Who’s the best athlete currently in Seattle sports?
Is it Russell Wilson?
He’s certainly the most popular, and probably still the most spectacular, but if we are to look at recent history, can we view the last ten games that he played in during the 2020, and say with a straight face that, pound for pound, RW3 is undoubtedly that player?
I dunno. I am no football expert but I’ve watched A LOT of the game over the middle aged course of my life, and I don’t know if I have ever seen a quarterback struggle to beat a basic cover two defense as much as I did watching Russell in 2020 after the league finally got the memo on how to defend him in Seattle’s vertical passing offense.
Yes, I get that it was likely not all of his fault as some play caller named Schotty continued to call long developing pass plays against defenses designed to take them away, but from what I saw, it seemed like, in many of those instances, Russ still had outlet receivers available that he either did not see, or was hesitant to go towards.. and the results weren’t pretty. It was so bad at times (especially against the NY Giants and the Rams in the playoffs), that I legitimately began to wonder if we have seen the best of what the plucky passer can be, and perhaps being a true volume passer like Manning or Brady is not in his wheelhouse.
That’s not to say that he isn’t incredibly gifted as an athlete and quarterback (he is), but it does make me think that perhaps 2021 isn’t just about him evaluating whether the Seattle Seahawks are going to be a long term fit for his lofty goals, but also whether he is also going to fit what the team now wants out of a quarterback in their new offense under Shane Waldron, which will require getting the ball out quickly and on time in a consistent manner (something that Russ has a bit of a spotty history with, if we are to be honest as Seahawk fans).
So, if Russell isn’t the best athlete in Seattle Sports, who is?
Can we say it is Bobby Wagner? He’s an incredibly gifted linebacker, but does he change games?
Jamal Adams? I guess you can make a case if you think the number one priority for a strong safety is to blitz, but I think most who think of football conventional terms would list blitzing for a defensive back probably third or fourth on the list in terms of importance on the field.
How about Mitch Haniger?
Man, why do we have to bring the Seattle Mariners into this? That just makes me miss the SuperSonics more.
Unfortunately, I can’t even list a single player on the Seattle Sounders. I know they got a crowd and it’s a scene, but to me, soccer is just hockey on the field without sticks, skates, a puck, and body slams (Weirdly, I always get up for the World Cup, though. Go Zambia.)
Let’s face it, folks. When it comes to Seattle sports right now, I see two franchises that reign supreme. It’s the Seattle Seahawks and it’s the four time WNBA championship winning Seattle Storm.
And if we don’t make a case that Russell Wilson is the best overall athlete in Seattle sports, then we might as well be examining the 9-2 Seattle Storm led by the ageless Sue Bird and the MVP winning Breanna Stewart. Surely, one of those two gals must be in consideration as the best athlete in this Emerald town.
Good Lord in Heaven. Have I forgotten the title of this piece? Why am I even bringing all these other two Storm players up? This is the longest, most unnecessary build up ever. This is why I shouldn’t tell jokes. Good God, I need an editor.
In all seriousness, though. Let’s get real with the PNW marvel that has become Jewell Loyd.
If you have not been paying attention to the 2021 Seattle Storm either because the WNBA isn’t your jam, or your more dialed into the NHL and NBA playoffs, or you’d rather enjoy the Mariners dog paddling in the MLB, or whatever, you are missing out on something special, and that is the impressive assent of shooting guard Jewell Loyd as an All-World basketball player.
On a team that has been built around the legend of Sue Bird, and the unique skill set (and ridiculous seven foot wingspan) of Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd has been their most consistent player, and MVP in this early part of their season. What she is quietly becoming in the league is special, and right now, teams do not have an answer for her.
As of right now, if someone were to describe her as the Kobe of the WNBA, it would not be hyperbole. I think it would be pretty accurate.
For those that follow the WNBA and know her story, they know that she was close with the legendary Kobe Bryant. She viewed him as a close mentor while he was alive. She would lean into him for advice and to be pushed as a player. She has stated in the past that she has committed to dedicating her game to him, and I can believe that.
If you are watching her now, you can see some of Kobe living through her game.
Nobody on the Seattle Storm roster has Bird’s savvy and years of knowledge on the game.
Nobody on that team has Stewart’s incredible length and inside/outside skills as a scorer and defender.
Nobody on the WNBA championship winning Storm has the ability to create for herself scoring opportunities like Jewell Loyd now has. She’s an explosive dasher to the basket when a lane opens up. Her ability to drive and pull up for a mid range jumper is lethal to defend. Perhaps most impressively now, is how automatic she has become at the three point range.
If you want a fun basketball highlight to watch, dial up the last half second of overtime game Seattle played against the Dallas Wings on June 4th. That’s as impressive of a catch and shoot three point play as you will find in any basketball game, period.
What I find most interesting about Loyd is, while she has always been a very talented player for the Storm since entering the league in 2015, it has taken her this long to truly ascend beyond an All-Star caliber status. In recent years, the Seattle Storm has felt like a two headed championship level monster between Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart. Loyd has felt a bit like the George Harrison between their Lennon and McCarty.
This season feels different. Through eleven games, it is clear that it is becoming more and more of the Jewell Loyd show. If you have been following any of these games, you can sorta sense Sue Bird sensing it herself. It feels like she is giving way to Loyd more and more.
Maybe it is the focus that teams are giving Stewart that is opening up more opportunities for her, or maybe it is Seattle leaning more into Loyd’s unique skills and athleticism with first year head coach Noelle Quinn now taking over with a fresh perspective on her as a player, but one thing is certain; the league doesn’t appear to have much of an answer to stopping her, and she’s fun to watch.
And she should be watched. Pound for pound, she is undoubtedly now one of the best basketball players on the planet. It’s all clicking for her, and it’s exciting to see her ascend.
Ultimately, it’s more than a bit of a silly thing to argue who a better athlete is between a football player and a basketball player or even a baseball player. It takes such uniquely different set of skills to play quarterback over a shooting guard, or even a striker in soccer.
It’s still can be a fun debate to be had if you’re not throwing kitchen wear at each other during the course of it (or arguing with strangers on the internet).
Unquestionably, Russell Wilson remains the biggest sports figure in Seattle sports, but I think the hottest player right now is Jewell Loyd, and it isn’t close.
That’s why I think an argument can be had that she is the best athlete in this town, currently. Until the league figures out a way to stop her, or until Russell Wilson figures out how to consistently beat a basic cover two scheme once again, my vote is on her right now.
If you haven’t checked her or the Storm out this season, you should. Treat yourself.