There's no argument that future Hall of Famer Breanna Stewart deserved the WNBA MVP award, the second in her Hall of Fame career.
Anyone who doubts it should have watched her dominate the second half of the WNBA semifinal Tuesday night and lead the New York Liberty to a comeback win against the Sun to even the series. Stewart had one bucket in the first half but finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and five blocks, including a monster one late to help seal the win.
MVP WITH THE REJECTION ❌ pic.twitter.com/FtRWaeICHk
— New York Liberty (@nyliberty) September 27, 2023
However, Stewart won it in a historically close vote. The Sun's Alyssa Thomas received more first-place votes, just fewer points than Stewart. That left Las Vegas' A'Ja Wilson — the best player on the league's best team and the reigning MVP — in third. The voting broke down this way:
(One voter had Wilson fourth on their ballot.)
It's a race that can leave Sun fans (and her teammates) saying Thomas had the most first-place votes (but also the most voters putting her third). It can leave Wilson's teammates and Aces fans saying, "Third? Really?!?" The 13-point difference between Stewart and Wilson was the smallest first-to-third gap in WNBA MVP voting history (it had been 45 points in 2013 between Candace Parker and Elena Delle Donne).
"It's been an unbelievable season for the WNBA, AT and A'ja had amazing seasons, it just shows we're reaching new heights," Stewart said, via the Associated Press. "That greatness shines in many different ways. That this race was so tight is kind of crazy, but I'm happy to be standing up here today.”
"It hurt like hell, it really did," Wilson said of not winning the award (via the AP). "But it's all part of the game.”
Wilson responded to not being named MVP with 34 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots in the Aces win over the Wings Tuesday night, putting Las Vegas up 2-0 on Dallas in the best-of-five WNBA semifinals. Wilson was named WNBA Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive year a few nights earlier.
Stewart previously won the MVP award in 2018 and, in the interim, has bounced back from a torn Achilles to regain her status as one of the top players in the game. This past offseason, Stewart left Seattle as a free agent to move closer to home and play for the Liberty, a move that helped vault New York to serious WNBA title contention.
For the record, all WNBA awards are voted on by a 60-person national media panel, and in the case of MVP they had to vote for their top five players.