Tearful Sue Bird ends 20-year basketball career as fans chant ‘Thank you Sue’: ‘I didn’t really want to leave the court’

Sue Bird did not want to leave the playground.

It was obvious that had the 41-year-old been given the choice or the opportunity, she would have chosen to draw a line under her career with the drama and excitement of a championship victory – adding a fifth to the four that she and her team, the Seattle Storm, had already won.

However, that was not to be the case. Despite his efforts and those of his teammates, and the fans packed into Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena, the Storm failed to overcome the power and inventiveness of the Las Vegas Aces. The team lost 97–92 in Game 4 of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Championship Semifinals in five games.

Even as the odds closed against the Storm, Bird and her supporters hoped and cried for a miraculous recovery, the kind of thing she spoke about so often in her two decades with the team.

“Obviously I’m so grateful for 20 years here. I’m going to miss it so much. I’m not going anywhere but I’m going to miss it,” Bird says a live broadcast on ESPN as she exited the field. “I wish I could have done a bit more to get to the final, but I’m so proud of this team this year.”

She added, “I am so, so proud to be a member of the Seattle Storm. It was an honor for me to choose this franchise to play for these fans.”

As she spoke, fans chanted her name and their gratitude for her dedication, “Thank you Sue.” “Thank you Sue”. “Thank you Sue.”

WNBA legend Sue Bird is retiring

When asked what his legacy might be, Bird said, “I guess I just hope that the next person who comes in and plays point guard here, just keeps the tradition going. Keep winning. Maintain that championship level, keep those fans happy.

Bird, who is 5-foot-9 and was born in Syosset, New York, signed with the Storm in 2002. His signing followed a successful stint with an undefeated University of Connecticut team and emerged first overall in the draft .

Along with winning four championships for the Storm, Bird won a record five gold medals representing the United States women’s basketball team. She became the WNBA’s all-time leader in assists and career debut, embarking in a remarkable 549 games.

Bird, whose partner is U.S. national women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe, had planned for the 2021 season to be its finale.

She revealed to ESPN in February that it was the sound of fans chanting “one more year” when they lost in the final to Phoenix Mercury that changed her mind.

“It really didn’t hit me at that point until the fans were singing along and I was like, ‘Oh, they know that too? They feel that too?’. It’s weird because it immediately changed my perspective. If the bell had rung and I was going home, I probably would have retired,” she said. “But having this moment, it kind of changed some things for me. During the drive back there was a wide range of emotions, as you can imagine.

Sue Bird holds the league record for most games started – a remarkable 549

(Getty Images)

Many cities and teams have their favorite players, the kind of individuals it’s hard to imagine rushing without their presence.

For 20 seasons, that was the case with the New England Patriots when it came to 45-year-old Tom Brady. His dominance as a quarterback in the NFL is comparable to Bird’s in the WNBA.

The whole tennis world, and maybe even beyond, is feeling this right now about 40-year-old Serena Williams, who said she was quitting the sport after 23 Grand Slams and losing in the third tour of the United States. Opened in Ajla Tomljanović.

As it stands, Brady has persisted in the game, playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Williams said she wanted to focus more on other things, including having a second child.

Bird’s connection to Seattle fans is undoubtedly made even closer due to the absence of a men’s professional NBA team since the sale of the Seattle SuperSonics franchise and transfer to Oklahoma in 2007.

As such, as many fans holding signs saying “Sue You are my Hero” attested Tuesday night, Bird has become a role model for sports fans of all stripes. She also mentored many of her teammates, often donning the captain’s jersey when wearing the No. 10 jersey she had made herself.

In 2017, she spoke openly about her sexuality for the first time, coming out as gay and revealing that she was dating Rapinoe.

After Tuesday’s game, Vegas coach Becky Hammon praised Bird, saying she “had a career the kids dreamed of and lived it.”

“His thumbprint on the game is forever etched,” Hammon continued. “He’s a beautiful spirit. Her jumper on the left is also a killer, but her spirit for the game is one of a kind, so you have so much respect for her.

A fan who was in the stadium, Sarah Rose Nottingham, entrepreneur and actress, said The Independent: “Watching Sue Bird play basketball is like experiencing ASMR, when things are going well because everything is going in the right place”.

She added: “His fundamentals are flawless, his playfulness spice up the game and his vision creates plays that a coach can only dream of for the players. I am proud that we had the chance to encourage him on the pitch.

Bird also received a round of applause from Rapinoe, her fiancé, who posted a rare public reference to their relationship on Instagram: “The Greatest to ever do it. I’m so proud of you.”

“Legend. Salute,” tweeted Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors.

With all the emotions swirling, Bird admitted it was hard to say goodbye to the sport and the fans. At the same time, she seemed certain that her decision was made.

“No, I don’t have any doubts,” she told ESPN this week. “Of course, my body feels good, so it can be tricky. Or it may mislead you. But there’s a reason I felt comfortable, and I felt confident that this was my last year. Being able to say that out loud was a big hurdle. And once I kind of jumped over that, I knew I did the right thing because I felt after.

She added, “Will I miss basketball? Absolutely. There will be no such thing. I don’t think I will ever be able to reproduce it. I won’t even try. But now I know I made the right decision.

Back To Top