“M-V-P, M-V-P, M-V-P.”
Chants rung out through EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Virginia as WNBA basketball superstar Breanna Stewart held the championship trophy for the first time. The Seattle Storm had just completed a three-game sweep of the Washington Mystics in the WNBA Finals to secure their third title in franchise history.
But that was seven months ago.
The reigning league and finals MVP, who spent her WNBA offseason playing for Russia-based Dynamo Kursk, was injured Sunday playing in the EuroLeague Final Four Championship in Sopron, Hungry. Upon returning to the States, Stewart underwent an MRI which confirmed her worst fears.
The 24-year-old ruptured her right Achilles tendon and will miss the 2019 WNBA season.
"First off, I just want to thank you for the tremendous amount of love and support I've received over the past few days," Stewart said in her announcement on Twitter. "The situation is still a shock to me. ... This year especially has been amazing and filled with lots of success and as we all know there are highs and lows throughout a career."
This is just another obstacle that I will overcome. I'm thankful that I have so many people in my corner to help me every step of the way. I'm feeling every emotion possible at this point but just know that the bounce back will be real and I'll be back better than ever.
Stewart is expected to make a full recovery following surgery and could return to the court as early as the 2020 WNBA season. Rehabilitation from an Achilles injury takes an estimated nine months to a year.
Like many other female players in the WNBA, Stewart was playing overseas to maximize her income. In 2018, she made $56,793 in base salary with the Storm and earned bonuses of $15,000 for being named MVP, $11,025 for winning the WNBA title, $10,000 for being All-WNBA first team and $2,500 for being in the All-Star Game.
Since she was taken as the No. 1 pick in 2016, Stewart has played in 111 games in three WNBA seasons, averaging 20.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.6 blocks. She has missed only one game in her WNBA career.
With Stewart out, the Storm are left to pick up the pieces. Just last week, Seattle drafted 6-foot-4 Australian forward Ezi Magbegor, who could have an increased workload with Stewart sidelined. Jewell Loyd, Natasha Howard and Sue Bird will be tasked with filling the void as the Storm looks to defend its title when the WNBA season opens on May 25.