The Interesting History of the New York Liberty

Smith College hosted the first women’s basketball game in the fall of 1892. Senda Berenson, a young “physical culture” director who was newly hired by Smith, taught basketball to her students in the hopes that it would enhance their physical fitness. Hockey, rowing, and volleyball soon followed as the first team sports for women, whereas basketball was created for men as an indoor complement to already-existing team sports like baseball and football. Early supporters of basketball were associated with YMCAs and colleges all around the United States, and the sport swiftly spread across the nation.

Professional women’s basketball players can compete in a variety of leagues and events. The WNBA is the premier league in North America. Top national teams from continental championships compete in the Women’s Olympic Basketball Tournament and FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup. The NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Championship is likewise well-liked in the US. The EuroLeague Women features the top female basketball teams in Europe.

Women’s college competitions had a significant role in the popularity of women’s basketball as it moved from the east to the west coast of the United States. Basketball is one of the most favored and rapidly expanding sports in the world. NYC is the hotbed of sports teams and cradles top teams to look out for in the city. By 2020, women’s basketball was played all over the world.

The Early Success

Prior to the team’s inaugural season, it acquired the trademarks of the long-gone Liberty Basketball Association to guard against possible trademark infringement. The Liberty was one of the first teams to select a player when the WNBA debuted in 1997, and they signed collegiate great Rebecca Lobo to a contract. Lobo started for two seasons until becoming hurt in 1999. Several seasons later, she retired as a result of her injuries. The Liberty, led by standout point guard Teresa Weatherspoon, advanced to the 1997 championship game before falling to the Houston Comets. With the sixth overall pick in 1999, they selected Crystal Robinson, and they went back to the WNBA Finals to play the Comets once more. The Liberty won Game 2 by one point on the road, even the series at one game each because of Teresa Weatherspoon’s halfcourt shot at the final horn. But the Liberty dropped the third game of the series, and the Comets won the title for the third time in a row. 

Tari Phillips, who flourished in New York and made four straight All-Star teams, was acquired by the Liberty in a trade in 2000. Weatherspoon surpassed all other assist leaders in WNBA history in 2001. She and the Liberty later returned to the finals in 2000 and 2002, but they were defeated once more by the Comets and the Los Angeles Sparks, respectively. Weatherspoon and the Liberty were teamed with Robinson, Phillips, and an emerging Sue Wicks, who was once Lobo’s backup at forward but made the 2000 All-Star game. In 2001, The Liberty made it all the way to the WNBA Eastern Conference Finals.

The Transitional Seasons

With team captain Teresa Weatherspoon’s WNBA career coming to an end in 2003, Becky Hammon, a fan favorite, became a key player for Liberty. She took Weatherspoon’s place as the team’s starting point guard for the 2004 campaign. The 2004 Republican National Convention was held at Madison Square Garden, so the Liberty played six of their home games there that year. Since the Roy Jones Jr. boxing contest that took place in 1999, Radio City had not hosted a professional athletic event before these games. Tari Phillips, the team’s captain, was traded to the Houston Comets in 2005, and Ann Wauters took over as the team’s starting center. Sadly, she suffered an injury in the middle of the season. Wauters’ departure was felt when the team was routed by the Indiana Fever in the first round of the playoffs by a score of two games to one. Only 11 games were won by the Liberty in 2006, which was the fewest in team history.

In exchange for Jessica Davenport, a first-round pick in the 2007 WNBA Draft, the team moved Becky Hammon to the San Antonio Silver Stars at the start of the 2007 WNBA season. Additionally, they acquired center Janel McCarville in the dispersal draft connected to Charlotte Sting’s demise. The 2007 Liberty started the season 5-0 before dropping 7 straight games. They then came back to defeat the Washington Mystics on the head-to-head tiebreaker and capture the final playoff position by winning 3 of their final 4 games. In 2008, the Liberty selected former North Carolina to forward Erlana Larkins and shooting guard Essence Carson in the draft, and during the preseason, they added former Utah point guard Leilani Mitchell. The Liberty managed to win 19 games in the regular season in 2008, defeating the Connecticut Sun in the first round of the playoffs, and come within two points of defeating the Detroit Shock in the third and final game of the Eastern Conference Finals despite having the youngest average age of any WNBA team. 

