If you look at the list of accolades Breanna Stewart has collected in her career, you would assume she has been in the WNBA for over a decade: WNBA Champion, four-time NCAA Champion, Olympic Gold Medalist, league All-Star, MVP, Finals MVP, Rookie of the Year.
Stewart will turn 26 this August.
Last week, the Seattle Storm star and Syracuse native put on her championship rings and showed off to her 200K+ Instagram followers:
.@breannastewart 💍💍💍💍💍💍💍💍💍💍 pic.twitter.com/5nFqBB9Aug
— espnW (@espnW) May 25, 2020
Breanna Stewart got more rings than your favorite player and shes only 25 pic.twitter.com/KrlJi6wv5A
— Hana 🏀 (@HanaHoops) May 24, 2020
Regardless of the outcome of certain polls, Stewie is the greatest college basketball player of all time. Period. Despite having only played three seasons in the league, Stewart is also one of the top players in the WNBA.
So, where does she go from here? Stewart has the collegiate titles, the gold medals, the league championship, and all the individual awards. What is left to accomplish? What more does Breanna Stewart want?
A complete comeback.
Like many WNBA players, Stewart plays overseas during the offseason. During the 2019 EuroLeague season, Stewart was named the regular season MVP and led her team, Dynamo Kursk, to the EuroLeague Finals. Shortly before halftime of the championship, Stewart jumped up for a shot and landed awkwardly on her defender’s leg. Tests later confirmed the worst: Stewie had ruptured her Achilles tendon.
Getting injured during the championship game is a nightmare situation. Getting injured during the finals with the WNBA season just weeks away is excruciating. The Dynamo Kursk fell apart without Stewie in the game and lost the championship to UMMC Ekaterinburg. Stewart was forced to sit out the entire 2019 WNBA season.
After the injury, Stewie went on Instagram to thank her supporters and made a definitive statement about her future: “…just know that the bounce back will be real and I’ll be back better than ever.”
Stewart spent the next nine months getting back to full strength. She made her comeback to the court official in January 2020 with Team USA at a very familiar place: Storrs, Connecticut.
Stewart opened the exhibition match against the Huskies with a three-pointer to kickstart Team USA’s offense. Though that bucket was her only points of the game, Stewie accomplished what she was working towards for nine months: the start of her redemption tour.
Heading into 2019, the Storm seemed destined to win back-to-back titles. Stewart was hot, Sue Bird was (and still is!) one of the best players in the league after 15 seasons, and head coach Dan Hughes had the right recipe for a repeat championship. And then everything fell apart right before the season started.
Along with Stewart, Bird had to sit out the 2019 season due to a knee injury. Coach Hughes also missed part of the season due to his cancer diagnosis.
All three are back to full strength and are eagerly waiting for the 2020 season to start.
Stewart was able to play a handful of EuroLeague games before the season ended due to the spread of COVID-19. In her last outing, Stewart played like her old self by tallying a near double-double with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Though she has made her return to professional basketball, Stewart’s comeback will not be complete without stepping onto a WNBA court.
Successfully coming back from an injury is a major part of the GOAT test. Injuries affect not only the athlete physically, but also mentally. Being able to overcome unforeseen obstacles shows resilience and strong character – two traits that one must have to be in the greatest of all time conversation.
Unfortunately, Stewie will have to wait for that full comeback.
We don’t know when or if the 2020 WNBA season will commence. Therefore, Stewart should use this extended time off to focus on a full recovery. She’s going to be more ready than ever for the season with a new sense of urgency to win.
“If I could, I’d go and practice free throws all by myself,” Stewart said in a New York Times article last month. “But there’s nowhere to do that and I’m taking this really seriously, so I stay inside as much as possible.
“I get out for walks sometimes. The neighborhood where I live is usually super busy, but now it feels abandoned and eerie. I do drive to rehab my leg a couple of times a week. Got to keep it strong. The calf on my injured leg atrophied like crazy and is still about a half-inch smaller than my other one.”
Friendly reminder: The last time Stewie was on a WNBA court, she was holding up the league championship trophy.
“At first, it was about getting back on the court, that was the motivation,” Stewart said after resigning with Seattle earlier this year. “Now, it’s beyond that, it’s about continued growth and supporting my teammates as we come back together in Seattle. I’m back and signed up to chase more championships.”