September 26, 2023
How Jewell Loyd’s historic season ended with Seattle Storm contract extension
'At the end of the day it was a pretty easy decision'
SEATTLE — The roar of cheers throughout Climate Pledge Arena was something to behold as the PA announcer broke the new that Jewell Loyd had set a new single-season scoring record and signed a two-year contract extension too.
Loyd would have been one of, if not the, most sought-after free agent in the offseason and she likely would have been offered the max nearly anywhere in the WNBA. But Loyd loves Seattle, and Seattle loves Loyd. Seattle loudly showed that love when Loyd re-signed and it didn’t go unnoticed by the star guard.
“Not always you get embraced by a city the way that Seattle has embraced me, not always do you feel accepted and loved by everyone,” Loyd told the media. “I just think, you know, everyone’s really excited about what’s to come and I think they just appreciate my decision. And it’s special… to hear that reaction of them just yelling and screaming. And you know, from kids, to you know, older people just accepting and embracing that, it’s pretty cool.”
There is no question that Storm fans were desperately hoping Loyd would stay after Breanna Stewart left in free agency the previous offseason. So why did Loyd choose to stay with the team that finished second-to-last in the league in 2023?
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The decision to stay
Loyd was blunt with the media that she wasn’t interested in entertaining the wining and dining of free agency. The guard didn’t want other people’s visions obstructing her own. “I have a vision for myself, I have a vision for my family as well and I don’t need other things to kind of sway me this and that.”
Many were surprised Loyd forsook free agency, Loyd herself acknowledged that. “It’s my vision of what I see success and what I believe is right for me… you start living for other people that’s kind of a slippery slope. And so it was my decision just to say here.”
Loyd also acknowledged that it would’ve been an easy decision to give up on the rebuild and go somewhere else. “I think the easy decision was, you know, to leave. At the same time, for me, the easiest decision was to still be here. It felt right for me on my personal growth and on my on-the-court growth as well.”
People were telling Loyd she should be “selfish” in her decision and think about “what you want and what you need.” Loyd’s response was, “I’m pretty simple. I don’t need much, and I just felt like if I want to grow and do the things I want to do in my life, then I’ll accept the challenge and be here for the next few years and, you know, that just felt like the right decision.”
The key aspect for Loyd is that she feels Seattle is still somewhere she can continue to grow, both as an individual and with the franchise.
The Storm organization has meant a lot to Loyd. Obviously it is the only WNBA franchise she has played for, to the point that she knows them “through and through,” but it has still been a journey.
Loyd challenges this franchise to be better and one of the other biggest reasons she stayed is because she feels that the Storm really “took the challenge to grow and do things that they haven’t done before.” She told media that she has been able to have direct dialogue with everyone in the franchise, from owners to general manager Talisa Rhea to talk about what needs to happen and how they can get better.
It is vitally important to Loyd that she can improve the performances of those around her, and expects the same from others for her. “I’m always about elevating each other and elevating my business partners, my teammates, everyone around me, and if they can’t elevate me then why am I here?… for us to grow as an organization, as a business, we have to elevate each other and they’re ready to do that and I’m here to be a part of it.”
There were many Chicago Sky fans who hoped that the Lincolnwood, Illinois native would want to head home in free agency to be near her family. But the Storm have never shied away from embracing Loyd’s family “to the most extreme,” which Loyd joked is “sometimes overwhelming,” but also very nice. Her mom, Gwendolyn Loyd, is known to perform at at least one Storm game a year and there is also a Jewell Loyd Cousins Night, beloved by fans and family alike. Loyd scored a career-high 41 points in front of her family on June 29.
Loyd admitted that while she appreciates her family being embraced, “the decision had nothing to do with my family.” While most parents, including Loyd’s, want their kids back home, they knew it was Loyd’s decision alone and “did not want to influence me in any way.” Plus, Mama Loyd, as she is affectionately known, will make friends anywhere in the world. As Loyd joked, “my mom’s gonna make friends. She’s fine. She’s gonna bring a party wherever she’s at and they’re gonna accept her regardless.”
Seattle has become truly a second home for the Illinois native, and not just because Loyd has two properties in the area as she joked. “I have literally grown up here. So as much as I have, you know, much love and respect for Lincolnwood this definitely is a place of just acceptance for me.”
Another small factor in Loyd’s decision is the Storm’s brand new dedicated practice facility on track to open ahead of the 2024 WNBA season. This was something that Loyd “helped put together early on” and she is happy stay around to see what it looks like. Most importantly it is “another place for us to get better.”
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WNBA single-season scoring record
On a beautiful Seattle summer day, the final day of the WNBA regular season, the Storm faced off against the Los Angeles Sparks. Loyd’s team knew exactly how many points she needed to hold the WNBA’s all-time scoring record and they made a point of getting her those points. It took Loyd a mere 3 minutes, 26 seconds into the game to pass Breanna Stewart and secure her name in the record books.
She finished the game with 28 points and the league’s single-season scoring record with a final total of 939 points despite playing only 38 games, two fewer than the next two closest scorers.
Loyd finished the season with a final scoring average of 24.7 points per game, the second-highest in WNBA history, trailing only Diana Taurasi’s 2006 record of 25.3 points per game.
