In January 2019, the visionary Joe Tsai purchased the WNBA side the New York Liberty. An exciting move and era for the organisations and fans of the league.
The New York Liberty were hoping to be playing the 2020 WNBA season at the Barclays Centre, but due to COVID-19, the WNBA had to take a rain check. It was going to be the first time under new leadership from Executive Vice Chairman of the Alibaba Group and owner of the Brooklyn Nets Joe Tsai.
The team was acquired in January 2019 and immediately following the closing of the transaction, David Levy was named CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, and President of J Tsai Sports.
“We are committed to the Liberty’s long-term success in New York and relocating the team to Brooklyn will provide the franchise with tremendous opportunity,” said Levy.
“With many of our fans based in the five boroughs, moving to Barclays Center will make the Liberty more centrally located, allowing us to bring back the original fan base and attract new supporters. The venue change, along with the first pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, has positioned the team for an exciting future.”
“The New York Liberty are part of the foundation of the W and have many of the most accomplished players and passionate fans since the inaugural season,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert.
“Barclays Center is the perfect venue to host New York’s team and showcase world-class women’s basketball. This move is key to driving the league to the next level.”
In the era of growing women’s sports (before COVID-19) and getting more women and girls to engage with sports – it was an excellent move by Joe Tsai and the whole organisation. The move to Barclays Center would have expanded the capacity to more than 8,000, with opportunity for growth. But with the investment to develop and promote women’s sports in New York, this was going to be the trailblazers for other teams and organisation to learn about how to integrate women’s teams to their whole organisation visions. Building a road map for all to follow
With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant part of the Net’s, it was only going to be and serve as a very competitive and exciting season ahead for the team where the women and men will bounce off each others energy to grow their fan base, engage participation and show the world how both can succeed side by side while promoting equality in sports.
Especially, with the New York Liberty selecting unanimous National Player of the Year Sabrina Ionescu of Oregon with the first overall pick of WNBA Draft 2020.
Ionescu, a three-time Nancy Lieberman Award winner as the nation’s top point guard, averaged 17.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and an NCAA-leading 9.1 assists as a senior. She holds the NCAA record for career triple-doubles and is the only NCAA woman or man to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists joining the Liberty’s was just the icing on the cake for New York.
This is the fourth home venue in the Liberty’s illustrious history as one of the eight original franchises in the WNBA. The team played in the first-ever WNBA game in 1997 defeating the Los Angeles Sparks and has claimed some of the league’s biggest names, including Becky Hammon, Kym Hampton, Vickie Johnson, Rebecca Lobo, Teresa Weatherspoon, and Sue Wicks.
Big names, big city and a huge market for the NBA and WNBA. But with COVID-19, has this changed the landscape for this vision for the game or is Joe Tsai and David Levy still committed to the growth of women’s sport?
In a recent interview with Fanside, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert shared her thoughts about the WNBA season and the struggles of dealing with COVID-19.
“It’s really important that we keep the conversation on women’s sport and WNBA, women’s best ball,” Engelbert said. “Because we had so much momentum coming into the season, which would have been our 24th season, and we would have tipped off on May 15. So now we do find ourselves in a moment of challenge for the country for the world, but we also are looking at the different kinds of opportunities that could present to elevate more people watching.”
As a fan of basketball, I am extremely excited to see what Joe Tsai and the organisation do with the Liberties? Even though it has been a struggle due to COVID-19, I sincerely hope that Brooklyn continues to lead the way in showing the rest of the world what can be achieved, when the playing levels are equalised or at least, investment is put into growing women’s sport.
Joe Tsai and David Levy, we are all excited – lead the way.