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The Seattle Storm has defended their 2020 championship so far wonderfully. They have a 16-5 record that broke them in the first place during the Olympics. The excellent play of their big three (Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird) paved the way because Loyd and Bird exceeded expectations while Stewart was her MVP level herself. They have formed an amazing trio of all time that has risen to new heights this year, heights that are worth noticing and feasting on because we do not know how long we are going to see it.
Bird, at age 40, has performed better in some categories than she has ever done because of the incredible work she has done with Susan Borchardt, the performance improvement specialist. If age is just a number, we can see Bird ignoring it and playing beyond this season. But retirement at this point will always be in conversation with her, so it’s worth taking a while to appreciate her late career in a dynasty with a fellow UConn superstar and a mamba, who both was taken under her wing.
The Storm’s big try starts with Stewie, which alone arouses the admiration of fans around the world. She is the best female player on the sphere and at the age of 26 (still not 27, though it comes very close!), there are more excellent WNBA years ahead of her than behind her. Her performance at the university set a precedent when she led the 2013-’16 UConn Huskies to the only four-turf in NCAAW history and has already won the outstanding player four times. Her skills have become even stronger at the pro level. She can score tries, handle the ball, drive and finish with pole motions, all at 6-foot-4. She does it with an agility that sometimes seems effortless. She was the 2018 WNBA MVP and finished as the runner-up last year after stepping out in 2019 with a torn Achilles.
2021 was just more the same Stewie.
Stewart opened the season with 28 points and 13 rebounds in a win over the team that beat Seattle in the final of the Las Vegas Aces. Vegas was preferred to win the game because it loaded talent in the off-season. Stewart follows with 26 points and 11 rebounds in the second game of the season and goes for 36 and 11 with five blocks against Dallas Wings in the fourth game, a 100-97. win overtime. She scored 20 out of 21 times in double digits, 20 times 11 times and 30 times twice. She also recorded a second five-block game.
Stewart was, as expected, right there in the MVP discussion. Although many feel that Jonquel Jones can currently have the lead over her, and although Tina Charles of the Washington Mystics has a chance to achieve the league’s average record, Stewart is the only player of the three who has played in more than 75 percent has (in her case already) some of her team’s games and be in a winning team at the same time. She is third in the league to score 20.6 points per game (behind Charles and Jones) and fifth in rebounds per game with 9.6. She is also fourth in blocks per game with 1.7.
Even if she does not win the MVP award this year, it’s just Stewart’s legacy to just be in the conversation again. Remember, Diana Taurasi is considered the BOK and she has won the award only once.
Just as big as Stewart was, the Storm would not be in the first place without the efforts of Loyd and Bird. No one chose the Storm to be in first place before the season started, and some did not even have it in second, third or even fourth place. That they are currently the best team in the WNBA is proof of Loyd’s growth and Bird playing as if she were still 25.
Loyd, nicknamed the “Golden Mamba” by the late, great Kobe Bryant, was more mamba in 2021 at the age of 27 than ever before. She is the best shooting guard in the WNBA and brings a large number of dribbling, driving and finishing moves making her a dangerous 1-on-1 player.
Stewart may have the highest ceiling in the league as far as the column is concerned, but as his points accumulate within the offense, Loyd is always there to create her own shot at broken plays. The two have existed brilliantly this season and the often overshadowed Loyd deserves her flowers.
Loyd was best known this season for her play in the crunch era. After you have the biggest shot of the 2020 regular season, Loyd followed with an ultra-clutch 2021.
She made her distinctive recording of the season on June 4, a solemn try at the buzz of overtime to defeat the wings. In addition to her clutch performances, Loyd has put up incredible numbers. She scored 20 points in three of her first four games of the season and was on course to smash her career high until recently. It penetrated her MVP discussions, as if one MVP candidate in the team is not enough. She is more like a second Batman than a Robin at this point and she still scores an impressive 17.5 points and a career-best 4.2 assists.
Bird, of course, is still the emotional leader of the team and it was a feel-good story to see her field goal and three-point shooting percentages skyrocket to the best of her career earlier in the season. She was one of the best 3-point shooters in the WNBA this year (currently seventh at 43.5 percent) and is tied with 50 makes. She just showed no signs of slowing down her overall game, though her numbers dropped to 10.9 points and 5.5 assists per game from higher averages earlier in the season.
Bird also went on to climb the all-time list and take second place 3 points made and sixth in marks this year. She has been a favorite at WNBA for so long and has scored at least 9.8 points and four assistants in all 18 of her seasons in the league, winning four championships with the Storm (2004, 2010, 2018 and 2020). She has, of course, teamed up with the legendary Lauren Jackson, who may be the the second best player in WNBA history, if not the first, in 2004 and 2010. Now she’s going to be considered for the most part a sports dynasty (three championships in four years) with Stewart and Loyd. She said on Storm media the next day before the season started:
I’m definitely on record saying ‘you never forget your first’, so the 2004 Storm Championship will always stand out. But I also understand how hard it is to come back. And that silence between 2010 and 18, I really thought I would never come back. To be back, to be able to win twice, I think this last part of my career will also occupy a special place. Similar to the first, maybe even more, I do not know. ”
This current piece, which began when Stewart was drafted in 2016, will definitely occupy a special place in the hearts of Storm fans, and we’ll see if the big three can conquer an even more important place in WNBA history.