In mid-June, Sue Bird announced that the 2022 season would be her last in the WNBA. On Tuesday night, after herBetween games against the Las Vegas Aces, the Bird legend’s career officially came to an end.
Bird finished with eight points and eight assists in Game 4 as the Tide lost another thriller in one of the best playoff series in league history. A historic fifth-place finish would have been nice, but Bird and the Tide went down swinging against the best team in the league, and there’s no shame in going out like that.
“It’s disappointing,” Bird said after the 97-92 loss. “Thank you for being here for 20 years. I’m going to miss it. I’m not going anywhere, but I’m going to miss it. I wish we could have done a little more to get to the finals, but I’m so proud of this team this year. I’m proud to be a member of the Seattle Storm. It’s an honor to play for this franchise, to play for these fans. Another I don’t know what to say.
A streak winner and one of the best point guards to ever play the game, Bird has succeeded at every level and is one of 11 women to win an NCAA title, a WNBA title and an Olympic gold medal. And her work overseas, winning multiple Russian and Euroleague women’s championships, is no mean feat.
With her career complete, let’s take a look back at some of Bird’s best moments.
2002: Pick No. 1; All-Star and First Team All-WNBA as a starter
In the year Although the Hurricanes won the lottery in 2001 and 2002, his initial smarts paid off in the long run. After Lauren Jackson took the No. 1 pick in 01, the Hurricanes made him the first pick in 02.
Bird immediately proved the Hurricanes made the right decision by starting all 32 games and averaging 14.4 points and 6 assists in her rookie season. She was named an All-Star Game starter, earned All-WNBA First Team honors and helped the Wave reach the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
Although she had a great season, Bird did not win Rookie of the Year. That honor went to Tamika Catchings, who was drafted in 2001 but didn’t play until 2002 due to injury.
2004: First place and first Olympic gold medal
It didn’t take long for Bird to get her first hardware at the pro level. In her third season, Bird helped lead the Storm to their first title in franchise history. While she struggled early in that playoff run, she stepped up when it mattered most. The Hurricanes faced four elimination games on the trip, and Bird averaged 10 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.5 rebounds on 46.2 percent shooting in those contests.
Most importantly, in what was the most significant performance of her career up to that point, she had 10 points, 14 assists and three steals in Game 3 in the Western Conference Finals against the Sacramento Kings.
Earlier that year, Bird helped him win the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. When the Hurricanes shut out the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA Finals, she completed a rare trifecta: an NCAA title, a WNBA title and an Olympic gold medal. She is one of only 11 women to have done that adventure so far.
2005: Leads with three assists per game
In the year The 2005 campaign was not as successful for the Hurricanes, as they were defeated by Sherrill Swoopes and the Houston Comets in the first round of the playoffs. But Bird was once again one of the league’s best.
She made the All-WNBA First Team for the fourth straight season, and led the league in assists per game for the first time (5.9). Bird would go on to achieve the latter two more times in her career. Only Tina Penichero and Courtney Vandersloot have done it more often.
2006: Team of the All Decade
The 2006 season marked a decade for WNBA basketball, and to commemorate the milestone, the league decided to name an All-Decade Team to honor the best players up to that point. Although she is in her fifth season in the league, the Bird’s early successes have helped her make the cut. She is the only active player in the group.
2008: Second Olympic gold medal
Bird was selected for Team USA for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and helped the team to another gold medal. Despite playing sparingly, she led the team in steals during the tournament with 14. This was Bird’s second Olympic gold.
2010: Hits clutch shot en route to second title
After five straight disappointing first-round exits in the WNBA playoffs, the Hurricanes returned to glory in 2010. Fellow UConn alum Swin Cash joined the group, forming a trio with Jackson and Bird.
The Hurricanes won 28 games in the regular season, which is still a franchise record, and did not lose a single game in the playoffs. They came close a few times, though, and would have been undefeated if not for some clutch plays in the postseason.
In Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, Bird and the Hurricanes had a tough night against the Phoenix Mercury, trailing by 19 before mounting a furious comeback in the fourth quarter. With just over 30 seconds left, Bird got Cash to tie the game and then drained the game-winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds to send the Storm to the finals.
A few days later, in Game 1 of the Finals, the Hurricanes nearly blew their own big lead into Atlanta’s dream. But with the score tied and time winding down, Bird again made a game-winning jumper from inside the 3-point line. The storm, of course, would go on to sweep the series.
2011: Top 15 in 15
The Mercury got revenge on the Hurricanes in 2011, knocking them out of the playoffs in a close first-round series. Bird hit the game-tying jumper with 14 seconds left in Game 3 of the eventual winner, but Candice Dupree’s buzzer-beater sent the Storm packing.
Despite the heartbreak of the postseason, Bird received another major personal accolade. On the occasion of the league’s 15th anniversary, it has announced a new team of the 15 greatest players of all time. Of course the bird was sho-in. Along with Diana Taurasi, she is one of only two active players left from that team.
2012: Third Olympic gold medal
When Team USA headed to London for the 2012 Olympics, there was no question that Bird would be on the plane. At this point, she was the captain and played a leading role in the Americans’ dominance of the race to another gold medal – the nation’s fifth and Bird’s third. She led the team in assists and shot 48.8 percent from the field in the contest.
