Goodbye to the Seattle basketball GOAT

Sue Bird says farewell after two decades of dominance

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STELA SAZBOOVA

During her 20 year career, Sue Bird made 13 All-Star appearances and was named to eight All-WNBA teams. 

HAYDEN STINCHFIELD, Evergreen reporter

Five seconds left, the clock ticking. The Aces led by five and the Storm needed a miracle if they wanted their season to outlast the clock.

On the court for the Storm, one player felt the pressure even heavier than the rest. Point guard Sue Bird had the ball and if she could not make magic happen, those five seconds would become her last as a professional basketball player.

2022 WNBA MVP runner-up Breanna Stewart got open and Bird passed her the ball. The pass was on target, but Steward slipped and fell, the buzzer sounded and the season was over. A legendary career ended after 20 years, in about as uncharacteristic a way as it possibly could have.

On Sept. 6, the Seattle Storm lost in the semifinals to the Las Vegas Aces. Bird had eight points and eight assists, a respectable box score for her 20th season in the league. 

Watching Bird walk off the floor to chants of “Thank you, Sue”, it is hard not to reminisce on all she has done for the city. Coming in as the first overall pick in 2002, she joined a young team in a young league, who had not made the playoffs in their two seasons of existence. 

In her first season, Bird looked to change that and averaged 14.4 points and 6.0 assists while shooting 40% from three-point range, according to basketball-reference.com

While she did not win Rookie of the Year, she was voted to the All-Star and All-WNBA teams that year, something even the best rookies rarely do.

Bird continued to make those teams year-in and year-out. When she retired she did so with 13 All-Star appearances to her name and eight All-WNBA teams. 

While she never won an MVP, she was clearly a superstar player for most of two decades. This is reflected in both those All-Star and All-WNBA teams and in her appearances on every single Anniversary team the league has ever made, from the 10th to the 15th, 20th and 25th.

Bird’s success has not just come in the form of individual regular season accolades, as throughout her career she has only missed the playoffs three times and in her time in Seattle, the Storm has taken home four WNBA championships. 

With those four rings, Bird is tied with legends like Maya Moore and Cynthia Cooper for the most individual WNBA championships, according to thesportsgrail.com.

Most players with that many championships in any sport did it as part of a shorter dynasty, winning four titles in five to seven years. Bird is different, as her elite longevity allowed her to be part of title teams in 2004, 2010, 2018 and 2020. She proved that she could win with several different cores and it is clear that she was the key piece to establishing a winning culture in Seattle that will hopefully carry on even after she has retired.

“I’m proud of everything we’ve accomplished here. Of course I’m sad, but there’s happiness too, to be able to have a moment like that with the fans, to have them chant the way they did,” Bird said to ESPN after the game. “I know the tears don’t look like happy tears, but there’s a lot of happiness.”

While the ending was disappointing, it will soon be forgotten as Bird is cemented in basketball history as one of the greatest to ever do it and in Seattle history as the centerpiece of 20 years of dominance. She was not the only one who helped build the team up from the tough spot it was at when she got there, but she was the constant that stayed and made sure the team remained up there with the best of them. 

There will be a void on the roster for a while, but her impact will live on in every future championship the Storm take home. Her jersey will hang in the rafters of Climate Pledge Arena and she will not be forgotten, forever a Pacific Northwest basketball icon.