How the Liberty’s Caped Crusaders made it to Vegas and what they want from future All-Star Weekends
Both Tina Charles and Kia Nurse were shocked that they’d be participating in 2019’s WNBA All-Star Game. Nurse called her mother immediately. “I was really shocked,” Nurse said. “I was calling people. I was calling my mom pretty much and she was shocked.” Charles gave hers a shoutout on Instagram after the announcement with the caption: “who’d a thunk it @miss_angie516?”.
A common narrative going into 2019 for New York was who would step up and help Charles. A high IQ. Physical. Unwavering passion. I could be describing many people, but for five years, Tina Charles has served as the WNBA’s Dark Knight of Gotham. Approaching year six, she was looking for her Robin, or a teammate who was as nimble as she was not afraid to let her body fly. Acrobatic but also sharp in every way.
In the first half of the season, Kia Nurse has been more than just a “Robin.” I could argue that in-between her rookie and sophomore seasons she has even transformed into Nightwing, but the difference is that Nurse and Charles trust each other more than those archetypes ever did in the comics.
Nurse’s journey to start in the 2019 All-Star Game began with discipline and that is clear from how her coach spoke about the first-time All-Star, acknowledging that her pick and rolls and pull-ups have a different fire this season. It also began with some guidance and mentorship from Charles herself in Nurse’s rookie season.
“When I first got here, Tina was someone who took me under her wing,” Nurse said about Charles after 2019’s season opener. “[She] just took me out of my apartment. Made sure that I knew the city, made sure that I knew that I had someone to talk to. She gave me her insights and that just speaks to the character of who she is and being willing to do that with a younger kid.”
Against the Seattle Storm at the beginning of this month, the dynamic duo emerged from its White Plains Batcave. With a little over a minute left in the first quarter, Charles has possession, dribbles and fires the ball like a Batarang out of hell right into the hands of Nurse, who’s able to heave the basketball up for a bucket. With an open lane, Charles saw that Nurse had room to run. Her footrace with Alysha Clark was almost uncontested.
An eagle eye. Quickness. Strength. That’s how these Gotham women roll. A combined 50 point performance delivered a wake-up call to not only the Liberty but the league. The Dark Knight rose.
“I always love playing with Kia,” Charles said before leaving for Vegas. “You know I have a lot of fun. She’s always the first person I look for when I get double or triple-teamed.”
More from New York Liberty
- Marina Johannes: Put some respect on her name
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, October 22: UConn settles with women’s basketball coaches
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, October 12: Sabrina Ionescu is ready to ball
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, September 28: All-Rookie team announced
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, September 10: Dream are (mathematically) stayin’ alive
According to Liberty head coach Katie Smith, this honor represents consistency and the result of grinding out hard work. It’s a symbol of respect from fans, coaches and the entire community that surrounds the league. “For them I think it does mean a lot,” Smith said. “It is a little bit of a pat on the back for the work that you put in. And for Tina to be voted in as a reserve for another year. I know it can get monotonous for some, but again to be that consistent every single year is not easy.”
New York’s dynamic duo are looking forward to Vegas to spend time with players who they haven’t come across often. Think of it this way, Charles and Nurse get an opportunity to meet some of the WNBA’s other crime fighters with Vegas serving as this year’s Watchtower.
Charles, who enters her 7th All-Star Weekend reflected that the only thing that changes for her is the destination, but the opportunity is still an honor. “I’m just looking forward to being around people that I don’t really spend time with.” Clearly team captain Elena Delle Donne was looking forward to spending time with Charles because the Mystics forward requested a trade for the New York native after drafting Nurse as one of her starters—let’s consider Delle Donne is from planet Krypton to keep this metaphor alive.
Nurse understood the trade, and to have both of Gotham’s crusaders fighting for victory on the same side made sense. “[Charles’] game speaks for itself and everything that she does not only to score for obviously us, but the way she makes her teammates better is the reason that she’s an All-Star,” Nurse said. “I’d pick on my team any day.”
Unlike Charles, Nurse hasn’t gotten to play alongside EDD. The sophomore looks forward to not only taking the court with her team captain, but with Courtney Vandersloot as well. “I love both of their games,” she said. “I think they have such a smoothness and confidence in their game that I’d love to have in my game.” Nurse also is ready for a challenge from Team Wilson. She’s most excited to guard 3-ballers Allie Quigley and Kayla McBride. According to the first time All-Star, guarding Quigley and McBride are some of the most challenging matchups she’s discovered in the league.
Looking ahead to future All-Star Weekends
I asked both Charles and Nurse what they would like to see as the WNBA All-Star Weekend evolves in future years. Their answers reflected the international growth of professional women’s basketball.
Charles would love to see an All-Star event focused on international talent. “We have a lot of great international players in the league and it would be great if they could highlight it,” Charles said. “Maybe do international players versus rookies and sophomores. Maybe just to highlight the international players we have here.”
For Nurse, awareness, and coverage of the game in her native Canada is integral. She’s thrilled that her grandparents can watch from the comfort of their own home. But her ultimate goal is to inspire other Canadian young women to take up the sport in the first place.
“And I hope that [showing the All-Star Game in Canada] kind of has a whirlwind effect throughout the country of young women wanting to see WNBA games, wanting to continue to play or a little girl who picks up a basketball because they want to play in an All-Star Game one day,” she said. “That will make me happy.”
The 2019 All-Star iteration is a giant step forward for the league. Las Vegas has proven to be an opportune location to achieve both progress and exposure for the WNBA. Seven time All-Star Katie Smith acknowledges how Las Vegas provides the league with many opportunities to get fans engaged and for new fans to emerge.
“It’s a destination place even for the players, even those who aren’t in it,” Smith said. “I’m sure Vegas and the Aces will do a good job of making sure everybody’s able to do things. So I think in general it is more of a destination thing for fans and players to be a part of it. And also [the players] feel like VIPs and have that experience of really feeling like All-Stars.”
A formidable All-Star successor to Sin City would be Brooklyn if the Liberty are able to return to New York City permanently after two seasons playing in White Plains. The WNBA will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2021 and with Tokyo’s Olympics possibly putting a hold on an All-Star weekend in 2020, that type of milestone should be celebrated in a city of the original eight. An All-Star Weekend in New York City would be the perfect place to test out Charles’ international-themed contest. The United Nations is very much alive and well in New York.
On Friday night before Saturday’s All-Star game, Kia Nurse scored 14 points in her first 3-point contest. Right as Nurse fired her last three-ball, the camera jumped to the left allowing viewers to see that Charles had been on her feet ready to embrace her teammate. Joined by Liberty teammate Tanisha Wright, Charles gave Nurse a well-deserved slap on the back for a job well done as the youngest participant in the contest.
While Charles was playing cheerleader on Friday, she and Nurse will reunite on Saturday playing on team EDD. Maybe with the new All-Star substitution style, we will see a classic Charles and Nurse pick and roll. It’s almost as common as seeing a Batarang or some random gas repellant from the actual caped crusaders. Regardless, the dynamic duo of Gotham is ready for anything and that should be no shock at all.
Love our 24/7 women’s basketball coverage? Join our Patreon now and support this work, while getting extra goodies and subscriber-only content for yourself.