queen! 

Oh, also, I'm forgetting the #1 important Liberty person—Ellie the Elephant! The new mascot, unveiled in 2021, is the true MVP. 

Look at this shit!

Wait, why is it an elephant? 

Ellie is an elephant because as a test of strength of the Brooklyn Bridge, P.T. Barnum marched elephants from Manhattan to Brooklyn but ALSO, who cares. 

Ok, I'm all up to speed (as I always was). When does this all start? 

THIS Sunday at 3 p.m. in Las Vegas, but game three is in Brooklyn next Sunday the 15th and there are still tickets! For the first time all season, every seat in Barclays is up for sale (usually the top levels are blocked off), so it's going to be crazy and LOUD. 

L-I-B-E-R-T-Y! *Twerking Elephant*

Hell Gate will see you there. 

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