There have been some spectacular Big 3 combinations in WNBA history.
Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson and Cynthia Cooper-Dyke led the defunct Houston Comets to the league’s first four championships (1997 through 2000).
Diana Taurasi, Candice Dupree and DeWanna Bonner comprised an explosive trio during a dominant seven-year (2010-16) run in Phoenix that netted a slew of points and a title in 2009.
But Storm stars Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd are making a case as the greatest trifecta the league has seen.
Take Seattle’s 87-70 victory against Indiana on Tuesday night, for example.
The Storm’s Big 3 combined for 55 points and accounted for 63% of the offense as the team posted its fourth straight victory and remained perfect on the road at 6-0.
Stewart, who is arguably the best player in the league, had 20 points on 9-for-17 shooting, 12 rebounds and five assists.
Loyd bounced back from a seven-point outing Sunday and finished with 18 points, six rebounds and four assists to keep her MVP candidacy afloat.
And Sue Bird added 17 points, four assists and three steals.
On the first day of fan voting for the WNBA All-Star Game, the Storm’s 17-point blowout win was another reminder of the embarrassment of riches the team possesses in star power.
“You have arguably one of the best at each position (and) that is very impactful on the basketball floor,” Storm coach Noelle Quinn said. “A point guard, one of the best in the world in my opinion, in Sue. An amazing firepower with Jewell on the wing and just a very versatile player in Stewie. A big that can shoot, that can get to the rim and do a lot of things on the floor.
“With that combination you have pieces around that complement those great attributes. What you see is three that have been through the trenches with one another. They went from a rebuild situation to winning a championship to now being contenders again. The culmination of that and the growth of that, now you’re seeing the maturation of that.”
The Storm’s Big 3 are averaging 55.5 points, which leads the WNBA and would rank fourth in league history.
In 2009, Bird combined with Lauren Jackson and Swin Cash to average 49.9 points and the next year, Seattle won a WNBA title.
The Bird, Stewart, Loyd trio has also produced WNBA titles in 2018 and ’20 and the Storm (11-2) is poised for another championship run.
“It’s a unique Big 3,” Bird said. “You have two players in Stewie and Jewell who are exceptional and not even in their prime yet, which is scary. They’ve kind of grown up since entering the WNBA until now. But also, arguably the best at their positions currently. That’s being teamed up with someone, myself, who was able to be with them in these formative years.
“I’m obviously a point guard that loves to get players involved. Loves to help people be successful. Loves to put people in successful positions. And when you have players of their caliber, it makes my job super easy. … In some ways I can be a little bit of a maestro.”
The 40-year-old has reinvented her game late in her career. In addition to directing the offense, she’s become a lethal perimeter scorer who is shooting 53.6% from the field, which leads WNBA guards, and a career-best 48.4% on three-pointers.
“I’m open, I have to knock down shots to keep people honest,” Bird said. “There’s something unique about having an older player like myself with all this experience teamed up with two players who you knew were going to be great from Day One and now are really starting to show signs of that greatness. Now it’s at another level.”
Since Stewart entered the league in 2016, Seattle’s Big 3 has led the WNBA in scoring in three (2016, ’17 and ’18) of the four years they’ve been together. [Stewart and Bird each sat out in 2019 due to injuries.]
“We play so well together,” Stewart said. “We have the utmost respect for one another, obviously Jewell and I for what Sue’s done before we were in the WNBA and being her teammate. For Jewell and I, continuing to grow and progress together. We came into the league a year apart, but basically we’ve been going on this journey together. To have those two alongside me, makes everything better and everything more fun.”
Loyd added: “We’ve been playing together for a while and we’re pretty selfless. We’re not so caught up on scoring and making these amazing no-look passes, plays and alley-oops and things that we’ve done in our careers. We’re just trying to play the best basketball that we can together. We understand each other’s game pretty well so we’re able play off each other and have fun with that.”
At first glance, Tuesday night’s matchup at Indiana Farmers Coliseum between the Storm and Fever looked like a mismatch considering nine games separated the teams in the standings.
But Indiana kept it relatively close until the end.
In the first quarter, Loyd (10 points) and Stewart (nine) combined to outscore the Fever and carry the Storm to a 25-16 lead.
Seattle’s Big 3 tied Indiana in scoring at halftime as Stewart tallied 14 points, Loyd 10 and Bird nine to put the Storm up 41-33 at the break.
Indiana pulled to 64-55 early in the fourth when Seattle ripped off an 13-2 run, including 11 straight points – eight from Bird and three from Loyd – capped by Bird’s consecutive three-pointers to go up 77-57 and put the game away with 4:56 remaining.
“The game felt like we were, not dragging along, but we couldn’t really open it up until that point,” Quinn said. “It was a lot of energy. Knocking down open shots. Moving the ball. Getting (Teaira) McCowan in some motion. But it started on the defensive end. Finishing off plays. We were rotating, rebounding and pushing.”
Seattle, which had 27 assists on 34 baskets, has held opponents to 75 points or fewer in seven of the past eight games.
Kelsey Mitchell had a game-high 24 points for Indiana (1-12), which converted just 13 of 24 free throws and lost its eighth straight game.
Seattle wraps up its five-game trip with another game against Indiana on Thursday.