2016: Return to All-WNBA First Team; Fourth Olympic gold medal; Top 20 by 20
Once Swin Cash left and Lauren Jackson retired, the Hurricanes had some lean years. There were also several first-round picks and a few lottery picks. Bird struggled with knee problems, and missed the entire 2013 season after undergoing surgery.
In the year But in 2016, things started to turn around for Bird and the Hurricanes. Just as they did at the turn of the century, the Hurricanes won back-to-back sweepstakes and added Jewell Lloyd in 2015 and Breanna Stewart in 2016 as their new big three.
Healthy and rejuvenated by an influx of much-needed young talent, Bird had a comeback season. She averaged 12.8 points and 5.8 assists on 44.4 percent shooting from 3-point land, making the All-WNBA First Team for the fifth time in her career — 14 years after her debut. Overall, her eight All-WNBA appearances are tied for fifth-most all-time.
That summer, she captained Team America again during the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. As usual, the Americans won all eight games in the tournament by double digits and finished with the gold medal. Bird shot a little bit on her way to her fourth gold medal, but she led the team with 4.4 assists per game.
If all that wasn’t enough for one year, Bird was ranked in the league’s top 20 on the 20 list. For its 20th anniversary, the league released a new list of the 20 best players, and Bird was the obvious choice. Along with Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker, she is one of three active players on that list.
2017: He became the most helpful leader of all time
As the young Storm continued to climb the ranks in 2017, Bird was chasing a bit of personal history. Finally, in the final game of the regular season against the Washington Mystics, she got there. When she left the pick and roll, she entered the password inside for help number 2,600 to Caroline Seif.
With that assist and score, Bird passed Ticha Penichero to become the WNBA’s all-time assists leader – a title she still holds and continues to grow with the rest of the field.
2018: Third title; Creates games played, star records
In the year After returning to the competition in 2016 and 2017, the new generation of the wave made a leap in 2018. With Breanna Stewart established as an All-Star, and Jewell Lloyd and Bird winning the top three bigs in the league, the Tide prevailed. 26 games — second in franchise history — and swept the Washington Mystics in the Finals.
Although Bird wasn’t the first star, the Hurricanes wouldn’t have won the title without her. Most notably, she hit 5 in the semifinals against the Phoenix Mercury. Leading the series 2-0, the Storm lost the next two games before going into Game 5 in the fourth quarter.
That’s when Stewart took a bird in a mask after his nose was broken in friendly fire in Game 4. She scored 14 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Tide’s comeback, drilling clutch jumper after clutch jumper to send the Mercury home.
In addition to winning her third ring, her first with Stewart and Lloyd, Bird earned several accolades during the 2018 season. On July 22 against the Atlanta Dream, she passed Delisha Milton-Jones for her 500th career game to become the league’s all-time leader in games played. Bird has now played 559 career games — 72 more than the closest active player, Taurasi.
A few days later, on July 28, Bird started in the 2018 WNBA All-Star Game, finishing with five points and eight assists for Team Delle Donne. It was her 11th All-Star appearance, passing Tamika Catchings for the most in WNBA history. She is now up to 12 games and could extend her streak to 13 this summer.
2020: Record-setting fourth title
In the year After winning the title in 2018, the Storm dealt two major blowouts. Stewart tore her Achilles tendon while playing overseas and Bird needed knee surgery. Both players disagreed in 2019 as the Hurricanes advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
Then Covid-19 shut down the world and it was unclear when WNBA basketball would happen. Ultimately, the league developed a bubble in Florida, and Bird and Co. They were ready. In the shortened regular season, they went 18-4 and went undefeated, defeating the Las Vegas Aces in the Finals for their fourth title.
In Game 1 of the Finals, Bird dished out 16 assists, setting a new career high and a WNBA playoff record at the time. (Courtney Vandersloot broke the mark last season when she had 18 assists in the Chicago Sky’s semifinal series against the Connecticut Sun.)
While Bird couldn’t match her assists record, she did make another bit of history at the 2020 title. In addition to winning her fourth as a player – tied for second – she also became2000s, 2010s and 2020s.
2021: Flag-bearer and record-setting fifth Olympic gold; 3,000 grants; Top 25 by 25
The 2021 season didn’t go to plan for the Hurricanes. Stewart was sidelined in the second round with another Achilles injury. But, as has been the case over and over again in her career, Bird still had plenty of personal accomplishments to ease the pain of a postseason exit.
During a regular-season game against the Mercury in July, Bird matched Mercedes Russell for career assist number 3,000, becoming the first player in WNBA history to reach the mark. She remains the only player in the 3,000 assist club and now has 3,114 for her career. The next closest active player is Courtney Vandersloot at 2,272.
Shortly after making history with her assist, Bird boarded a plane to Tokyo to lead Team USA to the Olympics, which had been delayed a year due to Covid-19. Despite more competition than usual, the Americans won gold without dropping a single game.
Bird once again led the team in assists and steals and earned her fifth gold medal. Along with Diana Taurasi, she is one of only two basketball players, men’s or women’s, to have five Olympic gold medals. Bird also added another accomplishment to her career by being named Team USA’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony.
To close out the year, the WNBA announced its 25th anniversary team, and to no one’s surprise, Bird made the list as one of the 25 greatest players in league history. Bird is one of 9 players named to all four league teams of the year.