By: Jeffrey Newholm
Basketball coaches are all too familiar with the “No no no… YES!” shot. That’s the really low percentage half court heave that somehow goes in, making the shooter look smart. Well in a forgettable 2015 WNBA finale between two lottery teams, basketball saw a new version of that shot. Despite a rule change designed to limit tanking, the loser of the September 13th contest between the Seattle Storm and San Antonio Stars would get best lottery odds. With soon to be four time Final Four MOP Breanna Stewart the future top pick, winning was foolish. Unfortunately for San Antonio, they led 59-58 with 1:11 left. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Stewart’s former teammate, had a great look at a winner. Seattle fans collectively groaned as the great shooter’s look was on target.
“No no no… YES!” The shot missed, and neither team scored again. The Storm had best odds, and soon the top pick and Stewart. By joining Mosqueda-Lewis, 2015 top pick Jewell Loyd and legend Sue Bird, Seattle became a finals contender. But not immediately. The Storm was embarrassed by 30 in “Stewie” ‘s debut, and finished a pedestrian 16-18. Leader Jenny Boucek was outcoached in a playoff loss, and was replaced as the team limped to the 2017 finish. But Sue’s squad put up a valiant effort against playoff staple Phoenix, and under All-Star coach Dan Hughes have gone form WNBA ballgirls to hoopland princesses. And no one questions who’s the crown duchess.
A rare starter as a freshman at UConn, Stewart was more often in the doghouse than top dog. Poor play cost the team a key game against superior Baylor and for the first time in 20 years the school did not win conference. Then Uconn seemed to prove they didn’t need Stewie by peeling Idaho 105-37 in the opening round without her. But the Huskies were soon underdogs (believe it or not) against Skylar Diggins and Notre Dame in the semifinals. Behind a shocking performance by Stewart, the young showboat, UConn defeated and routed the Irish for the first time in four tries. The next three years were a mere formality as Geno’s Greats lost just once. While not as consistent a rise, Stewart’s success has continued as anticipated to professional basketball.
The 6’ 4″ baron of blocks leads Seattle in points, rebounds, minutes played and Saturday joins team Elena Delle Donne at the All-Star break. Behind her efforts Seattle paces the league first at 18-7, 2.5 games clear of second. Many fans jaded over the Sonic’s departure clamor for a return of pro ball to Seattle. But why vainly beg for a coast’s attention against the Lakers and Warriors when Key Arena is already home to championship basketball? Breanna Stewart and other young players now offer the country a summer ballgame option that’s unequivocally inspiring and rapidly expanding. Now in Seattle, and almost every WNBA city, rooting for improvement is no longer “no no no…YES!” Rather, it’s a quiet affirmation of equality, societal progress, and most importantly, a game sure to put a smile on every fan’s face.