WNBA CHARTER MEMBER
The New York Liberty was selected as one of the eight charter members of the WNBA on Oct. 30, 1996. The Liberty remains one of four original franchises to continue to compete in the league and is the only team in WNBA history to operate under the same ownership since the league’s inaugural season.
FIRST LIBERTY PLAYERS
Rebecca Lobo and Teresa Weatherspoon officially joined the Liberty as the franchise’s first players when they were assigned to the team in the WNBA Player Allocation draft on January 22, 1997. At that point, 16 professional players were assigned to the eight inaugural WNBA franchises, which would be followed by an Elite Draft and then the College Draft. A month later (Feb. 27, 1997), Kym Hampton and Vickie Johnson would join the team as the Liberty’s two Elite Draft picks.
FIRST WNBA DRAFT PICK
Sue Wicks was the first player ever to be drafted by the Liberty with the sixth overall pick in the first round of the 1997 WNBA Draft. New York drafted four players that would serve as the foundation for the franchise’s formative years. In the second round, 11th overall, the Liberty picked Sophia Witherspoon, the third round pick, 22nd overall was Trena Trice, and in the fourth round with the 27th pick, New York selected Kisha Ford.
INAUGURAL WNBA GAME
The Liberty played in the first-ever WNBA game on June 21, 1997, at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles. New York defeated the Sparks 67-57, before a crowd of 14,284. Rebecca Lobo paced New York with 16 points and Teresa Weatherspoon dished out 10 assists.
On June 29, 1997, in front of a crowd of 17,780, the Liberty played its first-ever game at Madison Square Garden, defeating Phoenix, 65-57. It was the fourth win in a row for New York, which opened the season with seven-consecutive victories. Vicki Johnson scored 20 points, one of three Liberty players to score in double figures in the win.
1997 WNBA CHAMPIONSHIP
The Liberty advanced to the first-ever WNBA Championship game on August 30, 1997. New York faced the Houston Comets in front of a sold out crowd at the Compaq Center in Houston, a game the home-team comets won 65-51. Kym Hampton had a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds for New York, and Vickie Johnson also scored in double figures with 12 points.
In 1998, the Liberty played in front of a capacity crowd at The Garden for the first time. For what was a rematch of the first WNBA Championship game the year before, New York defeated the Houston Comets, 70-54, in front of 19,563 fans The contest was also nationally televised on NBC. Sophia Witherspoon led New York with 20 points, while Rebecca Lobo (13 points, 12 rebounds) and Kym Hampton (10 points, 10 rebounds) both posted double-doubles.
MSG played host to the first-ever WNBA All-Star Game, which saw a sellout crowd of 18,649 on July 14. Four Liberty players participated in the game: Rebecca Lobo, Teresa Weatherspoon, Kym Hampton, and Vickie Johnson.
On June 5, 2002, Teresa Weatherspoon became the first player in WNBA history to tally 1,000 points and 1,000 assists for her career as New York defeated the Detroit Shock, 60-59, at Madison Square Garden.
MAKING MEMORIES AT RADIO CITY
In the summer of 2004, the Liberty became the first sports team to play at Radio City Music Hall, hosting a six-game home stand at the historic venue. New York went 5-1 in those games, playing each in front of a sellout crowd.
New York became the first team in the WNBA to have its complete regular season aired on television, as in 2006 every single Liberty game was seen on MSG Network, ABC or ESPN2.
OUTDOOR HOOPS AT ARTHUR ASHE
In front of a 19,393 fans, on July 19, 2008, professional basketball history was made when the Liberty hosted the Indiana Fever at Arthur Ashe Stadium in the first regular season game to be played outdoors in professional basketball history. The game was also the first non-tennis sporting event to be held at the historic USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
RING OF HONOR
While celebrating its historic 15th season in 2011, the Liberty was the first WNBA franchise to create a Ring of Honor, recognizing former players who had made the most significant contributions to the franchise’s tradition of excellence. Kym Hampton, Vickie Johnson, Rebecca Lobo, Teresa Weatherspoon and Sue Wicks were inducted that season, while in 2015, Becky Hammon became the sixth member of the illustrious group.
During the 2015 season, Isiah Thomas, President of the New York Liberty, orchestrated a first of its kind media partnership with the Players’ Tribune, which would leverage unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to the Liberty organization with a world class editorial and creative team, to create an immersive multimedia experience. The result was a wealth of content that included a three-part video series, player features and interviews, and compelling photo essays.