Breanna Stewart versus A’ja Wilson: A championship rivalry the WNBA deserves

The Athletic presents live coverage of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals, featuring an exciting matchup between the New York Liberty and the Las Vegas Aces. But this game means more than just a battle between two teams. It’s a showcase of the fiery rivalry between two superstars, Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson, who have dominated the sport for the past decade. Their accomplishments are staggering, from college championships to gold medals, and now they face each other as fierce competitors in the best basketball league in the world.

This rivalry is just getting started, and the Liberty and Aces are just in the first chapter of their intense battle. But even at this early stage, the matchup between these two all-time greats has already proven its significance and its impact on the future of the WNBA. Stewart, aged 29, entered the league as a highly decorated player, standing out from the pack as more than just another superstar from the legendary Connecticut basketball program. Wilson, aged 27, followed in her footsteps, leading South Carolina to its first national championship and establishing herself as a force to be reckoned with.

Their success in college immediately translated to the WNBA, as both players quickly became No. 1 draft picks, rookies of the year, and MVPs by their third season. In their third year, they faced off in the postseason for the first time, marking the beginning of a yearly tradition. Stewart acknowledges the inevitability of their frequent matchups, recognizing that they are both pushing the boundaries of the game and striving for greatness. Playing against each other is what they live for, and it’s what drives them to make the WNBA and women’s basketball better.

As they prepare to meet in the postseason for the third time in four seasons (with a missing year due to Stewart’s injury), their individual battle for supremacy has become a focal point for the WNBA. People around the league draw comparisons to the legendary rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, noting the diverse backgrounds, bicoastal positioning, and sustained success of Stewart and Wilson. The hope is that this duo can propel the WNBA forward, just as Magic and Bird did for the NBA.

Rebecca Lobo, who is broadcasting the finals for ESPN, emphasizes the potential of the Stewart-Wilson rivalry, highlighting their status as two of the best players in the league and the incredible competition they bring to the court. Chelsea Gray, Wilson’s teammate on the Aces, adds that their performances have the power to attract new fans and create must-watch matchups, much like the historic matchups of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

Throughout its history, the WNBA has relied on rivalries to market its product, from the Houston Comets vs. the Liberty to the Sparks vs. the Lynx. But never before has there been an individual matchup that the league has fully embraced. Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi were marketed as best friends, lacking a competitive dynamic. Maya Moore, during her prime, had no true rival. The potential rivalries between Sylvia Fowles and Candace Parker remained untapped. However, things are different now, as the WNBA has been handed the gift of Stewart and Wilson, two players at the peak of their powers who constantly collide on the court.

Stewart and Wilson’s competitive spirit sets them apart. Their drive and attention to detail distinguish them from the rest of the league. Las Vegas forward Alysha Clark, who has played alongside Stewart and Wilson, praises their relentless work ethic and their constant desire to improve their game. Their hard work has paid off with numerous MVP awards, defensive player of the year awards, All-Star captain selections, and championship titles. Soon, they will hold four of the last six WNBA championships between them.

Their playoff matchups have been intense battles, with each player pushing the other to elevate their game. Wilson’s numbers against Stewart’s teams rise significantly, showcasing the competitive fire between them. These two players bring out the best in each other, and their rivalry captivates fans, especially young girls who aspire to greatness in women’s basketball.

Beyond their on-court rivalry, Stewart and Wilson have also made waves off the court. Stewart’s move to the New York Liberty created a social media frenzy, while Wilson actively recruited players like Parker and Clark to join the Aces. The Liberty constructed a team that mirrors the Aces, creating the perfect stage for one more season of Stewart and Wilson trying to outshine each other.

In conclusion, the WNBA Finals Game 2 between the New York Liberty and the Las Vegas Aces is not just a game but a showcase of the fiery rivalry between Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson. Their impact on the league is already immense, and their matchup has the potential to become one of the great rivalries in women’s basketball history. Fans are in for a captivating showdown as these two superstars battle for supremacy on the court.


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