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Newark Welcomes New York Liberty

Cory Booker might be the political star on the rise, but Newark’s charismatic mayor showed Thursday afternoon that his increasing fame won’t be the result of his hoops game. The former high school all-American tight end and Stanford University football star was no match for Liberty standout Cappie Pondexter, who showcased her lightning quick moves during their all-for-fun, one-on-one match.

For those keeping score, Pondexter was ahead of Booker, 4-0, when event emcees mercifully called for the last shot. Booker’s final layup attempted rimmed in and out, sealing his defeat. A bit winded but with a big smile on his face, Booker gracefully accepted his loss.

Pondexter and her teammates stopped at the Prudential Center between training camp practices for more than just a basketball whooping of the mayor. Thursday was their official welcoming party – it was a chance to check out their new digs in Newark and meet some of their new fans and greet the old faithful.

In case you missed it, the Liberty announced last September that they will play the next three summers in Newark because of ongoing renovations at Madison Square Garden. They looked and felt at home in the Prudential Center, which was fitted with the Liberty’s home court and colors.

“We know we only have you for three years,” Booker told the Liberty players, “but at the end of it, we hope you won’t want to leave.”

Mayor Cory Booker tries to post up New York Liberty star Cappie Pondexter in their game of one-on-one.

When push comes to shove, it’s not all about location, location, location. Sure, New Jersey is inheriting a professional sports team, albeit temporarily, but in no way should the players be impacted by the shift to the Garden State.

The expression on their faces hasn’t changed, neither has their attitude. They’re still playful when the music blares loudly – watch Plenette Pierson and Nicole Powell dance – and they flash smiles for every photographer – the top offenders of the day were Kia Vaughn and Leilani Mitchell.

But when it comes down to business, no matter where they suit up, their game faces are on. With everyone watching Booker and Pondexter go at it during their half-court game, laughter between the two was audible, even above the volume of a bouncing ball and shrieking high tops.

But up close and under careful observation, you saw Pondexter’s determination and her desire to win, even in a game of one-on-one. She wanted every jumper to hit the bottom of the net. She drove to the rim with authority. She contested shots.

We see this with professional athletes all of the time. A Giants linebacker won’t give up on a play because he competes in New Jersey. The Jets don’t stop believing because their home games are west of the Hudson River. And no one expects Deron Williams or Brook Lopez to let up when the Nets move to Brooklyn.

It’s the same thing for the Liberty. New home, same attitude. Whether they are playing in the Garden or at the Rock, the Liberty always bring passion for the game and show passion for their fans. That’s what they celebrated on Thursday. And that’s what they’ll bring this season.

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