Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird, who turns 41 in October, just completed her 18th WNBA season. All of those have been with Seattle, the team that drafted her No. 1 overall out of UConn in 2002. On Sunday, she played nearly 37 minutes and finished with 16 points and five assists.
But her effort wasn’t enough as the Storm fell to the Phoenix Mercury and her good friend and longtime rival, Diana Taurasi, 85-80 in overtime.
Bird said she isn’t sure if Sunday’s WNBA playoff loss, but the scene post game sure felt like a final send off.
"ONE MORE YEAR, ONE MORE YEAR"
Storm fans don't want this to be the last time they see Sue Bird ❤️
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 26, 2021
After the final buzzer Bird and Taurasi swapped jerseys, embraced and did a co interview on the court. As Bird spoke about her future, Taurasi led the crowd to a thunderous chant of “ONE MORE YEAR, ONE MORE YEAR!”
And can you blame the crowd or Taurasi for wanting to see the goat for another season?
Bird already is a lock to be a Hall of Famer, having played more games (549 regular season, 54 postseason) than anyone in WNBA history. She also is the league’s all-time assists leader (3,048 regular season, 318 postseason). Bird is second only to Taurasi in 3-point field goals in the regular season, with 945. Bird averaged 10.0 points and 5.3 assists this season.
“I feel very lucky that physically I’m still… it’s not the physical part that is ‘taking me down,'” she said. “It will be my own decision.”
This season was a tough one for Bird, having lost her co star Breanna Stewart for the second time in 3 years. But when the duo have been healthy, the Storm won the WNBA championship in 2018 and 2020. So the championship window for Bird and the Storm isn’t even close to being closed so that can entice her to return once more to try and go out on top. But is the will to continue going still there?
“You have this purpose when you’re in a season, and all of a sudden in the blink of an eye, it’s gone,” said Bird, who no longer plays overseas as she did for several years in Russia. “I’ll wake up tomorrow and be like, ‘This is weird, I have nowhere to go. I have no purpose.’ I’m not eating to get ready for practice, practicing, and ‘when’s the next game?’ It’s just gone.”
Bird isn’t the only one questioning her future. Taurasi, who turned 39 in June, has also thought about how and when to hang up the jersey for good.
“It’s a very hard and tough decision,” Taurasi said. “When you’ve played basketball your whole life, it’s easy for the outside to think you’re done. Or, ‘maybe she’s had enough, she’s played long enough.’ You saw what Sue did today. Sue kept [her] team in it for the whole game. Ability-wise, Sue is always ready to play. We know that firsthand from the Olympics and playing against her. Sue is the ultimate professional.
“That is the tricky part about being a WNBA player. Now she has eight months to think about does she want to play again. That’s a long time to think about do you want to do everything it takes to get back on the court. And at our age, whatever we used to do, it’s times 10. So that’s a decision she’ll make.”
It is clear the two relate beyond the surface level and the respect goes even beyond the typical respect between long time foes and friends.
The two have combined for 22 All-Star appearances, 7 WNBA titles, and close to every record in the book. From college teammates to WNBA rivals, Olympic Gold medalists, and soon the hall of fame, the two have mirrored their careers like Magic and Larry Bird.
Taurasi said Bird is “a winner in all facets of life.”
“Basketball, we know what’s she’s done,” Taurasi said. “But what she’s been able to do off the court, I think, in the last two-three years, pushing things that she hold very valuable to herself. Those are things that people are going to remember about her.
“She’s a great point guard, a great leader. I’ve learned so much being around her. All those things I’ll take with me, and I’ll try to pass them down. She’s the ultimate winner and the most unselfish person I’ve ever been around.”
— NBA TV (@NBATV) September 26, 2021