Already one of the most decorated players in women’s basketball history, Breanna Stewart was officially named WNBA MVP on Sunday. Stewart’s Storm earned the No. 1 seed for the WNBA playoffs and currently own a 1-0 lead over Phoenix in the best-of-five Semifinals.
Her journey to the WNBA’s top honor is unique on and off the court. As we celebrate Stewart’s latest accomplishment, here are five things you may not have known about the league’s MVP.
1) Stewart is the only player – male or female – to ever win four straight Most Outstanding Player awards at the Final Four. Stewart led UConn to a historic run of four consecutive titles, which she openly stated was her goal before arriving on campus. When the Huskies defeated Louisville to win the 2013 championship, Stewart became the first freshman since 1987 to earn the MOP award.
Stewart won 120 of her final 121 games at UConn, all 120 wins coming by double digits. In addition to her MOP awards, she also became the first women’s player to win three straight AP Player of the Year honors.
2) Stewart is aided by an incredible 7-foot-1 wingspan. An ESPN Sports Science feature on Stewart determined that the release point of her jump shot is about nine feet, making it nearly impossible for defenders to contest. For comparison, Stewart’s wingspan is longer than that of NBA superstar LeBron James (7 feet).
The lanky Stewart finished her college career as UConn’s all-time leader in blocks (414). She blocked 4.7 shots per 40 minutes during her senior year, which would have ranked better than almost 90 percent of Division I teams. In the WNBA, Stewart has averaged 1.6 blocks and 1.3 steals per game through three seasons.
3) Stewart is already a seven-time gold medalist with USA Basketball. Starting with the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, she and her team have been unstoppable every time she wears USA across her chest. The 24-year-old has been named USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year twice.
Stewart was the youngest player on the 2016 Olympic team, which earned gold without losing a single game in Rio de Janeiro. She became just the fourth WNBA rookie to make the USA’s Olympic team, joining Diana Taurasi (2004), Candace Parker (2008) and Sylvia Fowles (2008). Stewart averaged 8.1 points on 73.3 percent shooting in the 2016 Olympics, pacing the entire tournament in field goal percentage.
4) Stewart improved her ball-handling by dribbling laps around her neighborhood as a kid. Her dad encouraged her to try it, and Stewart began pounding the ball on the pavement around 5th grade. She would switch hands and practice different moves in her Syracuse, New York neighborhood. Now, the 6-foot-4 forward is one of the most versatile players in the WNBA.
5) Stewart’s rookie numbers show she was an MVP-caliber player from day one. She led the entire WNBA in net plus-minus rating that season, and her plus-23.6 rating stands as the second-highest in the past decade (Maya Moore’s 23.9 in 2014). Stewart set a new WNBA record with 277 defensive rebounds as a rookie, surpassing the mark set by legend Lisa Leslie. According to WNBA.com advanced stats, she was third in Estimated Impact behind only the top two vote-getters for MVP, Nneka Ogwumike and Tina Charles.
Stewart finished sixth in the MVP voting as a rookie. Two years later, she is on top of the league and aiming for more hardware in the coming weeks.