Change and near-misses defined the decade for the New York Liberty. That said, they enjoyed the antics of several hardwood stars and legends.
Those who sought victorious basketball in New York City, a city that worships a roundball diety, have had an answer looking right at them for quite some time.
Though a WNBA title eluded them once more, the New York Liberty accounted for the metropolitan area’s basketball success. The team would reach the postseason six times over this dying decade, one that saw them finish in first place in the Eastern Conference over three consecutive seasons.
While the decade ended on a less than ideal note, featuring a pair of losing seasons and a forced eviction to White Plains, the Liberty enter the future full of hope. The team is set to begin the 2020s back within city limits at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, reenergized under the new management of owner Joseph Tsai.
Before the era begins, ESNY takes a look back at the names that made the prosperous 2010s happen. Names that define the Liberty’s past, present, and future.
C: Kiah Stokes (2015-present)
At 26, Stokes has already made herself a headliner in the Liberty record books. In 2018, only three years after she was the Liberty’s first-round pick, Stokes passed Sue Wicks for the franchise record in blocks (163). Stokes also ranks fifth in franchise history in total rebounds (768).
F: Tina Charles (2014-present)
Charles seemed destined to become a Liberty legend. A Queens native and Christ the King Regional High School alumna, Charles came over in a 2014 trade with the Connecticut Sun.
Since then, she has become the Liberty’s all-time leader in points (3,739) and double-doubles (76). Countless accolades have adorned Charles’ Liberty career, including All-WNBA and Defensive Team honors. She also reigns as league’s rebounding champion.
Charles even entered the realm of filmmaking with her directorial debut Charlie’s Records. The documentary centered on her father’s record store in Brooklyn. All that’s missing is a WNBA title.
F: Essence Carson (2010-15)
Metropolitan basketball defined the early stages of Carson’s basketball career. A Paterson, NJ native, she entered the national spotlight at Rutgers before the Liberty took her in the 2008 draft’s first round.
Just as Carson was hitting her stride, to the tune of a 2011 All-Star Game nomination, a torn ACL may have prevented her from reaching her true potential. Carson nonetheless ranks fifth in the decade in Liberty scoring (1,227) and tenth in assists (209).
G: Cappie Pondexter (2010-14)
Another Rutgers alumna who went from scarlet to seafoam. Pondexter came to New York in a 2010 trade with the Phoenix Mercury.
A lot had been accomplished as a member of the Mercury, including a WNBA Finals MVP honor in 2007. However, Pondexter went on to establish her lasting legacy with the Liberty.
In Manhattan, she would go on to establish herself as one of the most durable players in WNBA history. Pondexter led the league in minutes per game in 2010 and 2013 and missed just four games over her New York career. In a July 2010 tilt, Pondexter’s 40 points against Indiana set a new franchise record.
G: Leilani Mitchell (2010-2013)
Mitchell’s decade was bookended by a pair of Most Improved Player Awards. The first was earned as a member of the Liberty, where she broke out to the tune of a league-best three-point percentage (.486).
Mitchell was one of three Liberty representatives to hit at least 200 triples in the 2010s. Her career New York percentage of .402 is good for third overall in franchise history.
Kia Nurse (2018-present)
Usually, New York’s Candian scorers are found on the ice, but the Ontario-born Nurse is a welcome exception. Her 34 points earned in a June 2018 win over Indiana were the most ever tallied by a Liberty rookie.
Nurse would also go on to earn her first All-Star nomination in her sophomore season, the most recent Liberty campaign. A potential new face of the Liberty’s upcoming Brooklyn era, Nurse (along with teammate Asia Durr) made history as the second woman to represent the Jordan Brand.
Sugar Rodgers (2014-18)
Second-round picks often struggle to make an impact, but Rodgers was a welcome exception over her five seasons in New York. She arrived in a 2014 trade with the Minnesota Lynx and started only five games over her first three seasons.
By the end of the decade, only Charles and Pondexter played more minutes in a Liberty uniform over the past ten years than Rodgers. Rodgers earned her first All-Star nomination in 2017. She took home the Sixth Woman of the Year Award at the end of that same season.
Plenette Pierson (2010-14)
Brought over in a trade with the Detroit Shock, Pierson earned a career-best 12.9 points per game during the 2011 season. She ends this decade ranked in the top ten in almost every major statistical category, including a third-place finish in points (1,573).
Kia Vaughn (2010-12, 2017-18)
The MSG paint was a quiet place without Vaughn, another Rutgers alumna who made her mark in Liberty history. Only Charles grabbed more offensive boards over the decade than Vaughn (247), whose magnum opus came in 2011. In earning career-high averages of 10.1 points and 6.7 rebounds, Vaughn became the third player in team history to win the Most Improved Player Award.
Brittany Boyd (2015-present)
Boyd has never been known for scoring, but her name is a mainstay at the top of the recent Liberty stat ledgers.
She would fall just seven steals short of passing Pondexter for the most in the decade (174). Boyd also appears in the decade’s top three assists (504), a mark currently good for eighth all-time in franchise history.
Nicole Powell (2010-12)
Powell joined the Liberty at a relatively late point in her career. She played in just two more seasons after her New York departure in 2012.
She nonetheless made a lasting impression over three seasons. Powell ranks top-ten in points (873), rebounds (430), and steals (124) for the decade.
She’s currently the head coach of Grand Canyon University’s women’s basketball team.
Amanda Zahui B. (2016-present)
The Stockholm-born Zahui B. almost saw her career reach role player purgatory before it could truly get rolling. She was one of the final remnants of the reeling Tulsa Shock, who chose her second overall in 2015. With the Shock sputtering, Zahui B was dealt to New York.
She has reclaimed the narrative of her career since the trade. After serving mostly as a reserve in her first seasons on Broadway, she has since established herself as both an interior and perimeter threat. Her 37 points in a 2019 win in Los Angeles fell just short of Pondexter’s top tally.
Head Coach: Bill Laimbeer (2013-17)
Laimbeer was the one to oversee the Liberty’s mid-10s heyday. His 92 wins over the five-year span are good for second in Liberty history, falling just eight short of Richie Adubato’s century mark.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490