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WNBA

Jewell Loyd Will Take All The Shots

4:44 PM EDT on June 30, 2023

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm shoots against Kayla McBride #21 of the Minnesota Lynx in overtime at Climate Pledge Arena on June 29, 2023 in Seattle, Washington.
Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Just after the Seattle Storm's season opener ended in late May, Jewell Loyd was asked—what else?—how it felt to play her first Storm game without Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird on the roster. In the span of one offseason, writers of the long-running hit show had killed off two fan favorites and given Loyd her own spinoff, a role everyone was watching her in with a mix of skepticism and delight. "Are we always going to get that question asked?" she replied. It was like she had wondered aloud the same thing everyone wondered about her: Bird and Stewart had cast a long shadow in Seattle, and the shadow hadn't gone away, even when they left. Would it ever? Would anyone ever take Jewell Loyd on her own terms? She cracked a smile quickly. "I'm just messing with you."

There's one way to get people to stop asking That Question and it's to be the kind of out-of-her-mind scorer Loyd has been this year. On Thursday night, in an overtime loss to the Minnesota Lynx, Loyd put up a career-high 41 points on 15-of-35 shooting. On a team with little around her, Loyd has absorbed a whole team's volume herself; she has made 47 threes this year, one less than she attempted in her entire 34-game rookie season. You can expect to see some WNBA single-season records fall in the next few years as the number of games ticks up, and Loyd has Diana Taurasi's 2006 points record in sight. If she keeps this pace up, she might even beat Taurasi's 25.3 point per game average from that season. Through 14 games, Loyd is averaging 25.7 points per game, more than three full points higher than the next-best scorer, Arike Ogunbowale. The women's basketball history website Across the Timeline points out that Loyd's is the highest-scoring 14-game stretch to start a season in WNBA history.

Most importantly (for me, personally, that is): It's been fun to watch. Heliocentric offenses can be boring and sad, but Loyd is quick, skilled, and strong enough that she can earn her points in creative ways. She sets herself up off screens, gets to the rim at will, and is shooting a handy 39 percent from three this year. And she is doing this all while being subject to a level of defensive attention she hasn't seen since college. Life as the number one option entails some glamor: fancy ESPN graphics, postgame questions about you and not about other people, posters outside the arena, complimentary blogs on Defector.com. But it can also be tough work. In overtime, the score tied, Loyd lost the ball off her foot while being hounded by Lynx defenders, and on the next possession, Napheesa Collier hit the game-winner with a second left on the clock. "This one is on me," Loyd tweeted after the game. It's Jewell Loyd's house now. The good stuff, the bad stuff—it's all on her.

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