At the outset of the 2022 WNBA season, one of the storylines was indeed the status of Sue Bird, who has spent her entire illustrious career with one team – the Seattle Storm.
With Bird being in her 40s, the talk of possible retirement from her and her fellow UConn elder stateswoman Diana Taurasi has only increased among WNBA fans. The 2022 season was the first for the Storm back at Climate Pledge Arena since renovations were complete on the former Key Arena that forced Seattle into a number of alternative venues – including Angel of the Winds Arena in the suburb of Everett last season.
In many ways, Climate Pledge Arena is the greenhouse that Sue built – and that could have been an impetus for Bird to sport Storm green and gold one more time.
On June 16, Bird revealed via Twitter what had to be one of the worst kept secrets in WNBA circles – that she would indeed be calling it a career after winning four W championships in addition to numerous All-Star appearances and Olympic gold medals.
As Bird is one of the WNBA’s elder stateswomen – a figure that is, in many ways, synonymous with the league itself, it will be difficult to envision a league without her in uniform. When a casual fan thinks of the WNBA, it thinks of names like Lisa Leslie, Teresa Weatherspoon, Sheryl Swoopes, Chamique Holdsclaw, Swin Cash, Maya Moore, Tamika Catchings, Candace Parker, Elena Delle Donne and, of course, Taurasi. Bird is also in that rarefied WNBA air – a throwback in many ways to the WNBA’s humble beginnings.
She is also a name that is synonymous with the history of the Storm. In this era of free agency (across all sports and leagues) it is more difficult than ever to keep a roster’s core intact. Seattle has been a franchise, like every other, that has been through its ups and its downs.
Bird has been there every step of the way – from the highs of the championships that were brought to the Emerald City to the years where the Storm underwent a rebuild and even the years where Seattle underwent changes off the court. These include the sale from former Seattle Sonics owner Howard Schultz to its current ownership at Force 10 Hoops to being forced out of KeyArena as a result of renovations to welcome its new hockey team – the Seattle Kraken.
They also include the recent on-court revitalization of the franchise with her, Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd as its nucleus – and winning a championship in 2018 as well as another in 2020 in the bubble.
As hard as it will be for Storm fans to adjust to life without Bird, Storm fans may also have to adjust to life without her and Stewie as well. After all, she did only re-up for one year with Seattle this past free agent period. She did have that meeting with New York Liberty owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai and she is a native of New York State who has already established a Hall of Fame (Women’s Basketball and Naismith) career while just now entering her prime.
As for the Gold Mamba, she signed a two-year deal in free agency so the Storm’s front office may be more successful in keeping her around.
Of course, while her basketball playing days now will soon reach its conclusion for sure, this is anything but the last we have heard or seen from Bird. After all, she and Megan Rapinoe are one of the most celebrated couples in sports, in the LGBTQIA+ community and in larger society as a whole. In addition, she has established herself as not only an ambassador for the women’s game but as an advocate for civil rights and social change – including the Black Lives Matter movement. If anything, Bird is not disappearing from the scene anytime soon – she is simply gearing up for what will certainly be her next act in life.
Bird will leave some large sneakers to fill for both the Storm and the WNBA as a whole. But those large sneakers to fill means she has left an imprint on the W that is more than deserving of her flowers. Once the 2022 season has concluded – that may or may not result in the Storm winning another championship – Bird (and Rapinoe) are sure to continue to display that they are champions at life as they were champions in their respective sports.
We cannot wait to see what that second act has in store – including a couple of (what are sure to be memorable) Hall of Fame speeches.