The New York Liberty finally won something!
This week, the WNBA announced one of its oldest franchises as its cutest little “contender” after decades of the most darndest losing and failure. The Liberty, which are one of three teams from the original 1997 WNBA that hasn’t moved from its starting location, have never won a WNBA championship and haven’t appeared in the WNBA Finals since before America invaded Iraq (yes, the Iraq War is now old enough to serve).
New York has not made the playoffs since 2017 and have a combined record of 19-71 over the past three seasons, bottoming out at 2-20 in 2020. And it’s all just too cute to bear, said WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert.
“You just want to pinch their checks and squeeze them up tight!” Engelbert exclaimed, holding her New York Liberty plush toy close to her chest while rocking back and forth. “I wove my wittle Wiberty!”
Liberty owner Joe Tsai accepted the award with grace in a statement.
“For years, we have worked tirelessly to make New York proud of our irresistible adorableness,” Tsai said in the release. “From the days of Nancy Darsch and Richie Adubato losing in four WNBA Finals in six years to the many forgettable seasons in the 2000s and 2010s to the stinkers we’ve been putting out lately, we have a time-honored tradition of harmlessness here. We are pleased to provide the rest of the league with wins throughout the season, and while it’s not always an easy role to play, someone has to do it.”
New York has made some major moves this offseason, including signing Betnijah Laney, the 2020 Most Improved Player, in free agency and trading for Natasha Howard, the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, from Seattle. For Laney, this recognition solidifies why she chose to come to New York.
“I wanted to be a part of something special,” Laney explained. “No one does adorable like the New York Liberty, and no one else ever will. The Sparks and Mercury have made that very clear. And the Tulsa Shock haven’t existed for six years, so the market is cornered if you want to be part of the tamest team in the league.”
Las Vegas Aces head coach Bill Laimbeer, who served as Liberty head coach from 2013 to 2017, knows just how cute and harmless New York can be, even when it might seem otherwise. He told me he was happy for his former team.
“It’s so adorable how the Liberty think they’re a real team competing for the same championship as the rest of us,” he said. “I’m glad the league has honored them in this way. It’s only appropriate, especially after the avalanche of cuteness that was their 2020 season.”
New York Liberty superfan Apollo Andrews, who has following the team since it began, was initially in disbelief.
“Did you say ‘win?'” he asked, confused. “We’re still talking about the Liberty?”
I confirmed that we were still talking about the Liberty, and after more questioning from Andrews, the reality that his team had won something sunk in.
“SNUGGLES FOR EVERYONE!” he shouted, running naked through the streets of Brooklyn. “I WILL CUDDLE YOU ALL!”