UConn women’s basketball great Sue Bird has emotional farewell with WNBA loss: ‘Thank you, Sue’
Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird waves to fans chanting her name after the Storm lost to the Las Vegas Aces and were eliminated from the WNBA playoffs, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, in Seattle. The Aces won 97-92 to advance to the finals. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
UConn ladies’ ball legend Sue Bird remained on focus court at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle and touch her lower lip as she watched out at her old neighborhood swarm in Seattle.
Her eyes began to water, and she tried to hold back the sniffles when the crowd started chanting, “Thank you, Sue!”
Bird blew a kiss to the franchise she’s called home for the last 21 years. She couldn’t hold back the tears any longer and began wiping them away from her cheeks.
Sue Bird’s 20 or more year ball vacation is finished. The UConn, WNBA, and Team USA star has resigned.
“I didn’t really want to leave the court but that’s where it felt like everybody was going, so I just followed at first,” Bird said after the Seattle Storm’s 97-92 loss to the Las Vegas Aces Tuesday night. “But I also wanted to kind of have one last moment to say thank you, to soak it all in. Because in some ways, it is a happy thing. You know, proud of everything we’ve accomplished here.
“And of course, I’m sad, but there’s happiness to be able to have a moment like that with the fans, to have them chant the way they did. I know the tears don’t look like happy tears, but there’s a lot of happiness.”
Bird’s last profession game finished before a stuffed home group in her embraced old neighborhood of Seattle as Las Vegas dispensed with the Storm in Game 4 of their WNBA season finisher elimination round series to progress to the finals.
The 41-year-old ended her playing career as an All-American, a college National Player of the Year (2002), a two-time NCAA Champion, four-time WNBA Champion, 13-time WNBA All-Star, five-time EuroLeague Champion, and a five-time Olympic gold medalist.
Twenty years removed from her time in Storrs, she still owns UConn’s program record for 3-point field goal percentage (45.9) and free-throw percentage (89.2). The Syosset, N.Y, native also owns the WNBA record for most games played, most minutes played, All-Star selections, and assists.
She is one of two Olympians to win five straight gold medals in a single sport — the other is her former UConn teammate Diana Taurasi.
Sue Bird ends her basketball career as one of the best to ever play the sport, man or woman. Period.
“She’s the best guide monitor toward at any point play this game,” Seattle mentor Noelle Quinn said. “… It’s extreme not completing the season having her head out on a white pony with a title, however, she’s won enough for the two of us. I’m only pleased to be a piece of her excursion.”
While Bird had a somewhat quiet game in the first three quarters in Tuesday’s Game 4, her 3-pointer to start the fourth gave Seattle momentum as it tied at 67 at the 7:30-mark. Her seventh and eighth assists of the night (both to former Husky Gabby Williams) helped keep the Storm within reach of Vegas down the stretch.
But the clock ran out after fellow former UConn star Breanna Stewart slipped while catching a pass from Bird in Seattle’s final possession, ending Seattle’s chances to extend the season and Bird’s historic career. (Stewart finished Game 4 with 42 points, tying the WNBA record for most points in a playoff game with Angel McCoughtry in 2010)
“I know myself and our whole staff and team and organization have so much respect for Sue,” Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon said. “She’s had a fairy tale career, I mean one that kid’s dream of. She got to live it. She lived it out loud. Her thumbprint on the game is forever etched in.”
Bird stepped up during Seattle’s postseason run.
She got the Storm’s spot in the elimination rounds in the wake of keeping 18 focuses and 10 aids in Game 2 of the group’s first-round series clear of Washington.
In Game 1 against Las Vegas, Bird recorded a season-high 12 assists in a season-high 37 minutes. She recorded six assists, six points, and four rebounds in Game 2.
Sunday’s Game 3 in Seattle was an instant classic. While the Aces won in overtime 110-98, Bird played on another level. In 43 minutes, she scored 17 points with eight assists. Her 3-pointer from the corner with 1.9 seconds left in regulation that put Seattle ahead by two was the play of the game … that is before a layup from Aces’ Jackie Young at 0.2 seconds pushed the game into extra time. Vegas scored 18 to clinch the win and take the series advantage.
While her time on the hardwood may be over, her impact will continue to reach thousands.
“It’s been super special. I mean, even just being in the locker room with Sue, I’ve been pretty spoiled and blessed to come into the league and have her be my point guard, my captain, my leader,” said Bird’s Seattle teammate Jewell Loyd.
“She’s helped like raised us basically in this league has always had our back. There will never be another Sue Bird … We’ve been very very fortunate to play with a generational player like Sue.”
Bird has been the substance of Seattle’s establishment since she was drafted first generally by the Storm in 2002. She enjoyed every one of the 21 seasons with Storm, just missing two seasons (2013 and 2019) to injury. Bird never fell off the seat once during her time in Seattle. She finished this season starting alongside former Huskies Stewart, Tina Charles, and Gabby Williams.”
“She has an impact, and her fingerprints are all over every single player on this roster, every single person in this franchise, and her ability to just continue to string people in confidence to make sure that we come together, we gel together,” Stewart said.
“Just her ability to be herself gave us the ability to be ourselves. We owe a lot to Sue and just really appreciate her for everything that she’s done.”
As for what Bird will do now? Well, the options are limitless.
She as of now has her hand in many endeavors with experience both working in NBA-front workplaces and as an expert for ESPN. During 2022 Final Four, she and Taurasi cooperated with ESPN to make the ‘Bird and Taurasi Show’ in which they facilitated live editorial during the end of the week’s three games.
Some say she’ll try coaching. Others think she’s been a coach all her life already.
Bird’s post-basketball career officially starts Wednesday but it may take some time before she settles into life without playing basketball.
B-ball will continuously be a piece of Bird and regardless of what she does straightaway, she’ll bring a similar degree of significance she’s shown these beyond 20 or more years on the hardwood.
“I don’t have second thoughts,” Bird said about officially retiring. “…Am I going to miss basketball? Absolutely. There’s gonna be nothing like this. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to replicate it. I’m not even gonna try. But I know I made the right decision.”
As Bird entered the Storm player tunnel after Tuesday’s game, exiting the hardwood one final time, the ESPN2 broadcast showed Seattle fans hugging and crying while watching their point guard for the last time.
The “Thank you, Sue” chants continued after Bird left the court.
And they’ll continue to forever echo through the world of basketball and of all sports, for days, years and decades to come because that’s the impact of legends.