WNBA legend Sue Bird, the league’s assisting assists leader, announced Thursday that she will retire at the end of the 2022 season.
“I’ve decided this will be my last year,” Baird, 41, posted on social media. “I loved every minute, and I still love it, so I’m going to play last year, just as this little girl played it first.”
The 12-time All-Star and 8-time All-WNBA pick had previously said she considered retiring after the 2021 campaign, but in another off-season she signed a one-year contract with Seattle Storm, spending her entire 21-year WNBA career. Although she has indicated that this may be her last season, she has not publicly committed to anything yet.
“You only know when you know,” Byrd told Connecticut media Thursday after the announcement, adding that Storm’s East Coast cruise, which features its last game in her home state of New York on Sunday, prompted the timing of her announcement.
“Of course, I’m sad,” Baird said. “It’s a bit like mourning, knowing I’m going to miss him. But I mean, I have no regrets. I feel so good about my career, the people I’ve met, the things we’ve all accomplished.. and I’m excited for the next chapter.”
She joins Sylvia Fowles, the league’s all-time recovery leader who is also considered one of the all-time greats, as the WNBA stars to announce their retirement after the 2022 season.
Bird’s ornate career spanning two decades and on all levels has propelled her into the conversation of one of the greatest basketball players and champions of all time. The first draft in 2002 won four WNBA titles with Storm in 2004, 2010, 2018, and 2020, making her the only WNBA player to win titles over three decades. She was also selected for every notable WNBA team, including the W25 as recently as 2021.
“I am very proud to have played throughout my career in Seattle,” Bird said. “I’ve just enjoyed all my time here. I feel so connected to the team, to the city, to the fan base, to all the people that have come in, and that’s really what it’s about. I think you’re connected to a career, you realize it’s really about the people. So I’m really fortunate to have played in an organization Top-tier players alongside some of the best players in the world, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
Bird added to her historic success on the international stage last year in Tokyo, when she helped NBA bring home its ninth and seventh Olympic gold medals, respectively. Along with his best friend and former UConn teammate Diana Taurasi, the duo became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals.
Syosset, New York, starred in Christ the King High School in Queens before choosing to play for coach Geno Auriemma at UConn, where she directed the Huskies to national titles in 2000 and 2002, her second and third program titles. She was named the National Player of the Year in 2002 while she was part of the five best players in women’s college basketball history.
The spacious Bird Cup bag also features four FIBA World Championship gold medals with Team USA and five Euroleague titles with Spartak Moscow and MMC Yekaterinburg.
Bird, who missed time this WNBA season on COVID-19 protocols and more recently with a non-COVID-19 illness, averages 7.8 points on her 33.8% shooting (both career lows), but her 6.6 assists per game correlates with her second most in her professional life.
“I feel like I’ve played for as long as possible at a really high level, both physically and mentally, and it just got more and more difficult,” Baird said.
However, her longevity – which she credits to her work with performance coach Suzanne Borchardt – is unparalleled, with her 19 seasons playing in the league (she missed 2013 and 2019 due to injury) more than any other player. She is the only WNBA player to have appeared in at least 500 games, starting with all 559 career competitions.
“I hope other players see a run like this, see its length, see its success, and know they can make it too,” Bird said. “It’s not easy, but it’s possible. There are ways you can play for a very long time. And I hope to be one of the athletes who helped start this combo in women’s basketball.”
The 5-foot-9 goalkeeper scored an assist in her 3,000th career career on July 9, 2021, and boasts 3114 dimes – 514 times more than any other player – en route to Friday’s Storm game against the Sun, averaging five assists. At least crucial for every player. In 15 of her nineteen seasons and six at least five times. She is a career shooter with 39.2% of 3 with a penchant for making big shots when her team needs it, and also comes in second in 3 seconds (965), fourth in steals (700) and seventh in goalscoring (6639).
“It’s exciting to watch people score, it’s exciting to see people who can put on amazing plays on the floor,” Bird told Legacy of how she played the game. “But it’s also important to have a player who puts the team first, thinks about the game that way, and always enjoys being a player like glue. And you can achieve success that way too.”
While Bird was initially relatively soft-spoken, she has increasingly opened up about her personal life, turning her into a cultural icon in the process. She came out as gay and revealed her relationship with (now dating) soccer star Megan Rapinoe, with whom she hosted ESPYS alongside Seattle star Russell Wilson in 2020. Off the field, she served as vice president of the WNBA Players Association and helped negotiate a collective bargaining agreement The history between the league and the players in 2020.
Bird has diversified her off-court portfolio in recent years with several endeavors, including a front-office position with the Denver Nuggets and an ESPN mega with Torassi during last spring’s Final Four. She said there are things “on the horizon I can look forward to” as she considers next steps.
“That’s really how beautiful it is,” Baird said. “When Derek Jeter retired, he said he was looking forward to being young again. I realized it was actually 41. So it’s really exciting to know that what awaits me, I can be young again, I can try new things and see what’s out there” .
Byrd’s announcement coincides with Storm’s second-to-last regular season trip to Connecticut, where she’s spent her career.
“There’s definitely nothing Sue has left without work or proof,” Yukon coach Gino Orima said. “There’s going to be a lot of stories written and comparisons about her and all she’s done. It’s not really an exaggeration to say, I don’t think in our lifetime watching basketball, we’ve seen anyone play that position at a higher level and for a longer period of time than Sue has.”
The 9-5 Storm, who has won two of the past four WNBA titles, ranks fourth in the WNBA rankings Because they seek to send Bird up front with one last title.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.