Editor’s Note: In 2019, Nothing But Nylon created Prestige Rankings, a system designed to display the very best and very worst teams any basketball league has had to offer over history. Using points based upon various accomplishments or failures, we have ranked every WNBA team in multiple ways to show you who has truly run the show since 1997. We’re up to #7 New York Liberty, but take a look at all of the criteria and defunct teams to get a good idea of how things work.
NEW YORK LIBERTY
Years Active: 1997-Present
Prestige Score: 59.1
Prestige Rank: 10/23
Active Rank: 7/12
For the league’s first six seasons, only the Houston Comets and Los Angeles Sparks could say they were better than the Liberty. From 1997-2002, New York put together 809 points with four triple-digit point seasons. But the team hasn’t matched that level of success since.
New York amassed 491 points between 2003 and 2018, a fraction of what it produced in the WNBA’s earliest stages. Only in 2015 have the Liberty notched a triple-digit campaign during that span, and six seasons have ended in negative points. There have been some small postseason runs here and there, but nothing major. New York is one of three original franchises from the opening 1997 season still in its original city along with the Sparks and Phoenix Mercury, and the Liberty are the only ones still without a title. Couple that with zero WNBA Finals appearances since 2002, and it’s been a tough go for New York. The consistent deep playoff runs from the late-1990s, early-2000s is enough to get the Liberty close to the top half of the league, but without a single ultimate prize, New York is going to remain middling at best.
New York Liberty Totals
WNBA Championships: 0 |0 points|
WNBA Finals Appearances: 4 |240 points|
Series Wins: 11 |330 points|
Playoffs Wins: 27 |405 points|
Playoffs Byes: 3 |45 points)|
Playoffs Appearances: 15 |205 points|
Regular Season Top Record: 1 |10 points|
Above .500 Regular Season: 14 |56 points|
All-WNBA Player on Roster: 12 |36 points|
MVP on Roster: 0 |0 points|
Coach of the Year: 1 |5 points|
Regular Season Worst Record: 0 |0 points|
Below .500 Regular Season: 8 |-32 points|
Total points: |1,300|
Best Year: 2000
After reaching the WNBA Finals for the second time in the league’s three seasons, the Liberty started the 2000 campaign poorly, sporting a 7-9 record July 3 following a 66-65 road defeat to the Cleveland Rockers. From there, New York went on a six-game winning streak, then won another six in a row immediately after breaking the first run. In the end, the Liberty finished the regular season 20-12, earning them the No. 1 seed in the East.
New York faced the No. 4 seed Washington Mystics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, taking Games 1 and 2 for the series sweep. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Liberty faced the Rockers and came out flat, dropping the first game of the series 56-43 in Cleveland. But once the series went to the Big Apple, the Liberty took over. They won another low-scoring showdown in Game 2, 51-45, before throttling Cleveland, 81-67, in Game 3 to return to the WNBA Finals for the second-straight year and third time in four opportunities.
But yet again, New York was denied, and yet again, the Houston Comets were the reason. For the third time in four title, the Comets celebrated their championship with a victory over the Liberty, having done the same for their 1997 and 1999 crowns. In a 2-0 sweep, Houston ruled the WNBA for another year, and New York remained without the championship it has almost tasted so many times.
Teresa Weatherspoon was also named to the All-WNBA Second Team, the fourth-straight season the Liberty had at least one player named to an All-WNBA team.
Tari Phillips was the team’s top scorer with 13.8 points per game. Vickie Johnson (12.3), Becky Hammon (11.0) and Crystal Robinson (8.8) helped complete the scoring. Phillips hauled in the most rebounds with 8.0 per night, and Weatherspoon notched 6.4 assists per contest, the best on the squad. The season was head coach Richie Adubato’s second in charge and the second time he reached the WNBA Finals after getting there in 1999 as well.
Worst Year: 2018
New York has had six seasons end with -4 points, but never was its record as bad as last year. The Liberty went 7-27 in 2018, the worst mark in its 22-year history. The only reason New York avoided the worst-record negative bonus was because the Indiana Fever had to be one game worse at 6-28. Otherwise, the -10 points were deserved.
Bill Laimbeer left as head coach and general manager in 2017 to take the same positions with the Las Vegas Aces, who had just moved from San Antonio for the 2018 season and beyond. New York hired Katie Smith as the team’s head coach, and her first season was far from stellar.
Things didn’t get too bad until a five-game skid in late-June had the Liberty 4-11 at the end of the month. The team won three of its next six, claiming victory July 11 at Connecticut, 79-76. That would be New York’s final W of the campaign, amounting 13-straight defeats to close the year, 11 of those by three possessions or more.
Tina Charles was by far the team’s biggest threat, posting 19.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Kia Nurse was the second-leading scorer with 9.1 points per night, followed by Bria Hartley (8.5) and Epiphanny Prince (8.4), who only featured for roughly half the season because of injuries.
Winningest Coach: Richie Adubato
Nancy Darsch was New York’s first coach and led the team to the WNBA Finals in 1997, the league’s inaugural year. But the welcome was worn quickly, and she was fired following the 1998 campaign. Enter Richie Adubato.
His last job before the Liberty was as the interim head coach for the Orlando Magic in 1997 after spending 1994-97 as a Magic assistant and almost the entirety of his decades-long coaching career in the NBA. But in 1999, he changed course for the WNBA and immediately made an impact in New York.
Adubato led the Liberty back to the WNBA Finals in 1999 and 2000, then again in 2002, and made the postseason in four of his five full campaigns. He was fired in the middle of the 2004 season, concluding his five-and-a-half years in New York with a 114-91 (14-13 in the playoffs) record.
No. 12 – Las Vegas Aces
No. 11 – Dallas Wings
No. 10 – Chicago Sky
No. 9 – Washington Mystics
No. 8 – Connecticut Sun
No. 7 – New York Liberty
No. 6 – May 19
No. 5 – May 20
No. 4 – May 21
No. 3 – May 22
No. 2 – May 23
No. 1 – May 24
Photo credit to Chris Marion/NBAE via NY Liberty/Getty Images