In 1999, Ray Castoldi, the Garden’s organist, asked Jett and the Blackhearts to record “Unfinished Business,” a song he had written for the Liberty after their crushing finals loss that year. Jett not only cut the track the following season, but filmed a video with the team and performed the song at halftime during a game.
“It’s hard to explain the energy,” Jett said of those early years. “I was on the outside looking in, but they made me feel like I was on the inside. It was a fun, really inclusive time.”
Jett feels a natural kinship with athletes, who, like longtime touring bands, travel with a tight-knit team and are expected to perform on command. And like the athletes in the W.N.B.A., who have carved out a professional place for themselves while expanding the public’s idea of what women are capable of doing, Jett broke down boundaries in music: battling to prove to record labels and crowds that she deserved to be a frontwoman despite her prodigious talent. “We’re people that could relate to what each other was doing,” she said.
Crystal Robinson, a former Liberty forward with whom Jett remains close, said the recognition was mutual: “For us, it was just the fact that she supported us,” she said. “She was fighting that female battle before we started. We had this camaraderie.”
Jett’s return to the Liberty on Sunday was an overdue homecoming. Before the game, she nursed a beer as she held court with Wicks and Robinson at a table in the Barclays’ V.I.P. lounge. The recently retired W.N.B.A. star Sue Bird came by to pay her respects, as did the actors Jason Sudeikis and Michael Shannon, who portrayed Kim Fowley, the manager of Jett’s band, the Runaways, in a 2010 film.
As the restaurant emptied before game time, Jett got restless. “I feel like we’re missing stuff!” she said giddily, before heading toward the court to find her seat. Just before tipoff, Becky Hammon, the Aces head coach who had been a Liberty guard in her playing days, spotted Jett taking a photo of her from across the court and struck a quick pose.