Breanna Stewart picked up her daughter, Ruby, and had a few special words to say to the 2-year-old in front of everyone in the interview room Tuesday night at Barclays Center.
“To be a role model to you, Ruby, is really what keeps me going,” Stewart told her after being presented with a coveted trophy from WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “And today you get to see your mommy win MVP.”
Stewart, 29, won her first MVP award with Seattle in 2018.
She received this one in front of family and teammates before the Liberty’s win over Connecticut in Game 2 of the semifinals.
Stewart said she’s “proud” to be the first Liberty player to win MVP in their 27-year history.
A lot has changed since the last season she won.
“I was thinking about it a little bit and the last time that I won this award comparing to now —Obviously, being married, having a baby, expecting another one on the way, rupturing my Achilles,” Stewart said.
“It’s been a roller coaster of a journey, but I wouldn’t wish it to be any other way. Just to continue to show that resiliency works, and no matter the highs and the lows, you just continue to keep pushing forward.”
“And to be the first Liberty athlete to win an MVP, I think it’s huge . . . I’m proud to be the first.”
The vote by a national panel of sports writers and broadcasters was close.
Stewart, who’s also a two-time Finals MVP, claimed 20 first-place votes, 23 seconds and 17 thirds and finished with 446 total points.
Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas received more first-place votes, taking 23. But she finished seven points behind Stewart at 439. So this marked the second-closest finish ever.
Las Vegas Aces center A’ja Wilson, the 2022 MVP, came in third with 433 points.
There were 10 points awarded for a first-place vote, seven for a second, five for a third, three for a fourth and one for a fifth.
“Stewie’s first season with the New York Liberty has been nothing short of historic on every level,” GM Jonathan Kolb said. “The constant resiliency, belief, selflessness, toughness and professionalism she has brought to the Liberty on a nightly basis is an incredibly rare combination — culminating in such a special season, both personally and collectively.”
After signing with the Liberty as a free agent following her six seasons and two championships with the Storm, Stewart became the driving force behind the winningest regular season in franchise history at 32-8, good for the second seed.
“We’re very happy to have her in New York,” coach Sandy Brondello said. “We wouldn’t be here today [without her].”
The 6-4 Stewart finished second in the league in scoring at 23 points per game, placed third in rebounding at 9.3 and fourth in blocks at 1.57. She also averaged a career-high 3.8 assists and hit 35.5% of her three-point tries.
SheStewart set a Liberty record for points in a season with 919 — second in league history — and a franchise single-season record with 371 rebounds. She also set a league record with four games of at least 40 points and tied another with five games of at least 35.
Certainly, there was satisfaction for her. Stewart cited the ability “to come out every single night from 2018 to now 2023 and know that the body of work that I put in is undeniable, and making sure I have that to fall back on every single night and believing and knowing that I’m great and showing everyone what greatness is.”