Breanna Stewart certainly has felt love and happiness before, but for the first time in her life she’s at peace.
That’s the word the 26-year-old newlywed and brand-new mom used to describe her feelings while obtaining an elusive balance between her professional basketball pursuits and a growing family that now includes wife Marta Xargay Casademont and their 2-week-old baby daughter, Ruby Mae.
“This is exactly where I want to be,” Stewart said. “And I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing with the people that I want to be doing it with.”
After a two-game layoff to spend time with Marta and Ruby, who was born via surrogate Aug. 9, Stewart returned to the basketball court Friday night and helped the Storm to a 99-83 victory over the New York Liberty, which snapped Seattle’s two-game losing skid.
It was Stewart’s first game as a mom, which is something she’ll never forget.
Listening to her talk about the newest additions in her life, it becomes clear the word “family” has new meaning for the North Syracuse, N.Y., native who grew up with parents Brian and Heather and younger brother Conor.
“To be on the court as a mom just knowing that I’m representing more,” Stewart said. “My family has grown and I’m continuing to represent that. Also, even though Ruby is not aware of it right now, continuing to be a role model to her and doing everything for my family.”
In her first regular-season game as Momma Stewart, the 6-foot-4 forward looked identical to the former Connecticut Huskies star who was taken No. 1 overall in the 2016 WNBA draft and led the Storm to two WNBA championships while winning two WNBA Finals MVPs and a regular-season WNBA MVP award.
Stewart tormented New York with 19 points on 6-for-13 shooting, a game-high 14 rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 32½ minutes.
The diverse on-court production is the same, but those who know Stewart say she’s different.
“She has this joy about her and this spirit about her to where it’s like, she’s just a go-getter,” coach Noelle Quinn said. “If we look at the body of work that Stewie has done on the basketball court, it’s amazing. But I think who she is as a person is really amplified in these moments. She wants to win. She’s a competitor, she’s a winner and it’s contagious. I just think because she goes about things the right way and her heart is in the right spot and doing it for the right reasons is why she’s so successful.”
Stewart, a four-time NCAA champion at UConn and three-time WNBA All-Star, is no stranger to success.
Since returning from an Achilles injury that forced her to miss the 2019 WNBA season, she’s won the 2020 WNBA title and Finals MVP before carrying the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg to an undefeated season, a EuroLeague championship and a Russian Premier League Finals title while winning two MVP awards earlier this year.
In addition, Stewart captured her second Olympic gold medal with Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics a day before Ruby’s birth and led the Storm to the WNBA’s inaugural Commissioner’s Cup title on Aug. 12, three days after becoming a new mom.
“Stewie is a machine, man,” Seattle guard Sue Bird said. “At this point, it’s just what she does. She lives her life the way she wants to. Point blank. That’s it. Nothing to elaborate there, which is amazing. A lot of us can’t do that. So, she’s really a role model in that way and in that sense.”
Admittedly, it took the 40-year-old Bird, who is engaged to soccer star Megan Rapinoe, several years to feel comfortable talking publicly about her private life.
“When you figure out who you are off the court, it just lends to a happy place on the court,” Bird said. “It really does. She’s only going to get better. She’s only going to mature within her game. And the sky is the limit.
“It’s crazy. I don’t even know how old the kid is? I think she’s turning 27 maybe. And she’s already accomplished everything you can hope to accomplish in a career. I’m just so happy that she’s living her life. I’m so happy for her and Marta. Ruby is the cutest. And I’m obviously happy that she is on the Storm.”
It remains to be seen if Stewart’s newfound sense of tranquility results in a second consecutive WNBA championship for the Storm (17-7), which plays the fourth game of its five-game road trip at 3 p.m. PT Sunday against the Washington Mystics (8-13).
With eight regular-season games remaining, Seattle is jockeying with the Las Vegas Aces and Connecticut Sun, who are tied at 17-6, for the best record in the league.
The Nos. 1 and 2 playoff seeds receive a coveted double bye to the semifinals.
“There’s still a lot of games to be played,” Bird said. “Obviously, it’s not a ton of games, but there’s enough where things are going to shift and move in the standings. Teams are going to make runs. For us, we can’t get too far down the line.
“We haven’t really been together that much as a group. The Commissioner’s Cup and (Friday), that’s the two times our roster has been together in over a month. So I think we have another level that we can get to, to be honest.”
And it certainly bodes well for the Storm that its MVP candidate Stewart is feeling better than ever.
“I’m really happy with where I am,” she said. “Just appreciating my life and the fact that I’m able to do all of these things and be my best in both aspects.”