Marine Johannès’ moves caught the eye of many during Sunday’s Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, including NBA star LeBron James.

James called Johannès’ shot a “CANNON,” noting that her one-legged 3-pointer while moving to the left “got me out my seat!!”

The French star, who is often the first player off the bench for the New York Liberty, scored 14 points in that role in Sunday’s 99-82 loss to the Las Vegas Aces. She went 4-of-7 from 3-point range in 20 minutes on the floor, good enough to be New York’s third-highest scorer in the game.

On Monday, Johannès responded to James’ post about her shooting prowess with an emoji-filled tweet, the hands covering the emojis face seemingly expressing her disbelief over her shoutout from the four-time NBA champion.

“The Marine who came out was Marine,” Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello said after the game. “She’s had some good games against [the Aces] and she was making shots.”

Brondello also had emphasized Johannès’ role ahead of the series, noting that the 28-year-old guard was “ready to go,” as Johannès proved Sunday.

“We have spoken about our bench being a strength,” Brondello said. “I’m sure they will be in this series as well.”

The WNBA All-Star teams are set, but the lineup for the Skills Challenge and 3-Point Contest are still up in the air.​​ Friday’s competition serves as a precursor to the main event on All-Star weekend, with six players participating in the 3-Point Contest and eight in the Skills Challenge (if the WNBA sticks with the same format as last year).

With the entire league to choose from, here is my wish list for the players I’d like to see compete this weekend in Las Vegas.

3-Point Contest

Kelsey Plum, G, Las Vegas Aces

After struggling in last year’s 3-point contest on All-Star weekend, Kelsey Plum deserves a shot at redemption. Despite being an excellent 3-point shooter who averages 43.2% for her career, she was last in the competition in 2022. Teammate A’ja Wilson even said Plum “stunk it up.” The Vegas guard followed that performance up by winning 2022 All-Star Game MVP, but a good showing in this year’s 3-point competition would further erase last year’s struggles. Plum said she’s “not a rack shooter and more of a game shooter,” but why not both?

Lexie Brown, G, Los Angeles Sparks

The Sparks guard was considered a snub in last year’s 3-point contest after shooting 39.8% on the season, thanks to a hot hand in the first half. This year, Brown is even better from beyond the arc, shooting 42% and making 2.3 attempts per contest. An illness has kept Brown off the court since June 14, but if she’s healthy, the guard is a no-brainer addition to this year’s competition.

Karlie Samuelson, G, Los Angeles Sparks

Why not have a little intra-team competition? Brown’s teammate, Karlie Samuelson, would be a perfect candidate. She’s spent the last few seasons fighting for a WNBA roster spot and has found a home this year with the Sparks, shooting an incredible 48.2% from beyond the arc. Samuelson is currently injured, but if healthy enough, she deserves this honor.

DeWanna Bonner, F/G, Connecticut Sun

At 35 years old, Bonner is having the best 3-point shooting season of her WNBA career, averaging 38.2% with 2.2 makes per game. Bonner spent her offseason practicing twice a day to rehab an injury and improve her long-range shooting. Bonner’s desire to find ways to get better after 14 years in the league makes her special, and bringing her into the 3-point contest would be a great way to celebrate the veteran’s season.

Sabrina Ionescu, G, New York Liberty

Another player who is having the best 3-point shooting performance of her career, Ionescu is making 43.9% of her attempts this season, marking a 10% improvement on her average last season. She’s making 3.1 3-pointers per contest, good for second in the WNBA. Ionescu is the reigning Skills Challenge champion, so why not give her a chance to win the shooting portion as well?

Jackie Young, G, Las Vegas Aces

Another intra-squad rivalry would be on display if Young competed alongside Plum, and with the competition being held in Vegas this year, two Aces players would make for an exciting atmosphere. Not to mention, Young has had one of the best career arcs when it comes to 3-point shooting, shooting 25% in 2021 and 43.1% in 2022. This year, she’s an absolute must-guard shooter from beyond the arc, making 48.1% of her attempts.

If this is Candace Parker's last season, an appearance in the Skills Challenge would be fitting. (Scott Eklund/NBAE via Getty Images)

Skills Challenge

NaLyssa Smith, F, Indiana Fever

The Fever forward participated in last year’s Skills Challenge as a rookie and finished in second place. Smith is having a great second-year campaign in Indiana, leading the team in rebounds per game and ranking second in points per game. Could a skills competition redemption be in her future? It’s certainly a possibility.

Sabrina Ionescu, G, New York Liberty

Speaking of last year’s contest, Ionescu took home the top prize and deserves a chance to defend her title. Having the Liberty guard compete in all three of the weekend’s events is a lot, but she certainly has a case to make the trio of appearances.

