SEATTLE — The Storm are expected to be without the WNBA’s reigning most valuable player, Breanna Stewart, for the 2019 season, the team announced Wednesday.
The 6-foot-4 forward ruptured her right Achilles tendon on Sunday while playing for her Russian team Dynamo Kursk in the EuroLeague Final Four championship.
Stewart took to Instagram to thank supporters and promised to return “better than ever.”
“First off, I just want to say thank you for the tremendous amount of love and support I’ve received over the past few days,” Stewart wrote on her Instagram account. “The situation is still a shock to me, I have ruptured my right Achilles tendon.”
On Monday she flew to Los Angeles, where medical examinations confirmed initial reports of the injury that typically requires 6-12 months of recovery.
Dr. Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic will perform the surgery, according to the Storm.
It’s uncertain if Stewart will play overseas this year, but the Storm believe she’ll return for the 2020 season.
“This is a tough time for Stewie and our hearts go out to her,” Storm CEO and general manager Alisha Valavanis said in a statement. “The Storm family is behind her and we will support Stewie in every way we can as she begins her journey back to the court.”
Without Stewart, the defending champion Storm are no longer the favorites to win the WNBA title.
Last year, she averaged a career-best 21.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals while guiding Seattle to a league-best 26-8 record.
During the postseason, Stewart continued her dominance while averaging 24.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists during two playoff series.
The Storm beat the Phoenix Mercury, 3-2, in the semifinals before claiming a 3-0 sweep over the Washington Mystics for their third WNBA title and first championship since 2010.
Stewart, the WNBA Finals MVP, went on to claim MVP honors while guiding USA to a gold medal in the FIBA World Cup in December.
Stewart, who was recently named the EuroLeague MVP, averaged 20.9 points and 8.6 rebounds for Dynamo Kursk.
“This year especially has been amazing and filled with lots of success and as we all know there are highs and lows throughout a career,” Stewart said. “This is just another obstacle that I will overcome. I’m thankful that I have so many people in my corner to help me every step of the way.
“I’m feeling every emotion possible at this point but just know that the bounce back will be real and I’ll be back better than ever.”