The Liberty selected Rutgers’ Kia Vaughn, a local favorite, in the 2009 WNBA Draft. The Liberty appeared to be a contender in the East once more with a strong core group. The squad fired head coach Pat Coyle after the 2009 season because they failed to establish themselves as a serious contender. The Liberty temporarily appointed former Liberty assistant coach Anne Donovan to take Coyle’s job. The franchise struggled despite the coaching change, ending 13-21, their second-worst record in franchise history.

The Cappie Pondexter and Isiah Thomas Era 

In 2010, the New York Liberty performed well in his first and only season in charge. The team, which was captained by recently acquired Phoenix Mercury forward Cappie Pondexter and 2010 Most Improved Player Award winner Leilani Mitchell, advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before falling to the Atlanta Dream. The Liberty was supposed to relocate from their customary home court since Madison Square Garden would undergo renovations starting in 2009. The Liberty performed at the Garden in 2009 and 2010 even though the renovation plans were postponed. The Liberty’s 2011, 2012, and 2013 seasons were spent playing at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, due to construction.

Thomas was hired by Liberty on May 5, 2015, to serve as Team President, in charge of all business and basketball operations for the organization. The Liberty won the Eastern Conference title in 2015 under the direction of Thomas as team president and Bill Laimbeer as head coach of the coaching staff. WNBA legend Becky Hammon was inducted into the Liberty’s Ring of Honor by the New York Liberty on August 2, 2015, at halftime of a game against the Seattle Storm. At the Madison Square Garden induction ceremony, Thomas gave Hammon her ring. The Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA currently have Hammon as their head coach.

The franchise was up for sale, according to an announcement made by James L. Dolan and the Madison Square Garden Company in November 2017. While still looking for a buyer, MSG moved most of the Liberty’s 2018 home games to the Westchester County Center in nearby White Plains, New York, which is the location of MSG’s NBA G League team, the Westchester Knicks.

The Joseph Tsai Era to Present

On January 23, 2019, Joseph Tsai, a co-founder of the Chinese internet corporation Alibaba Group, purchased Liberty. At the time, Tsai also owned 49 percent of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. In Brooklyn, the locality with an interesting history that is resided by around 2.3 million residents, the Liberty played two games at the Barclays Center during the 2019 season, with the remaining contests taking place in White Plains. In the same year, Tsai took ownership of the Nets and the Barclays Center exclusively. Tsai permanently moved Liberty to Brooklyn for the 2020 season. With three first-round picks and two in the early second round, the Liberty were significant players in the 2020 WNBA draft. Tina Charles, a previous league MVP, was traded to the Washington Mystics just before the draft in a deal that also included the Dallas Wings.

Seven rookies were on Liberty’s opening-night roster for the 2020 season, which was played in a “bubble” in Bradenton, Florida because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the third game, Ionescu suffered a significant ankle sprain that ultimately ruined her season, dealing the club with a devastating setback. The Liberty’s 2-20 record at the season’s end was the lowest in the league. Throughout the 2021 offseason, the team made a lot of noise. They signed Betnijah Laney, the league’s 2020 Most Improved Player Award winner, and acquired Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb in a multi-team trade that sent Kia Nurse and Megan Walker to the Phoenix Mercury prior to their debut season as permanent tenants of Barclays Center. The Liberty and head coach Walt Hopkins Jr. parted ways on December 6, 2021. Just over a month later, on January 7, 2022, the franchise hired Sandy Brondello, the former head coach of the Phoenix Suns, in his place.