‘I Don’t Necessarily Want To Operate In That Space’ | Sue Bird Doesn’t Get To Decide If She Gets Farewell Tour

After helping to carry the WNBA for more than two decades, legend Sue Bird will retire at the end of the 2022 season. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The upcoming WNBA season will be the last for the Seattle Storm‘s Sue Bird. The 20-year veteran will end her storied career and head into the Naismith Hall of Fame as soon as she is eligible. But Bird doesn’t want a “farewell tour” of sorts, as it doesn’t work well for her personality type.

“I think it’s assumed to be my last and I do believe all arrows are pointing in that direction,” Bird said. “For some reason, I don’t necessarily want to operate in that space because I think for my personality … it doesn’t necessarily fit for every game I go into to be, ‘This is Sue’s last game in this city. This is her last time putting her shoe on.’ I don’t really operate in that space well, but I understand that comes with it.”

Bird was drafted number one by the Storm in 2002, out of women’s basketball powerhouse the University of Connecticut. She was fresh off her second national title, swept all five national player-of-the-year awards, and finished her collegiate career with a record of 114-4.

She paid dividends, immediately helping lead the Storm to their first playoff appearance and earned All-Star and All-WNBA honors.

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Bird is a four-time WNBA champion, 12-time WNBA All-Star, eight-time All-WNBA, the WNBA all-time assists leader and a member of the WNBA’s 10th, 15th, 20th, and 25th anniversary teams. She’s won five Olympic gold medals and four FIBA world championships as a member of Team USA women’s basketball.

We’re not done.

Like many WNBA players during the league’s first 20 years, Bird played overseas where the contracts were more lucrative, and she won there too. She’s a five-time Russian national league champion, five-time EuroLeague champion and two-time Europe SuperCup winner.

She’s also among the highest-paid WNBA players. According to Queen Baller, “Sue is one of the few WNBA stars who have endorsement deals.”

Sue has been with Nike since 2003. But since 2020, she’s also “signed deals with life insurance company Symetra (along with her life partner, Megan Rapinoe). And has had deals with State Farm and American Express in the past. She, along with seven other WNBA players, also has a Glossier deal,” said the publication.

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The woman is a flat-out winner, and she thinks we’re not going to celebrate that in her final season?

Bird is selfless. You don’t become the all-time assists leader without that trait. But it’s okay for her to be selfish in this moment and enjoy the spotlight in her final season. She’s earned it.

It’s special for an athlete to be able to go out on their own terms, and Bird gets to do that.

“I feel really lucky that I get to be in this position to make this decision. It gets to be on my terms,” Bird said. “Not a lot of athletes are afforded that opportunity. Obviously, Lauren Jackson being one I witnessed firsthand having injuries and things like that being the reason for her decision. So I just feel really lucky.”

Bird is undoubtedly one of the greatest players of all time and her farewell season deserves the pomp and circumstance befitting a player of her stature. It’s true she doesn’t operate in a space where it’s all about her. That’s what makes her who she is and such a great player.

Bird says she contemplated retiring after last season, but the fans wouldn’t let her go.

“It really didn’t hit me in that moment until the fans chanted,” Bird said, via ESPN. “And then I was like, ‘Oh, they know it, too? They’re sensing this also?’ It’s weird because it immediately changed my perspective. Had the buzzer gone off and I just went home, I probably would have retired.
“But having that moment, it kind of changed some things for me. During the drive home, there was a wide range of emotions, as you can imagine.”

In her final season, the WNBA, players and basketball fans all over will be able to show their appreciation and celebrate her. Sorry, champ. You don’t get to decide that.

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