The NY Liberty blueprint to becoming a WNBA superteam
The GIST: Big things are happening in the Big Apple. Yesterday, New York Liberty general manager (GM) Jonathan Kolb received the 2023 WNBA Basketball Executive of the Year award, and for good reason: he helped create an Avengers-level superteam that has majorly contributed to the team’s on-court and off-court success. The best in the business.
How it started: According to Kolb, today's team was five years in the making, from allocating $1.4M in cap space to negotiating deals for stars like Breanna Stewart, Courtney Vandersloot, and Jonquel Jones. Kolb's vision, supported by owners Joe Tsai and Clara Wu Tsai, uplifted the Liberty from a 16-win 2022 season to championship contender.
- After purchasing the team in 2019, the Tsais committed to investing in the Liberty the same way as the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. With equity as the blueprint, they improved facilities, increased staff, and upped sponsorship recruitment. And while the Tsais faced a steep price for flying players private, it paid off by motivating Stewie to sign with New York.
How it's going: The long-term franchise investment drew in basketball's best, and NYC's prominence as a media and sports capital did the rest. Kolb's team finessed a Slam cover for the Liberty's starting five — a first for a WNBA team in the magazine's 29-year history.
- In 2023, the Liberty also saw more than 100% growth in overall ticket sales, a 200+% increase in season ticket memberships, and seated 2.5K more fans per game at Barclays Center compared to 2022. We all grinded for the floor seats.
- E-commerce sales more than doubled and the team added over 10 sponsors this year, including a new partnership with Nyx Cosmetics yesterday. Liberty games also saw a 58% increase YoY for national TV ratings.
The future: The difference between the Tsai and James Dolan eras is stark: the new ownership accomplished in five years what Dolan never could in 22, and Kolb has been a major factor. The growth potential for the NY Liberty may be one of the most slept-on, but the team is doing all it can to empower its players and people.