Sue Bird peeked at the upper plaza as she grabbed the pass. Her fellow Seattle Storm teammate Natasha Howard streaked in front of her like a wide receiver, as she usually did when Bird was managing offense in the transition. Howard realized it was open under the basket and warmed up. I knew Bird would find her as always. She just doesn’t know how.
The bird slid into the aisle, attracting the cannons. Then, without looking hit the ball Above her head and in the palm of Howard’s hand.
“My hand was always ready for Sue when she passed me the ball,” said Howard, now with Liberty. And she added, “This is right here, like: ‘Wow, well, Sue. You have eyes behind your head. “
Bird counts the pass among her favorite passes in her nineteen seasons with the Storm. She has plenty of passes to choose from: Bird is the WNBA’s career leader in passing.
“I have quite a bit of Rain Man’s mind so wait a second,” she said as she tried to choose her favorite assistant. A second later, she cited a no-look pass at Howard, in 2018, and pass between legs To trailing Lauren Jackson in the 2003 All-Star Game. Not over.
“Oh, there’s also another one, Lauren,” Baird said. “It was in the playoffs against Minnesota. I think it was like 2012 and we were down 3. We needed 3, and it wasn’t a fancy assist by any means, but we ran a play to perfection. Lauren hit. She hits the lead.”
Those are the kinds of help that Baird has built her reputation on. “The timing around the great pass is so the person you’re passing through doesn’t have to change anything they’re doing,” Bird said.
At 41, Bird is within weeks of the end of her WNBA career. In June, she announced that she would retire at the end of the season, although most people were expecting that. At the end of the 2021 season, fans chanted, “another year! In Sentimental Bird the campaign with the hashtag continued on social media for months during the off-season. In January, Bird nodded to the campaign at Instagram share He wrote, “Okay.”
Her resume had room for another season, but barely. She is a 13-time All-Star and has won four championships. ousted Techa Benichiro’s professional pass record of 2599 Five years ago, he now has 3,222 assists in the regular season in 578 games.
With the assists accumulating, Bird Kmare evolved.
“Every now and then, it can be fancy,” Baird said. “Every now and then you have to ignore the defense, but for me, it’s always about trying to read the defense and being one step ahead, so you can find that person.
“As I got older, I definitely used not to look more, and when I look up nowadays, I don’t try to look like Magic Johnson did or something. I’m really just trying to hold back the defense. I’m just trying to make them think my eyes are looking.” Elsewhere, so I can make the play.”
No other player is as synchronized with the league’s start, growth, history and present as Byrd, a skilled general who excelled through consistency by delivering the ball to the right person at the right time in the right place, year after year, decade after decade.
“It’s a WNBA,” said Crystal Langhorne, who converted Bird’s 161 passes into buckets, the fourth-most assists of any female teammate behind Jackson (624), Brianna Stewart (345) and Joel Lloyd (217) according to the Elias Sports Bureau. “It would be crazy with the league where it no longer exists. Sue is the prototype.”
Hearing these kinds of compliments, Bird said, was one of the fun and unexpected by-products of announcing her retirement.
“I’ve always known what to expect of me,” Baird said. “Everyone knows if they’ve played Storm, and what they’re going to be watching. So, it’s kind of hard to imagine not having it, because it’s been around for 20 years.”
Bird entered the WNBA in its sixth season as the top overall pick in the 2002 draft, and held high expectations in Seattle after the two NCAA Women’s Basketball Championships in Connecticut.
She made it First help for professionals To Adia Barnes, the women’s basketball coach now in Arizona. Barnes, 45, last played professionally 12 years ago and spent several years as a broadcaster before training, all while Bird continued to accumulate assists one by one.
“I totally forgot about that,” Barnes said of Baird’s first aid, laughing. “I took the photo, so that was a good thing. I don’t remember it, but you can act like I do. Make it look good please.”
Barnes remembers Bird’s persistence from the start. The husband often lived on the road.
“She was just a real guard, and I think what’s so special about Sue is, she’s a conductor, so I wanted to play with her.”
