It was an emotional afternoon in Seattle and not just because of reigning champion Storm was eliminated from the playoffs.
The second round matchup between No. 4 Storm and No. 5 Phoenix Mercury potentially marked the final meeting between superstars Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi. It was almost two full decades ago that the former UConn teammates began their ascent up the WNBA rankings.
But that time is coming to an end, just as hard as it is to accept. And Storm fans want to put it off for as long as possible. With Bird and Taurasi in midfield alongside ESPN reporter Holly Rowe for an in-game interview, fans at the Angel of the Winds arena began singing “a year more” to their GED.
That brought Bird close to tears as Taurasi pumped the fans up to continue.
Bird, who turns 41 on October 16, has signed one-year contracts in recent years as she assesses each offseason whether she will continue. There is a real sense that this may be the year she walks away after a fourth WNBA Championship in 2020. She is the first player to win a title in three different decades (2004, 2010, 2018, 2020).
But she is also still plays at a high level and has adapted his game as the years go by.
“Throughout my career, I’m kind of lucky,” Bird said last year during the playoffs. “My position and how I play it allows for longevity. Of course, I have never relied on my physical speed or speed or size. So as long as I keep adding my game from a mental perspective, I always had the opportunity to stay on the floor. Assuming again that the physical part also stayed with me. ”
In the 85-80 overtime loss on Sunday, Bird was arguably the best Storm player on the field with Breanna Stewart on the bench in a boot and Jewell Loyd fighting offensively. Bird scored 16 points on 5-to-12 shooting in 37 minutes. She was 4-for-8 from the 3-point interval, adding three rebounds, five assists and one steal.
Her clutch 3-pointer tied the game late in regulation. It’s a shot she’s taken so many times in her 18-year career. She has also been incredibly reliable in boxing scores. Only in 2020, a smaller sample size, did she have, on average, fewer than 10 points in the base game. For her career, she has an average of 12 points on 43% shooting with 5.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Match.
Bird is the league’s all-time leader in assists (3,048), while Taurasi is the league’s all-time leader in points (9,174). They have each stayed with the same franchise throughout their careers and played countless classics against each other. They have also won five consecutive gold medals at Team USA and became the first to do so.
After an emotional chat with Rowe after the game, the duo swapped jerseys while the crowd roared. Taurasi, who is dealing with an ongoing ankle injury, will continue his season on Tuesday when Mercury faces either the No. 1 Connecticut Sun or No. 2 Las Vegas aces in a best-of-five series. It is also unclear whether Taurasi will retire as she has handled off-and-on injuries over the years.
The impact of birds has gone beyond the track. Point guard is a vice president of the WNBA Players Association board and helped lead the league in supporting Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia last year. She has also become the well-known name she should have been decades ago with growing sponsorship deals that put her at the center. Her CarMax ad, in which she says her password is “GOAT”, is iconic.
Her relationship with American football star Superstar Megan Rapinoe, shown alongside the interview, has also brought Bird and the league into the larger culture. The sports power couple are engaged to get married.
If that’s the end, it feels like a coaching career could be in Bird’s future. Eventually, the “one more year” songs will cease, even though it is not right now.
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