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2023 WNBA Finals: Las Vegas Aces vs. New York Liberty

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

As far back as last winter, the odds were on two talent-heavy teams to go to the WNBA finals, and the predictions came true. Last year's champs, the Las Vegas Aces, take on the New York Liberty in Game 1 Sunday in Las Vegas. And joining us now is basketball analyst Terrika Foster-Brasby. All right. So, Terrika, both teams have been called super teams. Explain what that means. Why are these two teams super teams?

TERRIKA FOSTER-BRASBY: Yeah. Well, both teams have been given this name simply because of the roster that they have constructed. Now, one team, the New York Liberty, acquired these players via trades in this off season. So they have multiple players that have multiple MVP's, players that have been nominated - or named as, you know, all-stars and also about four players that have won WNBA championships. Same thing with the Las Vegas Aces, except their team was a little bit more put together through the draft, where they also have a team that's filled with multiple all-stars. They acquired a WNBA legend, Candace Parker, in this off season, Alysha Clark as well. And so these two teams have been the powerhouse of the WNBA this entire season.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, the two top records in the WNBA, too. All right. So let's focus in on the matchup of the two stars of this series - the Aces' A'ja Wilson versus the Liberty's Breanna Stewart, each in the prime of their careers. They're both really, really good. What do you expect to see against them in the finals? And might they guard each other?

FOSTER-BRASBY: Pure dominance is what you're probably going to see from both of them. I mean, Breanna Stewart, she was named the most valuable player of the 2023 WNBA season. And so she has set the record books on fire this year for multiple 40-point games, which is something that we had never seen before. For a little while, she held the scoring record this year. We expect to see her just continue to lead her team in domination. The good thing about the New York Liberty is that because they have so many stars on their team, Breanna doesn't have to do it all. There are multiple players who have the ability to support her when she has had some offensive struggles this postseason.

Oppositely, A'ja Wilson just continues to play like a woman possessed. She's had multiple 30-plus games in the postseason alone, which is something that no one else had ever done before in the history of the WNBA, which is in its 27th postseason. And she's been leading her team throughout some of - gosh - some of the more difficult matchups. I don't think that they will guard each other...

MARTÍNEZ: Ugh.

FOSTER-BRASBY: ...That much.

MARTÍNEZ: Oh, oh.

FOSTER-BRASBY: Jonquel Jones usually guards A'ja Wilson. However, the way that their size matches up...

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah.

FOSTER-BRASBY: ...On the inside inside, you can probably see that there will be times where Breanna and A'ja will go toe to toe.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, just a couple of times. Clear out one side of the floor and let them go at it.

FOSTER-BRASBY: That's it.

MARTÍNEZ: Why not? That'd be awesome. You know, the NBA in the early '80s was not the league that it is today. But then along came Magic Johnson and the Lakers and Larry Bird and the Celtics, and their championship rivalries just took the league to another level. It was fascinating. It's still talked about today. Can this be that? Can this be the thing that takes the WNBA to that next level, these two super teams and these two stars going at it for five games?

FOSTER-BRASBY: Yeah. I actually think that that's a very great comparison. And here's why. The WNBA no longer has conference alignment when it comes to the playoffs. So it's not like an East versus West like in the NBA. It's the top eight teams, regardless of conference, who make the postseason. It just so happens this year that the two teams who are going to be vying for a championship is the top team in the East and the top team in the West. So you're kind of starting to see at least that East Coast-West Coast rivalry with these two teams. But certainly because of the ability of A'ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart to really impact the way this league is marketed, the way this league is seen, you can absolutely think that these - this rivalry could be something brewing for years to come.

MARTÍNEZ: Basketball analyst Terrika Foster-Brasby, thanks a lot.

FOSTER-BRASBY: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF RATATAT'S "CREAM ON CHROME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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