WNBA legend Sue Bird retires after 2022 season

WNBA legend Sue Bird, the league’s all-time assists leader, announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of the 2022 season.

“I’ve decided this will be my final year,” Bird, 41, posted on social media. “I have loved every single minute, and still do, so gonna play my last year, just like this little girl played her first.”

The 12-time All-Star and eight-time All-WNBA selection was announced Thursday as she considered retiring after the 2021 campaign, but this past offseason she signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Storm, where she spent her entire 21-year. WNBA career. Although she’d indicated this could be her last season, she didn’t publicly commit to anything until now.

“You just know when you know,” Bird told media in Connecticut Thursday following the announcement, adding that the Storm’s East Coast trip, which features its final game in New York on Sunday, spurred the timing of its announcement.

“Of course, I’m sad,” Bird said. “It’s a little bit like a mourning, knowing I’m gonna miss it. But I mean, I have no regrets. I feel wonderful about my career, the people I’ve met, the things we’ve all accomplished .. And I’m excited for the next chapter. “

She joins Sylvia Fowles, the league’s all-time rebounding leader who is also considered one of the all-time greats, as the WNBA luminaries announce their retirements following the 2022 season.

Bird’s decorated career spanned two decades and catapults at all levels to make it one of the conversations for one of the greatest basketball players and champions of all time. The former no. 1 draft pick in 2002 won four WNBA titles with the Storm in 2004, 2010, 2018 and 2020, making her the only WNBA player to win titles throughout three decades. She was also selected to be one of the WNBA’s milestone teams, including the most recent W25 in 2021.

“I’m very proud of playing Seattle my whole career,” Bird said. “I just enjoyed all my time here. I feel so connected to the team, to the city, to the fanbase, to all the people that have come through, and that is really what it is about. I think as you go through career, you realize it really is about the people.

Bird added to his storied success on the international stage in Tokyo last year, when he helped USA Basketball take home its ninth Olympic gold medal and seventh straight. Alongside close friend and former UConn teammate Diana Taurasi, the pair became the first basketball players to win five Olympic golds.

The Syosset, New York, native starred at Christ the King High School in Queens before playing for coach Geno Auriemma at UConn, where he guided the Huskies to national titles in 2000 and 2002, the program’s second and third championships. She was named national player of the year in 2002 while part of arguably the greatest starting five in women’s college basketball history.

Bird’s extensive trophy case also features four FIBA ​​World Championship gold medals with Team USA and five EuroLeague titles with Spartak Moscow and UMMC Ekaterinburg.

Bird, who missed time in the WNBA season with COVID-19 protocols and most recently with a non-COVID-19 illness, is averaging 7.8 points on 33.8% shooting (both career lows), but his 6.6 assists per game are tied for the second. most in her career.

“I feel like I’ve played as long as I can at a really high level, both physically and mentally,” Bird said, “and it just gotten harder.”

Still, her longevity – which she credits to her work with performance trainer Susan Borchardt – is unmatched, as her 19 seasons playing in the league (she missed 2013 and 2019 thanks to injury) are more than any other player’s. She’s the only WNBA player to appear in at least 500 games, starting in all 559 career contests.

“I hope other players can see a career like this one, see the length of it, the success of it, and know that they can do it too,” Bird said. “Not that it’s easy, but it’s doable. There are ways in which you can play a very, very long time. And hopefully, I’m one of the athletes that helped start that narrative in women’s basketball.”

The 5-foot-9 point guard recorded his 3,000th career assist on July 9, 2021, and boasts 3,114 dimes – 514 more than any other player – heading into the Storm’s game Friday against the Sun, averaging at least five assists per 15 of his 19 seasons in the game and at least six five times. She is a career 39.2% shooter from 3 with a penchant for hitting big-time shots when her team needs it, and also comes in second in career 3s (965), fourth in steals (700) and seventh in scoring (6,639).

“It’s exciting to watch people who score, it’s exciting to watch people who can make amazing plays on the floor,” Bird said of his legacy of how he played the game. “But it’s also really valuable to have a player who puts his team first, who thinks in that game, who always enjoyed being one out there like the glue. And you can have success in that way too.”

While initially being relatively soft-spoken, Bird has constantly opened up about her personal life, transforming her into a culture icon in the process. She came out as gay and revealed her relationship with (now engagement) soccer star Megan Rapinoe, with whom she hosted with ESPYS fellow Seattle star Russell Wilson in 2020. Off the court, she served as vice president of the WNBA players’ association. and helped negotiate the league and players’ landmark collective bargaining agreement in 2020.

Bird diversified her off-court portfolio in recent years with various endeavors, including a front office position with the Denver Nuggets and an ESPN megacast during the women’s final four this past spring. She said there are things “on the horizon that I can look forward to” as she considers the next steps.

“That’s really the beauty of it,” Bird said. “When Derek Jeter retired, he said he was looking forward to being a young man again. I realize 41 is actually young. So it’s really exciting just to know what is ahead of me, I can try new things and see what is out there. “

Bird’s announcement coincides with the Storm’s second-to-last regular-season road trip to Connecticut, where she spent her collegiate career.

“There is certainly nothing that Sue left undone or to prove,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “There’s going to be a lot of stories written and comparisons about her and everything she’s done. It’s really no exaggeration to say, I don’t think in our lifetime watching basketball, that we’ve seen anyone play that position at A higher level and a longer period of time than Sue has. “

The 9-5 Storm, who has won two of the past four WNBA titles, is no. 4 in the WNBA standings as they seek to send Bird out on top with one last title.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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