SEATTLE (AP) — Now that some time has passed, Sue Bird knows she made the right decision by going public with what she knew inside — that this would be her last season.
But the emotions that are likely to come when she plays what could be her last game in Seattle? Bird has no idea what it’s going to be like.
” I can not wait to be there. It sure is,” she said. “I know it will be a really special day. Am I ready for this? I guess we’ll see. It’s going to be a lot, in all a good way.
Bird will play the last regular season home game of his career on Sunday when the Seattle Storm host the Las Vegas Aces. The Storm clinched a playoff berth, but with the WNBA’s new playoff format, there’s no guarantee the Storm will end up with a home game in the first round.
Seattle is currently the No. 4 seed ahead of Washington with a week left in the regular season.
So in case the Storm don’t see their playoff home again, Sunday is the day Bird is celebrated for his remarkable career. Members of Seattle’s previous championship teams are expected to attend. There will be a pre-match ceremony. And the biggest crowd in Storm’s history – more than 18,000 at the Climate Pledge Arena – is expected.
“What she’s been able to do in her career, on and off the pitch, has been phenomenal and I don’t think they’ll ever be someone like her,” the former teammate said this week. Seattle, Lauren Jackson. “I think the legacy she left on the sport, and will leave on the sport, is huge. But I’m really looking forward to seeing what she does next.
Bird, 41, the WNBA’s oldest player, announced in June that it would be her last season before retiring. The decision was expected, especially after Bird flirted with the idea of stepping down after last season before returning for a 19th season on the court and 21st overall with Seattle, missing two seasons through injury.
She would end her career as one of the most decorated players of all time: four WNBA titles, five Olympic gold medals, countless WNBA records that may never be equaled, and recognition as one of great players of a golden generation for the league.
“If you want to talk, the best generation (the league) is still quite young, so we can revisit that conversation 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now,” Bird said. “But as it is, I feel really lucky to have played in the generation that I played in, and I think a huge part is probably going to be considered the best, the most talented.”
Last year, when Seattle’s season ended at home with a playoff loss to Phoenix and Storm fans chanted “one more year!” the impassioned plea resonated with Bird. She has cited that moment multiple times over the past year as a partial reason for her decision to return.
But as a sign of Bird’s peace with her decision, she says hearing the chant now, her main thought is “good try. See you later,” she joked.
Another sign that Bird knows she made the right decision came after she pressed the button to announce her decision. Instantly the question of whether she would perform again was gone and with it an unknown weight weighing on her.
This has led to more open and honest conversations with competitors, former teammates and fans without dancing around the uncomfortable unknown as the final days of his career draw closer.
“There were these other cool by-products that I didn’t expect. Most of them come in the form of people able to share moments with me or memories with me. Your peers are probably the most significant,” Bird said. “Players on the other team share things with me, whether it’s a real moment or how I inspired them, how they looked up to me, ‘how the WNBA won’t be the same without you.’ “I didn’t do it to get this. But it’s been really nice. And it really helps. It’s part of my own closure and it will help me move forward when it’s all said and done.”
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