Rhyne Howard, G, Atlanta Dream

When it comes to All-Star snubs, no one was more deserving than Howard, who participated in the game last season as a rookie. She’s averaging 18.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game, building on her Rookie of the Year season in 2022. Since we won’t get to see Howard in the All-Star Game, she should at least make an appearance in the Skills Challenge.

Candace Parker, F/C, Las Vegas Aces

This is perhaps the biggest reach on the wish list, but who better to participate in the Skills Challenge than a do-it-all player like Parker? She’s made it clear that she’s nearing the end of her career, so if 2023 is Parker’s last season, it would be a shame for her to go without seeing her compete in some capacity this weekend.

Marine Johannès, G, New York Liberty

Is it really a skills competition without the flashiest player in the WNBA? The French guard does a little bit of everything, and she does it all with style. Johannès is sure to get “oohs and “aahs” every time she steps on the court, making this event the perfect showcase for an exciting player like her.

Courtney Vandersloot, G, New York Liberty

If we are going to have two Liberty guards, why not make it three by adding in the WNBA assists leader? Vandersloot runs the Liberty offense with ease, dishing out 8.5 assists per game. The WNBA veteran certainly has the skills to win this competition, and maybe Allie Quigley would even make an appearance to cheer on her wife. It only seems fair after years of Vandersloot’s support for the queen of the 3-Point Contest.

Satou Sabally, F, Dallas Wings

Other than Smith and Parker, this list is guard-heavy. Enter Sabally, who is the perfect forward for the skills competition. She’s 6-4, but plays more like a guard who shines in the fastbreak and leads the Wings on the run. That makes her a competitive candidate for this event. Plus, Sabally is having the best season of her career, averaging 17.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.

Jewell Loyd, G, Seattle Storm

Things are much different for the 4-14 Storm this season, but Jewell Loyd’s talent remains the same. She could easily participate in the 3-Point Contest, averaging 38.8% from beyond the arc and leading the league in 3-pointers made with 3.4 per game. But I’d rather see Loyd show off her complete skill set, like she’s been doing for Seattle all season.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Sabrina Ionescu thrust her hands into the air, threw her head back and screamed. As the buzzer sounded on her team’s 98-91 upset of the defending champion Chicago Sky in Game 1 of the first round, Ionescu was flooded with emotion.

Happiness, relief, exhaustion and pride. The Liberty guard felt it all after the franchise’s first playoff win since 2015.

“We came here and did what we needed to do, and what nobody believed we could do,” she said.

The Liberty still have to win one more game to take the best-of-three series and move onto the semifinals, but the win on Wednesday proved something the Liberty have long known: It’s possible.

“I’ve been saying to this team, ‘Why not us?’ I know we had a 20 percent chance of even making it to the playoffs, and here we are,” Ionescu said. “We believe in ourselves and that’s all that matters. We are going to try and get another one.”

The win wasn’t a fluke. The Liberty know that. The Sky know, too. And they both know that New York, as the No. 7 seed, needs just one more win to advance and send last year’s title winner home.

If you don’t believe Ionescu’s sentiment of “why not” the Liberty, then allow me to present the evidence.

Stefanie Dolson had 13 points and seven rebounds in the win against her old team. (David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

Previous matchups

There’s precedent for the Liberty playing the Sky close. They matched up four times in the regular season, and aside from a lopsided 83-50 Chicago win in the second game of the season, every contest has been tight.

New York lost by two, 88-86, on June 12, when Ionescu recorded her first triple-double of the season with 27 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists.

The Liberty secured their first win over the Sky on July 23, when Ionescu completed a 3-point play with 9.7 seconds left, ending a six-game winning streak by Chicago.

And in their most recent matchup on July 29, the Sky secured an eight-point win despite the Liberty keeping it close with double-figure scoring from Ionescu, Natasha Howard, Stefanie Dolson and Marine Johannès.

Each time they’ve played the Sky, the Liberty have gained confidence. Each one of those matchups further proved the mindset that New York has what it takes to play with Chicago.

Natasha Howard has the championship experience this young Liberty team needs. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)


When you look at the Liberty’s roster makeup, it’s hard to believe this team went into the playoffs with a 16-20 record. They have one of the deepest teams in the league, with top-to-bottom talent.

That starts with Ionescu and her 17.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game, but it certainly doesn’t end there. Howard is a two-time All-Star who averages 15.1 points per game, but more importantly, she’s a veteran who’s been a part of three WNBA championship teams. She knows how to win in the postseason and demonstrated that in a big way Wednesday with 22 points, seven boards and three assists. Howard also played 34 minutes, the most after Ionescu.

Dolson, who was a part of Chicago’s championship-winning team last year, contributed 13 points and seven rebounds in Wednesday’s win. She was crucial to the Liberty’s offense, making three 3-pointers, and as a 6-foot-5 center, her shooting ability stretches the defense and creates more openings for her teammates.