Loyd showed humility as she discussed her scoring record.
“I was told what I was doing was not normal,” Loyd told media following the game. “I was told that what I was doing has never been done before. So I will look back at the season and really embrace that and see what I was actually doing. Because sometimes you don’t know when you’re in a rhythm, you’re just out there playing. So based on my surrounding people telling me that this was an unbelievable season that’s never happened before in the league, it’s cool.”
Loyd was also very quick to immediately thank “everyone who kind of supported on this journey because it wasn’t easy to do what I was doing and quite frankly, no one else was doing it… right now and I think it’s just me being proud of everyone around me.”
It’s important to acknowledge that Loyd set this record while facing a level of defense that no other stars in the league faced night in and night out. She was always the Storm’s primary scorer and often didn’t get enough help to spread the defense, facing double or triple teams and lots of aggressive traps. “I don’t think anyone saw the defenses, I was going against every night. Maybe once, but I was seeing it all year,” Loyd said postgame.
Despite facing that level of defense Loyd thinks the beauty of the record is that the scoring didn’t come about “in a selfish way.”
“I never wanted to make it about me and I’ve always told my teammates that,” Loyd said. “You know, I’ve had obviously really good games this year and I always told them like ‘it’s not about me guys, like this is our team, this is our journey. The more we come together the more we play together everything else will kind of happen naturally.’”
The shooting guard was clear that the record was not a goal of hers but at the same time she knew she was capable because of how she prepared. It was something Loyd “believed that I could do. I believe that I can be an efficient scorer in a very unique way. So it’s not something that I’m like super shocked about because I prepared for it.”
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How to make the insane shot
There are many separators in Loyd’s game — her handles, insane shotmaking ability, or her intelligence on the court. The ability to make shots that look impossible, though, is unique.
Loyd is so dedicated to her craft because she similarly finds joy in those things. “I love the challenge of trying to get open to score in different ways. It’s just really fun for me.”
In fact, facing the defenses she saw this year brought her back to her childhood. Loyd reminisced with media about playing in the parks was she was younger and needing to be creative getting her shot off against the guys. In middle and high school her teams weren’t very good so she always saw the best defenders, double and triple teams. It is like a puzzle to solve, and Loyd loves to solve the basketball puzzle.
Granted, the defense of players 18 and under wouldn’t compare to the WNBA so Loyd still preps a lot. “I practice all the shots I’ve taken I rep them I’ve thought about them, dreamt about them. And so when I’m out there, it’s kind of just natural. I feel very comfortable in those situations.”
Loyd specifically credited her offseason training environment for challenging and improving her, specifically her three practice guys ranging in height from 6’8 to 6’10. Not only would she go against that height every single practice, but they would guard her fullcourt.
“Will I ever go against a 6’10 person guarding me as a guard? Probably not, but my ability to get my shot off against those guys it made me confident that I could get my shot off [against] any woman in the world, right? So training that way is fun, it’s challenging and I need to stay challenged to stay focused. My training staff has done a great job of making sure I’m constantly being challenged every single day in the offseason to prepare me for my W season.”
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It was just as important to Loyd that she trained the mental side of things as she did the physical game. To train the mental side of things Loyd started working with her life coach Sheri Riley roughly two years ago and she is incredibly thankful for her.
“Having that mental strength is understanding how to keep going when you don’t feel good or days when you don’t have it to still be present and understand how to train that and feel that’s important,” Loyd said. “But also understand how to take the time to kind of reset and she’s helped me kind of do that and I definitely don’t think it would have been this kind of season without her. So I definitely am very, very appreciative.”
Loyd found Riley so helpful that she made her available to her teammates as well. After that Loyd saw “a shift in who we are as people but we also understand how we could just get better as a whole that’s what the goal is when you’re on a team is to elevate everyone around you and she helped me do that and I was able to help my teammates do that as well.”
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Teammate and leader
Loyd is undoubtedly a fantastic scorer but one of her biggest areas of growth, and importance to the future of the Storm franchise, is her leadership.
Even though Loyd is always about elevating those around her, before the 2023 season, she didn’t necessarily realize the impact she had on those around her. One of Loyd’s biggest areas of growth in 2023 came in her leadership and she is proud of that growth and who she is as a leader.
“I’m a different kind of leader, I’m a different kind of player and I really hone in on that and I invest in people off and on the court,” Loyd said. “And I’ve challenged everyone on this team and on this roster to get outside their comfort zone. I believe that everyone has an untapped potential just depends on who brings that out… I don’t know if anyone else could have done as a leader what I have done with this group just because of what everyone on this team has come from come from. And my ability to really invest in that side I think brings out the best in each player.”
You will always see Loyd giving her all for her teammates, regardless of her personal circumstances. She told media in exit interviews that she only played four and a half games healthy all season.
“This is probably the most injured I’ve been my whole life… my body took a toll for sure, and it was a challenge to push through.”
Despite her injury issues, Loyd played in 38 games, finishing fifth in the league in minutes played.
Regardless, she has no regrets and made it clear she would do it again for her teammates. “They deserve the best version of me and they deserve my time and my presence and that’s what you do when you’re trying to give everything you have and that’s what I did.”