New York Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu is living up to the hype as the WNBA’s newest superstar

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As the WNBA season begins, Sabrina Ionescu continues to make those who doubt her look bad.

As the WNBA season begins, Sabrina Ionescu continues to make those that doubt her look unhealthy.
Image: Getty Images

Avengers: Infinity War, Machu Picchu, and Flex Tape.

Those are all the issues I can consider that lived up to all the hype they obtained. Nothing else. Not Batman v. Superman, not the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather struggle, and particularly not Anthony Bennett. However, I may need to begin placing Sabrina Ionescu on that first record as nicely.

I bear in mind means again yonder in 2020, every thing I noticed regarding the WNBA was about somebody enjoying faculty basketball. Everything was about Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu. People spoke so extremely of her that a few of her accomplishments felt pretend. She led her faculty workforce to a victory over Team USA in an exhibition sport. She was mentored by Kobe Bryant. She was on her means to successful each award in girls’s faculty basketball earlier than COVID shut the season down. I assumed to myself: “There’s no way she’s that good.” Sure, she was the sure-fire No. 1 total decide in the upcoming draft, however so was Zion Williamson, and I wouldn’t say he’s been all he was cracked up to be. He’s been good, however not the man who’d make Pelicans followers overlook about Anthony Davis like he was supposed to. Well, it seems, I’m a pathetic, pessimistic, dumb-brain, as a result of Ionescu has taken each expectation and blown them out of the water.

COVID-19 robbed us of quite a bit in 2020, however after the first three video games of the 2021 WNBA season, Ionescu’s rookie yr may need been certainly one of the biggest sports activities casualties of the pandemic. All Ionescu has completed on this quick period of time is lead the New York Liberty to a 3-0 begin, hit a game-winning buzzer-beater to open the season, and document the ninth triple-double in WNBA historical past (it was additionally the first in New York Liberty historical past, and Ionescu is the youngest participant in WNBA historical past to document a triple-double). All that in simply her sixth profession sport. Oh, and he or she’s completed all of it with out the presence of certainly one of her finest teammates, Asia Durr. It is nothing in need of insane what Ionescu has been ready to accomplish in such a brief period of time.

This is precisely what I needed to see from the WNBA this yr. After the 2020 season had to be shielded off from followers, the WNBA wanted one thing to draw folks again in. It’s unimaginable to see somebody so devoted to success and attaining it. It’s not being handed to her, and he or she’ll positively face some battle down the line, however she’s taking adversity head-on and striving to be higher each second. Her basketball mentality has been in contrast to Michael Jordan’s, and from what I’ve seen, I can’t disagree with that evaluation. There’s an aura surrounding Ionescu at any time when she’s bought the ball in her palms that screams “I am going to embarrass you” — the similar vitality that MJ introduced to the desk for the Bulls. For a participant with that angle, that swagger, and that elite degree of play to again it up, to be enjoying in New York City is simply *mwah* lovely icing on the cake. It hasn’t been this good to be a New York basketball fan in dang close to a decade. Julius Randle is having the finest season of his profession — main the Knicks to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 — and he’s not even the finest participant in the Big Apple.

This lightning-quick rise to stardom for Ionescu makes me take into consideration all the different “can’t miss” gamers in the WNBA not too long ago. It makes me wonder if or not we’d take a look at them otherwise in the event that they’d performed in LA, Chicago, or New York. Players like Brittney Griner, Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, and A’ja Wilson had been all anticipated to be the subsequent large identify to go down in the WNBA mythos. Between them are dozens of All-Star appearances and some MVP awards, however none of them had been ever talked about practically as usually as Elena Delle Donne. Is that as a result of Delle Donne was the solely certainly one of them to play for a serious market? I feel that has quite a bit to do with it.

Talk of WNBA growth has heated up this yr. With the success of gamers like Ionescu and her being thrust into the nationwide highlight, it looks like this can be the excellent alternative for the WNBA to accomplish that. Adding a second workforce to the Los Angeles, Chicago, or New York markets would create extra alternative for nice gamers to draw extra consideration to the WNBA as an entire. Ionescu will likely be a key determine in increasing the WNBA’s fanbase. She is doing issues by no means earlier than seen on the hardwood, and he or she has a chance to set the stage for a enjoyable, compelling WNBA season when it so desperately wants one. I look ahead to watching it.

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