Breanna Stewart played six seasons with the Seattle Storm, winning two WNBA championships and an MVP as a four-time All-Star.
On Tuesday, she made her return to Seattle for the first time in a visiting uniform after signing as a free agent in February with the New York Liberty. Storm fans were mostly glad to see her back.
Stewart signed autographs for fans prior to the game, including on her former Storm jersey. When her name was announced pregame, fans largely greeted her with cheers and applause, with many in attendance standing from their seats.
It was a stark contrast from another high-profile return to Seattle that saw Seahawks fans roundly boo Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson in his first game back last season after joining the Denver Broncos.
Stewart joined the Storm in 2016 as the No. 1 overall pick out of UConn. She delivered on the investment as a two-time Finals MVP while leading the Storm to championships in 2018 and 2020. This offseason, she opted for change and joined fellow All-Stars Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot alongside incumbent rising star Sabrina Ionescu to form a super team in New York. It was an unprecedented basketball opportunity for Stewart, but one that forced her to leave good things behind in Seattle.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, Stewart spoke with ESPN about the feelings elicited from an offseason trip to Seattle after her decision to join New York.
“It’s a lot of bittersweet feelings,” Stewart said. “That moment, I was like, did I make the right decision? Because coming back here, I’m like these are all my spots, and these are my friends and this is everything that I’m familiar with. But, you know, change is good.”
The decision is paying early dividends.
A Liberty team that finished 16-20 last season entered Tuesday’s game amid a 2-1 start. Stewart’s thrived on the star-laden team with averages of 26 points, 10 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, all of which would constitute career highs if extended for the entire season.