But the two pieces that are the most important to New York’s potential playoff success are Betnijah Laney and Johannès.

Laney was dominant last season for New York, averaging 16.8 points per game and earning her first All-Star bid. She missed significant time this year with a knee injury that required surgery. Wednesday’s win was only her fifth game back for the Liberty, but she looked to be at the top of her game, recording 17 points, five rebounds and five assists. With 1:23 left on the clock, Laney hit a step-back jumper to give her team a five-point advantage. She then made two free throws with 38.9 seconds remaining for the 98-91 lead that ended up being the final score. Her return was crucial to the Liberty winning their last three games to even get to the playoffs, and she remains a key piece in their quest to upset the Sky.

Johannès, meanwhile, has been making a splash with her flashy style since she joined the team on June 6. But her flair shouldn’t be confused with gaudiness. The guard is creative, but everything she does has purpose. Take last night’s over-the-back pass to Howard. It drew excitement from the crowd and praise on Twitter, but that’s not why she did it. Johannès threw the ball backwards because the angle of her defender didn’t allow her to swivel for a direct pass to Howard. Johannès brings excitement to the Liberty, but more importantly, she provides a playmaking ability that complements Ionescu and creates more opportunities for New York’s offense.

(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Last night’s run

The Sky held a 91-85 lead when Courtney Vandersloot made a layup with 3:32 left on the clock. From there, Chicago didn’t score again. The Liberty closed the game on a 13-0 run in which the Sky went 0-for-8 from the field, with multiple turnovers and head-scratching decisions.

“I think we panicked a little bit,” Azurá Stevens said. “And not forced, but maybe a little bit. We were down and we were trying to get back. I feel like we haven’t panicked all year.”

While the Sky looked nervous down the stretch, the Liberty remained stoic and chipped away at the six-point deficit before eventually taking and building the lead.

That leads back to the confidence the Liberty developed by playing the Sky close in their previous meetings. They’ve seen on three separate occasions that they can keep up with the defending champions, and on Wednesday that belief guided the Liberty to victory.

Betnijah Laney's return has given the Liberty a boost at the most important point of the season. (Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Three-point shooting

The Liberty made 11 3-pointers against the Sky on Wednesday, shooting at a 44 percent clip, with seven players knocking down at least one shot from long-range. They score 36.5 percent of their points from beyond the arc, which leads the league. That’s a defensive nightmare. When everyone can shoot 3s, it means the defense can’t ignore any one player, and the constant need to close-out to 3-point range opens lanes to the basket and entry passes to the post. Especially when some of the 3-point threats are bigs. Dolson and Han Xu force teams to defend well beyond the arc, meaning shot-blockers aren’t anywhere near the hoop.

Plus, with their ability to knock down 3s, the Liberty are always within striking distance.

New playoff format

The final piece to the puzzle is the playoff format. With last season’s layout, the Sky, as the team with the second-best record, would have received a double bye. Instead, they are playing a three-game series.

Games 1 and 2 take place in Chicago, but Game 3 will be in New York, meaning the Liberty have a shot to sweep the series on the road on Saturday. But if they lose, they then get home-court advantage for the series-deciding contest, a scenario Sky head coach James Wade decried on Tuesday.

“You go into a series, especially in this format, and you just need to steal one,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said.

The Liberty have done that. Now, with two chances to finish the job and advance to their first semifinal series since 2015, they need to steal just one more.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Marine Johannès dazzled in her return to the New York Liberty, helping the team to a 97-83 win over the Indiana Fever on Friday.

The French star notched 11 points, six assists and two rebounds in her first game since signing with the Liberty on Wednesday. Johannès inked a deal with the team through the remainder of the season, returning to the Liberty for the first time since her 2019 campaign in New York.

The guard’s signing came amid a flurry of roster moves from the Liberty, with the team trading AD Durr to the Atlanta Dream in exchange for Megan Walker and the draft rights to Raquel Carrera. Walker, however, was immediately waived to make space for Johannès on the roster.

Durr has been struggling with aftereffects of COVID-19 since 2020 and will now get a new look in Atlanta.

Crystal Dangerfield was also released from her contract Wednesday, but the move was procedural and she re-signed Thursday.

Johannès brings a breath of fresh air to the Liberty after the squad got off to a slow start to the 2022 regular season. New York improved to a 5-8 record with Friday’s win and is on a two-game winning streak, with the team’s offense beginning to gel.

“She brings a mindset like she’s been on the team with us all season and she hasn’t,” said Tash Howard of Johannès after Friday’s game.

The New York Liberty will look to add to their win column tally when they take on the Chicago Sky at home on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.