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How Breanna Stewart lost the first-place vote but won WNBA MVP

New York's Breanna Stewart is defended by Connecticut's Alyssa Thomas during the 2023 WNBA season. (M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Breanna Stewart won the 2023 WNBA MVP award despite receiving fewer first-place votes than Alyssa Thomas.

How did that happen? The New York Liberty star benefitted from the ranked voting process, which allowed Stewart to accumulate more points than Thomas.

Thomas, who posted a WNBA record six triple-doubles during her historic season for the Connecticut Sun, received 23 first-place votes, compared to 20 for Stewart and 17 for A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces. But Stewart finished with 446 points, compared to 439 for Thomas and 433 for Wilson.

Each voter on a national panel of 60 sportswriters and broadcasters listed their top five candidates, with the No. 1 player on each ballot receiving 10 points. For a second-place vote, a player received seven points, while a third-place vote equaled five points, a fourth-place vote three points and a fifth-place vote one point.

Together, Stewart, Thomas and Wilson received all the first-place and second-place votes. The trio received 59 of the third-place votes, and Las Vegas Aces guard Chelsea Gray received one. Wilson also received one fourth-place vote.

In total, Stewart received 20 first-place votes, 23 second-place votes and 17 third-place votes. In contrast, Thomas received 23 first-place votes, 12 second-place votes and 25 third-place votes; her larger number of third-place votes sunk her in the overall tally.

This marks the second time in WNBA history that the MVP runner-up finished with more first-place votes than the winner. The first time was in 2005, when Lauren Jackson received more votes for the top spot but Sheryl Swoopes won the award.

2023 WNBA MVP: Voting results