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Breanna Stewart signs with Liberty in WNBA free agency splash

Breanna Stewart had narrowed her free agency destinations to New York or Seattle. (Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

Welcome to Stew York.

Breanna Stewart will sign with the New York Liberty, she announced Wednesday, ending speculation that had run rampant since last offseason.

The 2018 WNBA MVP had narrowed her free agency options to the New York Liberty or the Seattle Storm. On the opening day of the signing period, she revealed her final decision.

“I decided to go to New York because I want to continue to be great,” Stewart said. “And I want to go to the place where I can help this league become better, to continue to raise the standard, and I feel like, why not go to the biggest market in all of sports?”

A year ago, the Liberty courted the 28-year-old forward, but she returned to the Storm for one last season with retiring legend Sue Bird. This time around, she made the leap, joining New York after spending her first six seasons in Seattle.

Stewart had some fun with the free agency process. While playing for Turkish club Fenerbahçe during the WNBA offseason, she found time to post emoji-filled tweets, which fans scrambled to decipher.

With one such message, she revealed her four possible destinations. But after meeting with the Washington Mystics and the Minnesota Lynx, she honed in on the Liberty and the Storm as her top two.

New York did not hide its overtures to Stewart. Liberty coach Sandy Brondello, co-owner Clara Wu Tsai, general manager Jonathan Kolb and assistant general manager Ohemaa Nyanin all were spotted at a Fenerbahçe game last Wednesday in Istanbul. Even Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant got in on the action, making clear his desire to bring Stewart to the New York basketball scene.

The Liberty bolstered their case with a major trade earlier this month, acquiring Jonquel Jones from the Sun. During the introductory press conference for the 2021 MVP, Kolb said the team planned to be “very aggressive” in free agency.

The Storm selected Stewart with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, and she won WNBA championships with the team in 2018 and 2020. Yet with Candace Parker announcing her decision to sign with the reigning WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces, a move to another burgeoning superteam on the East Coast proved enticing.

Stewart also made charter flights a key factor in her negotiations. The WNBA does not allow charter flights; teams must use commercial flights to travel to regular-season games.

Liberty owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai have been at the forefront of advocating for changes to league travel accommodations. The team reportedly was fined $500,000 for chartering flights to away games during the second half of the 2021 season.