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Liberty to show off star-laden roster in 2023

Title-hungry WNBA team to appear nine times on ESPN

March 9, 2023 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The star-studded New York Liberty will be much more than a local fascination this summer.

The Brooklyn-based squad, expected to seriously pursue its first-ever WNBA title in 2023, will be featured nine times nationally across ESPN platforms, the WNBA and the self-proclaimed “World Wide Leader in Sports” announced Wednesday.

“As we get set to tip off our 27th season, ESPN is once again stepping up as an incredibly engaged broadcast partner for the WNBA,” said league commissioner Cathy Engelbert.

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“We are grateful that ESPN will provide significant opportunities to tell the stories of the incredible players across the league in 2023.”

The Liberty, coming off back-to-back playoff appearances ending in early exits from the postseason, will flash the gaudiest roster of new acquisitions and mainstays entering the WNBA’s newly expanded 40-game campaign.

The co-tenants of Barclays Center, alongside the Brooklyn Nets, added 2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones via a blockbuster three-team deal this offseason. They also made the biggest splash in free agency, signing 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart and veteran point-guard extraordinaire Courtney Vanderpool.

With All-Star guard Sabrina Ionescu coming back with an assortment of superstars, New York is aiming for much more than Flatbush Avenue’s first championship parade since the beloved Dodgers finally got past the hated Yankees in the 1955 World Series.

They’re shooting for several celebrations in our borough.

“The ultimate goal is to create a dynasty,” Vandersloot said at last month’s introductory press conference. “It’s not going to happen overnight.

“When we hear that word dynasty, it’s about doing the things that you have to do to win championships and create a culture here that other players want to come in to because that’s the kind of place it is,” she added. “That’s what they’ve started to create here, and that’s what we wanted to be a part of.”

Liberty All-Star Sabrina Ionescu will have an assortment of superstars to play with this summer at the Barclays Center. AP Photo by Noah K. Murray

The slew of new talent, which Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello referred to as “Christmas in February”, prompted team co-owner and governor Clara Wu Tsai to proclaim the beginning of something big here in Brooklyn.

“It’s truly a new era for the New York Liberty franchise. New York hasn’t seen a basketball championship since (the) 1973 (New York Knicks), and I think this team is ready to bring one home,” she gushed.

The Liberty will kick off their much-anticipated season May 19 at Washington before hosting Indiana on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush on May 21 in their home opener.

Their national television debut will come on May 30, when Stewart returns to Seattle, where she spent her first six WNBA seasons. The Storm will also travel to Barclays for an ESPN rematch on July 8.

Dallas will visit New York on June 11, Washington will be here on June 25 and the Liberty will head to Los Angeles on July 30. All three of those contests will also be nationally televised.

New York will host Las Vegas on Aug. 6, go to Indiana on Aug. 13 and welcome Vegas back to Brooklyn on Aug. 23.

Vandersloot will finally get a crack at her long-time teammates in Chicago on Sept. 3, rounding out the Liberty’s
national schedule until the playoffs.

“As ESPN enters its 27th season with the WNBA, we continue to elevate our coverage of this exceptional league with premier broadcast windows, expanded studio programming and best-in-class storytelling,” said ESPN’s Matt Kenny, the network’s vice president of programming and acquisitions.

“Our ongoing collaboration with the WNBA resulted in unprecedented growth and success last year and we have a marquee schedule that will once again showcase the league’s best players and teams across ESPN platforms.”

Liberty regulars like Marine Johannes, Betnijah Laney, DiDi Richards and Han Xu will be joined by local hoops legend Epiphanny Prince, who starred at Murry Bergtraum High School and Rutgers University before beginning a 13-year WNBA career.

New York also announced this week that they have signed their 2022 first-round pick Nyara Sabally. The No. 5 overall selection in last year’s WNBA Draft will receive a rookie scale contract after sitting out last season due to a right-knee injury.

Like Ionescu, Sabally is a University of Oregon alum. She averaged 15.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest with the Ducks.

ESPN will also air the 2023 WNBA Draft at New York’s Spring Studios on April 10.

Jonquel Jones, the 2021 WNBA MVP, will chase her first championship here in Brooklyn with the Liberty this summer. AP Photo by Rex Arbogast

Despite all the heightened expectations and national exposure, the Liberty know that what they do in training camp and on the hardwood come the regular season will count more than whatever hype they accumulate.

“When you’re playing basketball in New York, you’re are automatically in the spotlight,” Stewart said.

“Everyone’s being watched, people are paying attention to the Liberty here, [but] it’s more about what we’re doing internally than what’s happening externally.”

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