Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart added to her extensive trophy collection Tuesday with her second WNBA title and WNBA Finals MVP award — all by age 26, which she turned in August.
Stewart had 26 points and four rebounds Tuesday as the No. 2-seeded Storm completed a sweep of the No. 1-seeded Las Vegas Aces with a 92-59 victory at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The 33-point margin of victory was the largest in WNBA Finals history.
Stewart was the unanimous choice for MVP. Only four other players besides Stewart have won two Finals MVP awards: Houston’s Cynthia Cooper, Los Angeles‘ Lisa Leslie, Phoenix‘s Diana Taurasi and Minnesota‘s Sylvia Fowles.
Stewart, who shot 10-of-14 from the floor Tuesday, had her sixth consecutive WNBA Finals game with at least 20 points. That is the longest such streak in history, passing Cynthia Cooper, who had five in a row for Houston between 1997-99, and Angel McCoughtry, who had five straight for Atlanta from 2010 to 2011.
The 6-foot-4 forward Stewart averaged 19.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists in the regular season. In the postseason, those numbers were 25.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
Stewart was the No. 1 draft pick out of UConn in 2016 after winning four consecutive NCAA titles for the Huskies. She was Rookie of the Year that WNBA season, and she was a league champion in 2018, her third year.
A year ago, though, Stewart was watching the WNBA Finals while rehabbing an Achilles tendon injury she sustained in April 2019 while playing overseas. It was the first serious injury of her career, which at that point included not just her success in college and the WNBA, but also gold medals in the 2016 Olympics and 2018 FIBA Women’s World Cup.
Stewart first returned to action in late January 2020 in an exhibition with the U.S. national team. Then she went back overseas to play until the COVID-19 pandemic cut short her European season. Stewart was ready to go for the 2020 WNBA season. Earlier this year, she said she would give herself an A-minus or B-plus for this season, but then acknowledged she was being a tough grader.
Seattle joined Houston, a now-defunct franchise, and Minnesota in winning its fourth title, tying for the most in the history of the WNBA, which began in 1997. The Comets’ titles came at the league’s start, from 1997-2000, while Minnesota won in 2011, ’13, ’15 and ’17. The Storm’s championships came in 2004, 2010 and 2018; point guard Sue Bird has started on all of those teams.
This year, the 24th WNBA campaign had a regular season shortened to 22 games because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Storm finished 18-4, as did Las Vegas. But the Aces won both regular-season games — Bird didn’t play in either game and Stewart only played in one — and that gave Las Vegas the top seed. Aces forward A’ja Wilson won the league’s regular-season MVP award, with Stewart coming in second.
But by the postseason, the Storm ruled. They swept Minnesota in the semifinals with only one close win: The opener, 88-86, on a last-second putback by Alysha Clark. The Storm won their other five playoff games by double-digits.
“The city of Seattle has always had our back,” Stewart said after Tuesday’s win. “We had the utmost support from everybody, and we’re bringing another Stewart named Finals MVP as Storm win 4th title back.
“I think the greatest challenge was just all the adversity. Everybody bought in. We’re a chill team, and we kind of rolled with the punches and continued to do what we do. Now, we’re the champs.”