From returning from a devastating injury, to leading the Storm to a fourth title and earning Finals MVP honors, to showing unwavering support of Black Lives Matter, Stewart rose to the occasion this year, in so many ways.
What struck me watching Breanna Stewart take the microphone before the first game of the WNBA season was her willingness to step up in that moment.
She could have said no, and no one would have known. She was coming into the season off a torn Achilles tendon, an injury you don’t know how you’ll recover from. But she chose to take on more responsibility.
The WNBA players made sure everyone knew that they were playing for Breonna Taylor every time they went on the court this season, that they were playing to say Black Lives Matter. Honestly, I was in awe the whole time I was in the WNBA bubble in Bradenton, Fla. The players worked to make sure not only that they had a season but also that everyone watching their season knew: This is your place to support Black women, and women, and equality. Watching Stewie stand in front of everyone before that first game and ask for 26 seconds of silence to remember Breonna Taylor, the Black woman who was that age when she was killed by police in her Louisville apartment, was powerful.
Then she went on the court and was a contender for the league’s MVP, won her second championship with the Seattle Storm and became the Finals MVP. I don’t know if you can fully appreciate how difficult it is to accomplish what she did this season. And she did it in classic, effortless Stewie fashion.
I first met her four years ago, after she was drafted to the Storm and around the time I began dating her teammate and my fiancé, Sue Bird. At 6′ 4″, Stewie has always been Ms. Gangles, but she was even more so then, and she was the youngest one on the team. But one thing I’ve always noticed about Stewie is she has this quiet confidence, where she’ll just kind of keep it real all the time. She’s the one who will say what everyone is thinking, and she’ll do it with her patented shoulder shrug and head tilt. It’s so nonchalant—like the way she plays, where everything just seems to slow down for her on the court. Sue has been the face of the Storm, but as Stewie has found her voice over the past four years, I’ve watched her blossom right beside her.