Breanna Stewart secured her second WNBA Most Valuable Player award of her career on Tuesday, in a tightly contested race.
Stewart held a mere 13-point lead over the second-place finisher, Alyssa Thomas of Connecticut, and the previous year’s MVP, A’ja Wilson of Las Vegas. Stewart accumulated 446 points (comprising 20 first-place votes, 23 second-place votes, and 17 third-place votes). Thomas garnered 439 points (with 23, 12, and 25 votes in respective order), while Wilson received 433 points (including 17 first-place votes, 25 second-place votes, 17 third-place votes, and 1 fourth-place vote).
The seven-point margin separating Stewart and Thomas marks the second-closest finish in the history of the award. The closest finish was a two-point gap between Sheryl Swoopes and Lauren Jackson in 2005.
Furthermore, the 13-point difference between Stewart and Wilson represents the smallest gap between first and third-place vote-getters for the WNBA MVP in its history, surpassing the 45-point difference in 2013 between Candace Parker and Elena Delle Donne.
A’ja Wilson expressed her disappointment at not receiving the MVP title, stating, “It hurt like hell, it really did, but it’s all part of the game.”
All WNBA awards are determined by a 60-person national media panel that votes for their top five MVP choices. Players earn 10 points for a first-place vote, seven for a second-place vote, five for a third-place vote, three for a fourth-place vote, and one for a fifth-place vote.
Stewart, a standout player for the Liberty, praised the performances of the other top candidates during the season. She highlighted the competitive camaraderie among them and their commitment to showcasing excellence in various ways, emphasizing that this is the direction the league should continue to take, with fans watching different players and recognizing greatness at different levels.
The 29-year-old Stewart, who previously won the award in 2018, chose to relocate closer to her home and join the New York Liberty as a free agent during the recent offseason. This decision quickly proved advantageous for both her and the team. The AP Player of the Year played a pivotal role in the Liberty’s impressive regular season, where they secured the second-best record. Stewart emerged as the WNBA’s second-leading scorer, averaging a career-high 23 points per game. Throughout the season, she had three games where she scored over 40 points, including an astounding 45 points in her debut game at home.
Now, Stewart has propelled the Liberty back into the playoffs’ semifinals for the first time since 2015, although her team currently trails Connecticut 1-0 in the best-of-five series. She stands as the first New York player ever to receive the league’s top honor.
Meanwhile, Wilson, who narrowly edged out Stewart 478-446 in last season’s MVP balloting, had another exceptional season. She posted career-best averages of 22.8 points and 9.5 rebounds, leading the Aces to a record 34 wins. Wilson had an impressive 29 games where she scored 20 points or more this season. Her performance has escalated during the playoffs as Las Vegas aims to achieve back-to-back championships for the first time since Los Angeles accomplished the feat in 2001-02.
However, the Aces must first contend with the Dallas Wings in the semifinals.
Reflecting on her third-place finish in the MVP voting, Wilson expressed her disappointment but quickly shifted her focus to the competitive challenge ahead against Dallas. She mentioned receiving a call from Coach Becky Hammon and requested a brief 24-hour period to process the outcome.
Thomas, on the other hand, etched her name in league history by becoming the first player ever to record at least 600 points, 400 rebounds, and 300 assists in a single season. She also established a league record with 27 double-doubles, including an impressive six triple-doubles. Remarkably, as a forward, she led the league with 316 assists, averaging 7.9 per game.