Friday night, Sabrina Ionescu played in her first game since a major injury cost her most of her first WNBA season.
Safe to say, the return couldn’t have gone much better for her or the Liberty.
The No. 1 pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft had a 25-point, 11-assist double-double and provided all of her team’s offense down the stretch to take down the Fever.
Ionescu scored New York’s final eight points, including a 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining to give New York a 90-87 win. The Liberty trailed by as many as four points in the final minute.
“I wanted it. I haven’t played in a while. I wanted it for this team,” she said of her decisive shot. “We grinded out a huge win here. This is just the beginning for us.”
Ionescu missed most of the 2020 campaign in the “Wubble” after suffering a Grade 3 ankle sprain. She expressed gratitude Friday for the Liberty’s patience with her during her recovery.
“I’m just excited to get back to playing and doing what I love. You know, my team supported me, my coaching staff, this entire organization,” she said. “This is what I love doing. The highs, the lows, everything through it. It just really pays off.”
While Ionescu’s first game of the season was unforgettable, so, too, was the tribute she planned prior to it. She arrived at Barclays Center in Brooklyn wearing the jersey of the late Kobe Bryant.
Ionescu considered Bryant a mentor and friend, which made the jersey a touching way to tip off her season, especially with Bryant set to be inducted posthumously into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday.