New York Liberty’s Best of the Rest in 2011
Added by Darius Amos on September 26, 2011.
I made some ill-timed decisions this summer, among them was planning a personal trip to Washington, D.C. earlier this month. Though everything in the nation’s capital was up to expectation, my time away from the Big Apple meant time away from the New York Liberty, the team I fondly developed close ties to over the past six months. I don’t regret taking the trip – it was an amazing few days spent with loved ones – but I’m sad I wasn’t present to watch the Liberty playoff game at the Prudential Center.
Had I attended Game 2 of New York’s first round series against Indiana, it would’ve been perfect closure on the personal level. A playoff win at home during the first season covering the Liberty… that would’ve been storybook. Of course, that was not to be. Instead, I was resigned to watching the Libs bow out of the playoffs on national television (thanks, ESPN2) and left with only my thoughts and vivid memories of the games and players of 2011.
And that brings me to today, as I sit in Starbucks drumming up another end-of-the-season piece for the Liberty. Last week, I handed out final grades to the Liberty and gave pretty generous scores considering the team and certain players fell short of their objectives.
Maybe that’s because I have a soft-spot for them – I followed many of them on Twitter and usually got a glimpse into who the players are off the court. And that’s where I got the idea for this piece; a totally personal column based on how I watched the season and viewed the games and players.
So now I give to you the first annual King Dar Awards (named after my Twitter handle Kingdar123 – come on people, follow me!)
Best Team Cheerleader: Sydney Colson. This category is not a jab or another way of calling someone a bench player. I’m praising the player who will always pop up off the bench to congratulate her teammates, the player who will always root for the good of the team regardless if she’s contributing regularly or not. Syd the Kid was that player this season, and she brought a lot of spirit to the game even when she wasn’t playing.
Best Social Media Star: (tie) Cappie Pondexter and Kia Vaughn. Like I mention earlier, I followed a lot of players during the season and I kept tabs on who was saying what. Before and after every game, Cappie and Kia were on their smartphones and computers, sending out Tweets to fans and teammates. Even on their off days, they sent those little messages that meant the world to their fans.
Best Social Media Fans: Cappie Pondexter’s fans. I think saying that Cappie Pondexter has a lot of followers and fans is an understatement. Pondexter not only leads in quantity, but also in quality. Twitter user TeamCappa watches every WNBA game, comments on them and compares the play to Cappie. It’s an extraordinary event to watch the Tweets come in from her during a game.
Favorite On-Court Moment: Essence Carson blocks Sue Bird, Aug. 9. Ahead 58-56 with less than 10 seconds remaining, Rutgers’ own Essence Carson swatted a driving layup attempt by Seattle’s Sue Bird to preserve the win for the Liberty. The defensive stand sent the large crowd into pandemonium, a fitting end to day that saw Rebecca Lobo inducted into the organization’s Ring of Honor.
Favorite Non-Action Moment: Tweet at me, Cappie. Only a handful of people actually heard the playful exchange between Cappie Pondexter and a group of her male followers on July 17. With the Liberty cruising to victory over Tulsa, a group of well-dressed men sitting across from the bench caught the attention of Pondexter, who happened to be at the free throw line. “I Tweeted at you, Cappie,” one man, wearing a white suit and shades, called out. Pondexter laughed and stepped away from the line to refocus. After the game, Pondexter met up with her new fans and posed for photographs.
Unsung Hero Award: Quanitra Hollingsworth. Need an offensive rebound? How about a big-time blocked shot? A body to match up with a 6-7 opponent? She’s not Superwoman, but Quanitra Hollingsworth was always up to whatever daunting task that was asked of her. The demands were not impossible or out of the ordinary, but Hollingsworth always went about her duties without complaint and she did everything right.
Charlie Hustle Award: Plenette Pierson. I watched a lot of WNBA action this summer, but I never saw a player chase after a loose ball the way Pierson does. I can speak personally to that, too. I can’t recall which game it was, but as I was sitting at the table beneath the basket closest to the Liberty bench, a wayward ball came my way… and the ball wasn’t alone. Trailing behind the ball and coming at Mach 1 speed was Pierson. Although she didn’t get her hands on the ball, the oncoming train that I saw nearly gave me a heart attack and almost knocked over my diet Pepsi.
I Wouldn’t Want to Play Her 1-On-1 Award: Kia Vaughn. Though I’m certain that any Liberty player would be me in a game of one-on-on, I chose Miss Vaughn for a couple of reasons. 1 – I’m 5-9, while she’s 6-4. 2 – being that Kia is probably the strongest player on the team, she’d easily out rebound me and bust me in the post, after all, she did that all season against players the same size as her.
Best Homecoming Moment: Every Ring of Honor ceremony. The New York Liberty enshrined five former players into its Ring of Honor this season, acknowledging the on and off court contributions of each. Vickie Johnson, Theresa Weatherson, Rebecca Lobo, Sue Wicks and Kym Hampton were honored on separate nights, giving fans, many of who traveled over the river from New York, the chance to honor their all-time favorite players. From faulty microphones to Tina Cervasio’s emcee expertise to the speeches from the honorees, each night was special and memorable.
Best Prudential Center Food: Grilled chicken sandwich (with hot sauce). I have to admit why I made this choice – it was free. Arena food will never be inexpensive, so I was always grateful to receive the media food voucher at the Pru Center, which entitled me to a chicken sandwich and a soda. Awesome deal.
Best Personal Fans: Sydney Colson. I don’t know if they were close friends or family members, but rookie Sydney Colson always had a loyal following at every home game. How do I know that? They always sat behind us on press row, and the voices chanting for Syd were clearly audible during every minute. And they weren’t the annoying type of screams or shrieks – they were always at the perfect level that didn’t irritate an ear drum but were still loud enough to bring smiles to the Liberty bench.
Favorite Celebrity Sighting: Michael Bivins. With all due respect to John Starks, Iman Shumpert, Josh Harrelson and Therea Weatherspoon, I’m going with the former Bell Biv DeVoe front man. I grew up listening to Boyz II Men, ABC, BBD, the East Coast Family, so when I saw Bivins hanging out in the front row during the Liberty-Storm game, I was sitting giddy in my seat on press row.
So there you have it; the highs, lows, good, bad and the ugly all from my eyes. I covered a lot of girls’ high school basketball and a fair amount of NCAA women’s hoops, but I hadn’t watched the WNBA as closely as I did until this summer. Not only was I not let down by the level of competitiveness, I am left wanting more. With the NBA not even close to settling its labor dispute, I sit at my computer on Sept. 26, 2011, hoping that the Liberty’s 2012 season comes sooner rather than later.