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Is Breanna Stewart Already a Hall of Famer?

(Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

Breanna Stewart belongs in the Hall of Fame.

That was my first thought when I saw her ring collection, recently flexed on social media. To say the least, it is one of a hardened veteran, not someone with just three years to her name in the WNBA.

She had a ring for each of her four national championships with UConn. She had rings for some of her eight gold medals at various levels with the USA national team, including a 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics gold. There was also a ring for the time she won a WNBA championship with Seattle’s basketball team.

Syracuse, where Stewart was born, has already inducted her into the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame in the Class of 2019.

“Hall of fame, hall of fame,” was her caption at the time.

At the same time, maybe it’s too soon. Stewart has just three seasons in the league. True, she was a Rookie of the Year, an All-Star (twice), a regular season and Finals MVP, and a champion, but if she retired today, would she really be an Hall of Famer?

To answer the question, I looked to the Basketball Reference Hall of Fame probability calculator. James Bowman did some work on a calculator for the WNBA back in the day, and I adopted some of his conversions.

The original Basketball Reference model was based on a logistic regression of predictor variables to find what Hall of Fame voters have most valued historically. In order of importance, the algorithm spit out All-Star appearances, number of championships, peak single-season win shares, and sustained effectiveness as measured by appearances on leaderboards. Interestingly enough, a player’s height had a negative statistical impact.

For leaderboards, a player got points for being in the top ten in the league in points, total rebounds, assists, minutes played, steals, and blocks.

In order to equate WNBA data with NBA stats, I added seven inches to a player’s height, which is the difference in average height between the two leagues, with the assumption of equal distributions. I also multiplied peak win shares by 1.9, which was the difference between the means between the leagues last season.

As a sanity check, I first checked the numbers on Sue Bird. 100.00% probability of being in the Hall of Fame. Good, that makes sense. Now, for Stewart: 76 inches, 1 championship, 90 leaderboard points, 7.7 peak win shares, and 2 All-Star appearances.

Drum roll, please: if she retired today, the model says Stewart would have a 16.51% chance of being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“What? That’s crazy,” some of you might say. “She’s only played three seasons!”

And yet some of you might say the opposite, that in just three seasons, Stewart has already cemented herself as one of the greatest of all time. Some even thought that was true after just her second season.

For reference, Crystal Langhorne also has one championship and two All-Star appearances. Her peak win shares is an impressive 6.5. The model gives the twelve-season, 393-game veteran just a 4.32% chance of entering the Hall of Fame.

An important caveat: according to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, are not based solely on professional contributions. To be considered, one must meet a minimum of two out of the five criteria — Stewart passes with flying colors.

The first is being an All-American at the community college or collegiate level at least one year. Stewart was a three-time consensus first team All-American at UConn.

The second is to be a Player of the Year recipient. Stewart was thrice named Naismith College Player of the Year, USBWA Women’s National Player of the Year and Associated Press Women’s College Basketball Player of the Year. In her junior and senior seasons, she also won the Wade Trophy and the John R. Wooden Award.

The third is to be a contributing member of a team that competes in an Olympic or World Championship competition. Stewart averaged 8.1 points and shot 73% from the field as the youngest member of the 2016 gold-winning U.S. Olympics team.

The fourth is to have professional experience with honors and championships. Stewart is a two-time All-Star, a Rookie of the Year, league MVP, and Finals MVP.

The last is to be a significant contributor on more than one national championship team. Check.

Another caveat is that the Basketball Reference model was built for players with more than 400 NBA games, or about 5 seasons. Scaled, that is equivalent to 180 WNBA games. Stewart has played in just 101 regular season games.

So Stewart meets the baseline requirements, no surprise there, but she has barely reached the century mark in games. As far as narratives go, in the unfortunate (and highly unlikely event) that her Achilles injury were to derail Stewart’s career after three of the most promising seasons in WNBA history, you could really go either way.

On the one hand, her impact on the game over seven seasons at the collegiate and professional level and on the national team is undeniable. On the other, no player with a similar number of games has ever warranted consideration. For comparison:

And if I had to vote today?

It’d be a yes. The back and forth is fun, but ultimately Breanna Stewart belongs in the Hall of Fame, even if she never picked up a basketball again.

As a fan of the game, I would love to see her play twenty more years and erase any doubt that she belongs among the greats of the sport, but her accomplishments in college alone likely merit induction. While it is true that her time in the league has been short to this point, the fact that she has done so much with it already is a credit to her case.

Just for fun, here are the odds for every active WNBA player with at least 180 career regular season games (plus Breanna Stewart). Players with more than a 90% chance of inclusion have also been highlighted.

Caitlin Clark dunks on Michael Che in surprise SNL appearance

(Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which quickly went viral.

The Iowa star showed up on the show’s Weekend Update segment to playfully call out Michael Che’s history of making jabs at women’s sports.

It started when Che joked that Iowa should replace Clark’s retired No. 22 “with an apron.” 

When Clark entered, Che said that he was a fan. But Clark wasn’t convinced – especially not when co-host Colin Jost brought the receipts of Che’s jabs.

“Really, Michael? Because I heard that little apron joke you did,” she said, before making him read some jokes of her own in retaliation. Clark finished her segment by shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing Che a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her last playful dig of the night.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, Michael,” she said.

Afterward, SNL castmember Bowen Yang told People that the 22-year-old and teammates Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Jada Gyamfi – who joined her at Studio 8H – “were so cool.”

“She's so charming and witty,” Yang said. “They were just the most stunning, noble people.

“Athletes just have this air about them. They know they're amazing. I mean, these are people who have numeric attachments and values to their performance. That's something that comedians never have.”

Portland Thorns, in uncharted territory, start NWSL season winless

Portland has started the season winless through four games for the first time. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns continue to struggle to start the NWSL season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage over the weekend to remain winless through their first four games. 

It’s uncharted territory for Portland, who has never started the NWSL regular season without a win in four games before.

Following the loss, defender Becky Sauerbrunn voiced her frustrations with the start. 

“It’s hard to find a lot of encouraging things, but what I find encouraging is that people are frustrated,” she said. “People are pissed off that we’re not doing well. We care, and I think that’s really important.” 

She also added that while the team will reflect individually, “there’s going to be no finger pointing.”

“We’re going to look at ourselves and figure out what we should have done, or I should have done better,” she said. “There is a list of things that I could have done better, and I’m going to make sure I know every single thing and watch this game back.”

The Thorns currently sit at the bottom of the league table with just one point, having allowed 10 goals – tied for the worst in the league. They’ve yet to lead in a match. And as questions grow, attention turns to head coach Mike Norris. 

Norris is in his second year as head coach of the club after leading the team to a second-place finish in the regular season last year. When asked about the possibility of pressure growing after the unprecedented start, Norris said that the pressure has been there “from day one.”

“I cannot be driven by my day-to-day and the longer vision of the pressure of the job,” he said. “We’ve got a belief in how we want to play, how we operate. We’ve got to stick with the process of that. While we do it, we have to review and see what is working, what’s not working.

“I’ll be showing up for the team and being there for what they need from me as we approach getting back together as a group next week.”

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals.

The team hired a new coach, Fran Alonso, in December. Earlier this year, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada beats U.S. Hockey 6-5 in thrilling World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York, and it was the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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