New York finally gets its homegrown superstar, just not the Knicks
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Liberty & Justice For (Almost) All: New York finally gets its homegrown superstar, just not the Knicks

Liberty, WNBA, Sabrina Ionescu

Although the city of New York already has the WNBA’s New York Liberty, the pursuit of (basketball) happiness is a whole different story.

However, the perennially disgruntled sports town finally caught a break on Friday evening, as the Liberty were fortunate enough to select former Oregon Ducks guard Sabrina Ionescu with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft.

Far and away the best collegiate prospect on the board this time around and a once-in-a-generation talent, Ionescu’s presence will immediately jumpstart a heralded (though currently rebuilding) WNBA franchise that won a mere 10 games last season.

With a player of Ionescu’s caliber on the court and marketability away from it — coinciding with a brand-new home at Barclays Center and a new head coach in Walt Hopkins — the Liberty could ultimately pull off one of the quickest turnarounds in recent memory.

That’s the good news. The bad news? It is once again the lowly New York Knicks that will miss out on all the glory.

Knicks Falling While Nets, Liberty Rise

As the crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets continue to sport the prolific superstar tandem of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Knicks are left with a few up-and-coming players, Julius Randle and about a handful of veteran power forwards. With the Liberty landing Ionescu on Friday evening, the former Oregon standout will become the latest player to attempt the unthinkable by becoming a homegrown superstar in the “Big Apple.”

If only she could suit up for the Knicks…

It is still Hall of Fame center and former No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Patrick Ewing that serves as the last homegrown player that led the Knicks to anything remotely promising. With the Ewing-led teams stringing together more than a few memorable playoff runs throughout the 1990s, the city was electric as the ‘Bockers showed both promise and the will to win no matter what stood in front of them all while serving as “New York’s team.”

With Ewing landing at Madison Square Garden all the way back in 1985, it once appeared as though current Dallas Mavericks big man Kristaps Porzingis would be the one to break the streak for the Knicks. However, that obviously didn’t work out as originally planned.

It is also worth noting that Porzingis was infamously booed by Knicks fans upon initially being selected at No. 4 overall in 2015, so even the one dubbed “The Unicorn” wasn’t truly a second-coming of sorts.

Ionescu: A Game-Changer For Liberty

Luckily for fans of the game of basketball, especially those in New York City, Ionescu can absolutely quell all those feelings of torment in hopes of quenching that same thirst for winning. As the Knicks continue to be the Knicks and the aforementioned Nets lean on the free agent tandem of Durant and Irving in order to get it done, the Liberty now sit in the unique position to take over in a big way.

Ionescu simply has it all and, believe it or not, she is officially New York’s.

Although a California native that attended the University of Oregon, the 22-year-old WNBA superstar-to-be will now make her way to the East Coast to begin her professional playing career. A triple-double machine, Ionescu did it all during her time suiting up for the Ducks.

Producing 26 triple-doubles, 17 more than any other woman in Division-I basketball history, she also recorded 2,000 career points, 1,000 career assists and 1,000 career rebounds en route to becoming the only player in Division-I history to accomplish such a feat — for man or woman.

Not impressed?

Ionescu wrapped up her collegiate tenure as Oregon’s all-time leading scorer as well, which is obviously saying something considering the legacy of the highly-regarded Pac-12 program.

Granted, receiving the No. 1 overall pick certainly helps the situation, but the Liberty presently appear primed to do something that the Knicks couldn’t do in its wildest dreams at the moment: rebuild correctly.

In addition to selecting Ionescu with this year’s top pick, the Liberty didn’t settle and continued to set itself up for a successful weekend leading up to the 2020 WNBA Draft. Earlier in the week, the Eastern Conference franchise traded away WNBA veteran and All-Star center Tina Charles to the Washington Mystics in a three-team deal that also netted the Liberty a slew of valuable picks on Friday night.

With Ionescu leading the way at No. 1 overall, the Liberty also selected Megan Walker (UConn) at No. 9, Jazmine Jones (Louisville) at No. 12, Kylee Shook (Louisville) at No. 13, Leaonna Odom (Duke) at No. 15 and Erica Ogwumike (Rice) at No. 26 — the most picks in a single WNBA Draft in franchise history.

Rebuilding Quick And The Right Way

Ionescu, who has officially become the first-ever No. 1 overall pick in team history, will now help lead a team already housing the likes of current Liberty staples Kia Nurse, Amanda Zahui B., Asia Durr and Rebecca Allen. Not to mention the duo of Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Tayler Hill, who were added earlier in the week in exchange for Charles.

Forming not only a key core of players in a hurry but also a deep and talented roster, the Liberty just fast-tracked itself to years of success, notoriety and respect — the right way, something the Knicks can perhaps one day aspire to do themselves.

As it stands today, the Liberty have been to four WNBA Finals without winning a single championship, good for the longest such streak in league history. Nonetheless, if Ionescu has anything to say about it, this streak won’t last much longer, as the WNBA franchise just instantly became must-see television both in New York and throughout the country.

With the “Mamba Mentality” of the late, great Kobe Bryant, the passion of Michael Jordan, the triple-double prowess of Oscar Robertson and the acumen to lead like LeBron James, Ionescu couldn’t possibly be more ready for the “Big Apple” and the bright lights that come along with it. Not only that, but this should be a reciprocal relationship as “The Mecca” couldn’t be more ready for a homegrown player of Ionescu’s ilk.