WNBA legend Sue Bird retires after 21-year career
Four-time WNBA champion and five-time Olympic gold medalist Sue Bird retired as Seattle Storm got eliminated in WNBA playoffs.
With 28 seconds left in game four of the Women’s National Basketball Association semifinals, WNBA legend Sue Bird went coast-to-coast and laid the basketball into the rim off a simple hand-off play, closing the Seattle Storm’s deficit against the Las Vegas Aces to four. This, however, did not stop the Aces from taking the win away from Seattle. The layup became Bird’s last points made in her 21-year WNBA career. The Aces players, led by the 2022 WNBA MVP and defensive player of the year A’ja Wilson, lined up and congratulated Bird on her retirement. Bird addressed the fans as they chanted “Thank you, Sue!” and headed back to the locker room.
Coming off an undefeated season and a 114-4 college record at University of Connecticut, Bird was drafted as the first pick overall of the 2002 WNBA draft. In her first season, she became an all-star starter and was selected to the 2002-03 All-WNBA First Team. Throughout her WNBA career with the Seattle Storm, Bird has won four WNBA championships: 2004, 2010, 2018, and 2020. After claiming the 2020 championship title, Bird became the only WNBA player to have won it across three different decades. Bird leads the WNBA in games played as well as career assists, and her impact on women’s basketball players cannot be put into words.
Most WNBA players have to play abroad to make ends meet, and Bird was no exception. She is a five-time EuroLeague champion as well as a five-time Russian National League champion. In her USA Women’s Basketball Team career, Bird won four International Basketball Federation World Championships and five Olympic gold medals. She and Diana Taurasi, another WNBA legend who is considering retirement, are the only two five-time gold medalists in Olympics basketball history, men or women.
Outside of basketball, Bird has been a leading voice for a multitude of different social issues. She came out in 2017, publicly declaring her relationship with soccer legend Megan Rapinoe, and has since advocated for LGBTQIA+ rights. Bird is equally vocal on gender equality and has a profound perspective when it comes to the topic of pay equity between the NBA and the WNBA. "I say this totally real — I don't think we should get the same money as NBA players," Bird clarified in an interview with comedian Adam Ray. She believes that the WNBA deserves more coverage and corporate sponsors. "So we can build the business, and then when it's really good — like the NBA is — then we can get that money." In 2021, Bird and many other female athletes came together to establish TOGETHXR, a media company focused on bringing greater attention to women’s sports and their subsequent media coverage.
When it comes to racial equality, Bird is known for publicly supporting Raphael Warnock in his campaign for Georgia senator against Kelly Loeffler, the former owner of WNBA team Atlanta Dreams. Loeffler stood against the WNBA when they called for an end to police brutality. In the same way that she approached the basketball court, Bird was fearless and ready to take on any opponent in her way. Warnock was polling at just 9% when Bird and other WNBA players started wearing “VOTE WARNOCK” t-shirts in support of his political campaign, according to the Seattle Times. And, in the end, Warnock won the election against Loeffler, becoming the first Black senator of Georgia. On or off the basketball court, Bird comes in clutch.
Now that Bird has retired, she can put more time and effort into her business TOGETHXR to raise awareness for women in sports. With former experience analyzing college basketball, managing the Denver Nuggets, and joining the ownership of NJ/NY Gotham FC, Bird has more to bring to the world after stepping off the stage of professional basketball.