September 27, 2022

WNBA legend Sue Bird says she’s likely running it back for one final season, but no farewell tour

The 2022 season might just be Sue Bird’s last dance with the Seattle Storm and in the WNBA. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

Sue Bird thought 2021 would be her last year as a basketball player. Then she re-signed with the Seattle Storm on a one-year deal for this season after an internal struggle over whether to call it quits. She hasn’t outright declared the 2022 season will be her last, but somewhere in her heart she knows it very well might be.

“I think it’s assumed to be my last and I do believe all arrows are pointing in that direction,” Bird said Tuesday during her welcome back press conference in Seattle. “For some reason, I don’t necessarily want to operate in that space because I think for my personality… it doesn’t necessarily fit for every game I go into to be ‘this is Sue’s last game in this city. This is her last time putting her shoe on.’ I don’t really operate in that space well, but I understand that comes with it.”

So, no farewell tour is on her mind, but what might be is one last dance with the Storm — who also re-signed Breanna Stewart to a one-year supermax deal and Jewell Loyd to a two-year deal before Bird made her decision to return. The three together have been key players to the team’s last two WNBA titles, legitimizing championship aspirations when the Storm paired Loyd and Stewart with Bird in 2015 and 2016.

Bird’s career has been filled with more than enough wins, gold medals (five at the Olympics) and WNBA championships for one lifetime. A fifth WNBA title for the Storm would add to her legacy as leader of one of the W’s greatest all-time dynasties, and she’s had a hand in all of those titles (2004, 2010, 2018 and 2020).

“I feel really lucky that I get to be in this position to make this decision,” Bird, a Syosset-native, said. “It gets to be on my terms. Not a lot of athletes are afforded that opportunity. Obviously, Lauren Jackson being one I witnessed firsthand having injuries and things like that being the reason for her decision. So I just feel really lucky.”

Bird, who was drafted No. 1 overall in 2002 is the oldest player in the W to date, entering her age-41 season. She’ll turn 42 not long after playoffs will likely conclude in 2022 — the regular season is scheduled to tip off on May 6 and finish on Aug. 14. If Bird and the Storm run it back for chip no. 5, she’ll also hold the record for oldest player to win a WNBA championship. That record currently belongs to Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who won a championship with the Minnesota Lynx in her age-40 season.

Aside from her winnings, Bird is also the WNBA all-time assists leader (3,048) and has either scored or assisted on 27.6% of every Storm basket ever.

If nothing else, she’s already proved that her age and longevity in the league has only made her better as a player and leader. There’s a reason she was picked as a co-flag bearer at her last Olympic game in Tokyo last summer. And why her name has been synonymous with WNBA and Storm basketball for two decades.