SEATTLE (AP) – Now that a little time has passed, Sue Bird knows she made the right decision by publicly declaring what she knew inside – that this would be her last season.
But the feelings that likely come when she plays what could her last game be in Seattle? Baird has no idea what it will be like.
“I am looking forward to it,” she said. “I know it is going to be a really special day. Am I ready for that? I think we’ll see. There will be many, in all good ways.”
Bird will play the home regular season final of her career on Sunday when the Seattle Storm hosts the Las Vegas ace. The Storm clinched a watershed point, but with the new WNBA format, there’s no guarantee that Storm will end in a home game in the first round.
Seattle is currently ranked No. 4, ahead of Washington with a week left in the regular season.
So in the event that Storm doesn’t end seeing their home floor again in the playoffs, Sunday is the day Bird is honored for her amazing career. Ex-Seattle team members are expected to attend. There will be a pre-match party. It is expected to be the largest crowd in storm history – more than 18,000 at Climate Pledge Arena.
“What she has been able to do in her career, on and off the court, has been phenomenal and I don’t think they will ever be like her,” Lauren Jackson, her former teammate in Seattle, said this week. “I think the legacy that you leave in this sport, and that you will leave in the sport, is a tremendous legacy. But I am really excited to see what you will do next.”
The 41-year-old, the oldest player in the NBA, announced in June that this would be her last season before retiring. The decision was expected, especially after Bird flirted with the idea of moving away after last season before returning to the nineteenth season on the field and twenty-first place overall with Seattle, and he missed two seasons due to injuries.
She would conclude her career as one of the most decorated women’s players of all time: four WNBA titles, five Olympic gold medals, and countless WNBA records that may never be matched and recognized as one of the best women’s players during the Golden Generation Golden Age. league.
“If you want to talk about the best generation (the league) is still very young, so we can revisit that conversation in 20, 30, 40, 50 years,” Bird said. “But as it is now, I feel really lucky to have played in the generation that I played in, and I think a huge part there is probably the best and most talented.”
Last year when Seattle’s home season ended with a playoff loss to Phoenix and Storm fans chanted “Another year!” The emotional appeal resonated with Baird. She has cited that moment several times over the past year as a partial reason for her decision to return.
But in a sign of how at peace Bird was with her decision, she said when she hears the hymn now, her main thought is, “Nice try. See you later,” she joked.
Another sign that Bird knew she made the right decision came after she pressed the button to announce her decision. Immediately, the question of whether she would play again disappeared and with an unknown weight hung above her.
This led to more open and honest conversations with competitors, former teammates, and fans without dancing around the uncomfortable unknown as the final days of her career approached.
“There were other nice by-products that I didn’t expect. Most of them come in the form of people being able to share moments with me or memories with me. Perhaps the most important is your peers,” Bird said. And how they looked at me, ‘How wouldn’t the WNBA be the same without you.’ I didn’t do that to get it. But this was really cool. It really helps. It’s part of my special ring and will help me move forward when all is said and done.”
— Tim Booth, sports writer for The Associated Press