The 2016 season was another incredible year for the New York Liberty both on and off the court. From celebrating the Liberty’s incredible history and tradition at Madison Square Garden and in New York City, to impressive player milestones, and heart-stopping win, take a look back at the 10 biggest moments from New York’s 2016 season.
The Liberty celebrated its 20th WNBA season in 2016 as one of the charter members of the league, and the year-long party was highlighted by a reunion of the inaugural 1997 Liberty team at Madison Square Garden. Nearly the entire team was on hand as they were introduced before the The Garden crowd prior to a game against the Phoenix Mercury on June 26, the same opponent that marked the 1st-ever WNBA game played at Madison Square Garden back in 1997.
Tina Charles’ historic 2016 season culminated with her winning the WNBA Peak Performer awards for both scoring and rebounding, as she became just the 3rd player in league history to lead the WNBA in both categories in the same season. Charles averaged 21.5 ppg and 9.9 rpg, clinching the statistical titles with a 22 point, 11 rebound performance against Washington on Sept. 13. She also posted a league-high 20 double-doubles for good measure.
Swin Cash spent 15 years as one of the best to ever play the game, and she bid farewell to the WNBA with an emotional postgame retirement ceremony at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 7. Fittingly, New York’s opponent that night was the Seattle Storm, one of her former squads where she won a WNBA title. The star-studded event included remarks from Tina Thompson, Sue Bird, and Tina Charles, paying tribute to a woman named one of the league’s best and most influential players over its first 20 seasons.
Sugar Rodgers set the Liberty single-season 3-point record with 86 makes from long distance in 2016, but her biggest game of the year came in a come-from-behind win at Minnesota on June 29. Rodgers set a Liberty single-game record with 7 makes from downtown, helping New York erase a 15-point deficit with 6 minutes remaining to prevail 95-92 in overtime. Rodgers scored a career-high 30 points and shot 7-for-13 from 3-point range.
After missing the first 26 games of the season as she recovered from knee surgery, Epiphanny Prince made her return to the court in a win at San Antonio on August 26. She came off the bench to score 5 point, in her first action since suffering a torn ACL while competing in Russia in November. She went on to score in double figures twice as she regained her silky smooth shooting touch, including 12 points with a pair of 3-pointers against Phoenix in the playoffs.
The Liberty second unit fondly went by the ‘bench mob’ moniker in 2016, and that was never more fitting than when the team’s non-starters combined to score a WNBA record 69 points in a win at Washington on July 20. Led by Rebecca Allen’s career-high 19 points, New York scored the most bench points ever in a league game, and the Liberty picked up the win to boot.
In its final warmup game before heading to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, the United States Women’s Basketball National Team defeated Australia 104-89 as a part of a national team doubleheader at Madison Square Garden on July 31. Liberty star Tina Charles addressed the crowd prior to the game, an amazing sendoff for the team before it went on to capture its record-breaking 6th-consecutive team gold.
The Liberty was a force on the court and in the community in 2016, capturing three of the five WNBA State Farm Community Assist Awards this past season. Three different players were recognized by the league for their commitment to the community, Tina Charles, Carolyn Swords, and Swin Cash. Winning three different times was the most ever for a single franchise since the award’s inception in 2008.
Head coach Bill Laimbeer picked up career-win No. 200 when the Liberty beat the Chicago Sky on July 8, becoming just the 7th coach in WNBA history to reach the milestone. More than a quarter of those wins have now come with the Liberty, as Laimbeer has found a great deal of success over his past two years, boasting a 44-24 (.647) record over that stretch as New York has posted the Eastern Conference’s best record in consecutive seasons.
The Liberty saw several players surpass significant scoring milestones in Swin Cash, Tina Charles, and Tanisha Wright. Wright scored her 3000th-point in a win over the Chicago Sky on July 8, and is one of just 10 players in league history to score 3,000 points with 1,000 rebounds, and 1,200 assists. Charles passed 4,000-career points in win over Phoenix on Sept. 3, becoming the 6th fastest and 3rd youngest to do so. Cash became the 14th player to score 5,000 points in a win at Connecticut on June 16.