You could have called the row courtside at Barclays Center Sunday morning Bird Alley. Sitting there was the family and friends of WNBA and Seattle Storm superstar Sue Bird, who had announced earlier in the week that this year would be her final one.
That meant Sunday’s homecoming for Bird, who grew up in Syosset and attended Christ the King in Queens, took on extra special meaning for her and those who have seen her blossom into a basketball great. She told reporters that she needed “somewhere north of 100” tickets for the game against the New York Liberty at Barclays Center.
While Bird has yet to get time with her family following her retirement announcement — which came after the Storm’s game in Brooklyn — the support for her at Barclays ranged from her friends and family to people from Christ the King and those who had been instrumental to her over the course of her career.
Bird walked off the court to loud cheers and applause from the New York fans after she hit her final shot of the game with 20.8 seconds in an 81-72 win for Seattle.
“It’s no Kobe Bryant dropping 60 (points), but it feels pretty good,” Bird said after the win. “It wasn’t about the game. It wasn’t about how I played. It was just really about soaking it all in and enjoying the moment. Knowing there are people here that have been so instrumental in my journey to get to where I am sitting right now. It was really about that. And then once the ball tips it s about the win. … A fairy tale ending would have been 30 points and 20 assists, but this felt pretty much like a fairy tale, so I am gonna take it.”
Bird finished the game with 11 points.
The Liberty honored her with a pregame video tribute following the national anthem with highlights and messages from members of the team, Brooklyn Nets, and Gotham City FC. Additionally, Former Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia sent well wishes along with Billie Jean King and Bird’s fiance and soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
Bird was also presented with a jacket and jersey with all 12 New York sports teams logos on it and her name on the back.
The New York Liberty honored Sue Bird with a 3+ minute tribute video and concluded the video with a gift presented to her by former Storm teammates Sami Whitcomb and Natasha Howard. @TheNextHoops pic.twitter.com/csUsiqdttA
— Jackie Powell (she/her) (@ClassicJpow) June 19, 2022
Bird’s impact on basketball and the WNBA has been a huge boost for the game. She helped lead the Storm to four WNBA titles over the course of her 19-year career and she’s been named to the 15th, 20th and 25th-anniversary teams by the league.
Additionally, she is first all-time in WNBA history with 559 games played and 3,114 assists, fourth with 700 steals, and seventh in points with 6,639. Bird has been a mainstay on the U.S. Olympic teams and helped win five consecutive gold medals from 2004-to 2020.
“I actually played one year with Sue in Seattle,” Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello said. “You saw how special she was, just her IQ and her skill set and she’s always smiling but she really is fierce at times. Don’t underestimate the smiles because she will certainly get into our players’ faces and opponents and all that. Look I think she’s played the game the right way. She does whatever she needs to do to make the team win. She’s a leader. She’s a nurturer.
“You know, she’s like a coach on the court to be quite honest.”
More importantly off the court, Bird has helped raise the profile of the WNBA over the years. On Sunday Barclays Center was littered with fans wearing jerseys and shirts emblazoned with her name and No. 10 on the back.
And she has inspired countless numbers of female athletes over the years, which Bird said was one of her proudest achievements.
“I think what the last couple of days has shown me is the lives I’ve impacted,” Bird said before the game. “The little kids that I’ve inspired who might now be 20 years old, 25 years old, and they told me what it meant to them when they were 10 kinds of thing. It’s slowly sinking in just what I’ve meant. Even at the Connecticut (Sun) game, some of the players after the game shared some really nice words. Just thanking me or honoring me or saying congratulations.
“Courtney Williams was interviewed on the court, I didn’t get to hear it, but someone told me she gave me a shoutout. … When your peers acknowledge you in that way it’s really special.”