Breanna Stewart‘s not used to spending her time away from basketball. Most winters, the four-time NCAA champion, two-time WNBA champion, two-time WNBA MVP, and two-time Olympic gold medalist is overseas in Russia, where she added a Euroleague ring to her collection in 2021. But after a surgery to repair her left Achilles tendon ended Stewart’s 2021 WNBA season early, the young star found herself having to sit idly as her Seattle Storm made a playoff run.
After a loss in the second round by Seattle, Stewart stayed stateside to rehab. With all that free time and no ability to get on the court, Stewart went virtual, partnering with NBA 2K and American Express on an exciting event at Staples Center this weekend, which will feature, among other things, Stewart clashing with Clippers star Paul George in the NBA 2K22.
.@americanexpress is bringing NBA 2K to real life! Go to 901 W Olympic Blvd in LA on 12/11 & 12/12 for the American Express x NBA 2K22 Experience-open to all fans. Card Members can get free Locker Codes for digital merch. See why bball is better #withAmex! https://t.co/M4D1bZ8KkG pic.twitter.com/puFOLBZjUH
— NBA (@NBA) December 7, 2021
Stewart spoke with Dime this week about the event, her recovery, and what she’s looking forward to in the 2022 WNBA season.
We’re kind of in the early stages of the W really being integrated into NBA 2K. So I’m curious, how did you get involved with this American Express/NBA 2K22 experience and what has it been like for you personally to get more involved as an ambassador for the game and the W’s place in it?
To be involved in the American Express/NBA 2K22 experience is really exciting not only as someone who plays 2K, but also really [loves] being able to be a part of the experience as well, and appreciate the pop-up and the opportunity to play against Paul.
Like you touched on, the WNBA hasn’t been in 2K for that long, but as I was preparing for this weekend and playing against Paul on Twitch, it just made me think of all the times that after a game or whatever it was, so many people on social media would (tell me), “Oh I just dropped 50 with you on 2K or I played with you on 2K,” and things like that, so really connecting the WNBA to video games and esports is something that’s helped our platform continue to gain eyes and gain viewers from a different direction. So, it’s exciting and it’s exciting to be part of this event.
Zooming out a little bit, it always sounds scary to hear “surgery” and “Achilles” in the same sentence, and I know there was a “minor” in there as well, but especially with someone like you who has a history with that injury, where are you right now in your recovery from that procedure and what was it like for you to have your season be so affected by that injury again?
It was really tough for me, to be honest, to be dealing with a similar injury at the end of the season. The hardest part for me was, like you said, having Achilles and injury in the same sentence, and it was my other side, the one that I didn’t have surgery on before.
A lot was going through my mind. I didn’t want to go through an Achilles rupture. I didn’t want to go through rehab. I basically didn’t want to go through anything. But that wasn’t really an option for me.
So to kind of, you know, be a little bit ahead of the game, I had the precautionary surgery, just to make sure I clean everything up. I have the time. I am not going overseas right now. It was the best decision for me. And I actually just had rehab this morning and I’m now walking in two shoes, so I’m very happy about that. No more boot. No more crutches. Getting back to normalcy a little bit.
Looking forward to next year’s WNBA season, the Storm will be making their debut at Climate Pledge Arena. Have you been able to see the arena yet and what will it mean to get an upgrade to a bigger, newer facility?
I can’t wait to be in Climate Pledge. To be honest, I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve only seen the pictures and videos on social media. And when the [NHL’s Seattle] Kraken opened the arena, I was still on crutches, so it was just kind of like a pain in the ass to get around. So I just wasn’t really feeling that, but I’m sure once I get back to Seattle, I’ll make sure to really get the grand tour.
But it’ll be nice, you know, it’s nice to be back in Seattle playing, it’s nice to be in Seattle center. Obviously, our fans, the majority of our fans are in Seattle. And that’s our home, that’s where we play. It’s not Key anymore. It’s Climate Pledge, but it’s gonna be awesome. And, you know, for those that haven’t played in that arena or in Seattle before, it’ll be great.
I thought of you a little bit watching the announcements come through for Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd and their NIL deals the past few weeks. If you’re able to put yourself in that space, how do you think your college career is different if you have that ability to build a brand and make money and get your name out there in that way?
Well, I mean, first of all, I’m really happy for the NCAA athletes to be able to take advantage of the NIL. It’s something that (has) been a long time coming and you can’t help but think about, you know, myself and the other athletes who made an impact in college and what would have happened in their college career.
But I think the biggest thing was it would have … I would have been able to really take advantage of my brand (from) the moment that I stepped on campus at Storrs and had that start then, instead of four years later. But this is the way things work. And to be able to kind of have a path to make a sacrifice to help the next generation, that’s perfect for me.