This is an online exclusive story from ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue 2018. Read more about Stewart's story in an E:60 interview with Julie Foudy.
As a four-time NCAA champion and Final Four MOP, Olympic gold medalist and now WNBA All-Star, Breanna Stewart has been setting new standards for greatness for years. Now she's adding Body Issue alum to her list of accomplishments. It's all part of her effort to reclaim her voice -- and her body -- after coming forward with her powerful story of sexual abuse in October 2017. Here's what she had to say about her journey.
I've really opened myself up to the world as far as the things I've gone through in my life. [Posing in the Body Issue] is another part -- you just take off the robe and share everything else! It feels like the right time.
Once I really fell in love with basketball, I realized that I'm able to do a lot of the things within the sport. I realized there weren't a lot of players like that. I wanted to be the best. I wanted to win and be the best player I could be.
My wingspan is 7-1. When I was in high school, at a USA basketball event, we measured my wingspan. Usually it's supposed to be the same length as your height. But mine's not. I'm 6-4 -- that's 9 inches!
My arms are so long, getting clothes is a struggle. I've actually gotten a lot better at it, but a lot of times you wear three-quarter stuff. Buy three-quarter sleeves, bunch it up, and make it look like it's supposed to be like that.
When I was in eighth grade, I got the nickname Bean. It was from one of the seniors on the team. She called me Bean because I looked like a string bean. It definitely fit -- I was really skinny back then.
By my junior year, I was 6-4 and I was done growing. That's when I grew into my body. It was about understanding how to use my length, how to make it all work together on the court. At the same time, I got better dribbling the ball, shooting the ball. So that made it a lot easier to figure out how I can shoot with so much arm.
Growing up, I wanted to go to North Carolina. I watched mostly men's basketball, and they won the NCAA tournament, and I loved their colors. But when I started going on visits, and I visited UConn, I knew that was where I needed to be. When I visited, there was no place like it -- and I wanted to be the best. I wanted to be the best, and that's where I was going to get pushed the most. It turned out pretty well.
The success I had at UConn -- you couldn't write it much better. Only losing five games, winning four national championships. Going into the WNBA, things were a lot tougher because our franchise is still trying to get back on the right track. My first season we lost, like, 19 games, and I was kind of, like, "Whoa. This isn't supposed to happen." It's just acclimating yourself to another level of play. The professional level is different than college. There's not a lot of teams, but the talent is up there and every night's tough.
It is a lot to play two seasons in one year. That was the reason that I went to China, because we finished sooner than everybody else. I have two months before we start the WNBA season. You need that time for your body to relax, for your mind to get that R and R. Whether you have that time in between seasons or you have to create it for yourself, it's really important.
I've invested a lot into my body because I want to take advantage of my time as a professional basketball player as much as I can. I put a lot of time and care into my body, because I know that if my body is prepared well, I'm going to go out and perform well.
Having gone through everything that I've gone through throughout my life -- it makes you stronger, that's for sure. You grow up a lot. It's helped me realize what I want to do with my life, and the fact that I'm not going to let one thing affect where I'm trying to get.
I hope what people take away from these pictures is just the fact that I've really grown up. I've really embraced myself, being tall, understanding my body, and the story that your body portrays. I have a story, and I hope people can see that.
For more from the 2018 Body Issue, pick up a copy on newsstands starting June 29.
Set Design by Jesse Nemeth/The Magnet Agency; Makeup by Erin Svalstad; Hair by Heidi Nymark/Art Dept