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Breanna Stewart beats out Alyssa Thomas in contentious WNBA MVP race

New York Liberty star Breanna Stewart has claimed the second MVP award of her career. She also won in 2018 with the Seattle Storm. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

New York Liberty star Breanna Stewart won the 2023 WNBA MVP award, beating out Alyssa Thomas of the Connecticut Sun and A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces.

The 2023 season has been defined by the battle of the superteams in New York and Las Vegas, and dominant performances from Stewart and Wilson exemplified the rivalry. Thomas, meanwhile, has been the engine behind the Sun’s run to the semifinals this season, reaching unprecedented heights from the forward position.

Stewart got the edge in MVP voting, claiming the league’s top individual honor for the second time in her career with 446 total points to Thomas’ 439 and Wilson’s 433. Thomas finished with the most first-place votes (23), but Stewart beat her out with 23 second-place votes (worth seven points) to Thomas’ 12. Wilson received 17 first-place votes and 25 second-place votes, as well as as a fourth-place vote. Her Aces teammate Chelsea Gray earned one third-place vote.

Stewart also won the MVP award in 2018 with the Seattle Storm. Wilson was named MVP in 2020 and 2022. This is the second time in WNBA history that the MVP runner-up finished with more first-place votes than the winner; the first was in 2005, when Lauren Jackson received more top votes but Sheryl Swoopes won the award.

A free agency frenzy surrounded Stewart ahead of the 2023 season, and she fed the beast with cryptic emoji-filled tweets. In the end, she chose New York as her destination, joining 2021 MVP Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot among the Liberty’s prized offseason acquisitions.

Stewart lived up to the sky-high expectations, averaging 23.0 points per game, second in the WNBA only to Storm guard Jewell Loyd (24.7). The 29-year-old forward also ranked third in rebounds (9.3) and 17th in assists (3.8).

Thomas shattered the WNBA triple-double record this year, with six in 2023 alone and 10 total for her career. She averaged 15.5 points (20th), 9.9 rebounds (1st) and 7.9 assists (2nd) per game in 2023, all career highs.

Wilson averaged 22.8 points (3rd), 9.5 rebounds (2nd) and 1.6 assists (64th) for the No. 1 Aces.

“We’re at a special place in women’s basketball when there are so many great players doing so many great things every single night,” Stewart told the Associated Press earlier this month. She also won the Associated Press Player of the Year award, edging Wilson by one vote.

Stewart and the Liberty are facing off against Thomas and the Sun in the WNBA semifinals. Connecticut won the opening game of the series, 78-63, but New York will look to even the score in Game 2, which tips off at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday.