SEATTLE — Breanna Stewart is as decorated a professional athlete as any in Seattle's history, with a seemingly endless resume of accolades across the high school, collegiate, and professional ranks.
Stewart and the Storm play their home opener Friday night, the inaugural game for the franchise at Climate Pledge Arena. The Storm had been playing at the University of Washington's Alaska Airlines Arena while the new facility was constructed.
"The new arena obviously benefits us, the NHL benefits, hopefully, an NBA team at some point," Stewart said. "And then at the same time for us to have a practice facility, a facility that's actually ours and we walk in and we have access to everything we need all in one place. It's something that I'm really looking forward to."
Stewart has helped bring two titles to Seattle since the Storm selected her No. 1 overall in the 2016 WNBA Draft. Considering the 2020 season was played entirely in Florida due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Stewart's fondest memory of her career was winning her first championship in front of hometown fans in 2018.
Like many of her WNBA colleagues, Stewart also has become a powerful voice away from the hardwood.
Stewart spoke out against racism and pushed for gender equality, which earned her Sports Illustrated's "Sportsperson of the Year" in 2020 for her activism.
"I want to be genuine, I want to be genuine with what I do on the court, I want to be genuine with what I do off the court, and I have such an incredible platform," Stewart said.
Stewart is one of many WNBA stars who spend the offseason playing overseas, where salaries for female professional basketball players are much higher. She hopes the recent controversy surrounding Brittney Griner, another WNBA player who has been imprisoned in Russia for several months over an incident at an airport, brings more attention to the pay discrepancies female basketball players face in the U.S.
"I hope people are like, alright, well, let's, let's value them more, you know? Let's continue to kind of find avenues to kind of appreciate our athletes to where they don't need to go overseas, where they can stay home, be in markets all the time, you know? Visible and seen twelve months out of the year instead of six," Stewart said.