Barnes won a championship in 2004 with Bird and Jackson, who became a dynamic duo, and Bird and Jackson won another championship in 2010. They left defenses helpless. If a defender crouches under Jackson’s screen, Bird can bury 3. If Bird doubles down, Jackson can drive to the ledge or exit for an open jump. The ball usually arrived on time.
“There was really no way to help her,” Barnes said. “It was very difficult to protect it and they made it look smooth.”
Bird said her awareness of angles and spacing was always on, even when walking into a mall.
“You always move in a way, and you see things in a way that is like being on a playground,” Bird said. “Obviously you’re not in a game, so you don’t have to move fast or do things urgently, but I think you always move that way when you have that kind of vision. It sounds crazy. Actually it’s not.”
Teammates would observe Bird carrying folders and notebooks to study the game. “You don’t really need to ask how you did it,” Howard said. “I just did that.”
Langhorne said receiving a pass from Bird inspired confidence. Here was one of the greats of the game, entrusting her with the ball and doing the right thing.
“Even when I was working on my 3s and wasn’t so self-confident, if I knew Sue had called me back, I’d be like, ‘Oh, yeah, shoot her. “She’s giving it to you for a reason,” Langhorne said. “Which I’ve never said out loud before.”
Injuries forced Jackson to leave the WNBA in 2012. Bird found her next partner in Stewart, another Connecticut producer Seattle picked with the first overall pick in 2016. The two won championships in 2018 and 2020.
“She knows where everyone is supposed to be before we do sometimes,” Stewart said. “She knows which block I’d prefer to go on or which pass would go and which would not. Sometimes, when she’s on the basketball court, the player cuts the ball and then the pass comes in, sometimes with Sue, the pass comes and then the player makes the cut because sometimes she sees the defense faster from U.S “.
Byrd said Benichero, who retired in 2012, and Courtney Vanderslott of the Chicago Sky are among the point defenders she enjoyed watching because they are “really fun”. Vandersloot recently surpassed Lindsay Whalen to become third on the WNBA career roster. She’s the active player closest to tying a jumper – and still more than 800 assists away.
bird smash Penicheiro scored with her 2,600 pass in the Caroline Swords cut-off in 2017.
“It was actually a great pass, and it deserves it. Records are meant to be broken, and if anyone breaks your record, you want them to be a player like Sue Bird,” Benicichiro said.
“Everyone loves Sue,” she added. “If she was a donkey, it would be easier to confront her and try to hold on to her, but she is very cute and me too.”
Even a single pass from Bird is an unforgettable moment. Thirteen players received one assist from Baird, according to Elias. The list includes Courtney Paris, who counted Bird as one of her favorite players growing up and spending most of her WNBA career looking at her as an opponent who had the unenviable task of trying to play the team’s defense against her.
“The second you go to help, you’ll find the smallest space to get the ball to whoever needs it,” Paris said.
Paris joined Storm in 2018 and hasn’t played much in her two seasons in Seattle as her football career stalled. Paris didn’t remember what kind of pass she got from Bird or how she scored, but she did remember that she was excited about the sequence.
“It was a whole moment of watching it when I was a younger player,” Paris said.
Ashley Walker, another one-pass member of the Byrd Club, who played for Seattle in 2009, was similarly grateful.
“She’s one of the pioneers,” Walker said. “She’s someone people look up to, and she did it with such grace and confidence. It’s amazing to know that I was part of that experience and actually had a chance to say, ‘I got a pass from Sue Bird. What did I do?'”
Bird also made her mark during the post-season with her help. She set a playoff record with 14 assists in the 2004 Western Conference Finals game against Sacramento, then broke the record with 16 in the first game of the 2020 Finals against Las Vegas. Vandersloot broke the post-season record last year, with 18 assists against Connecticut.
The class concludes on one of the most memorable careers in the WNBA. Bird said she accomplished everything she wanted in the league, scoring goals for now.
“The easy analogy here is, Who is chasing everyone in the NBA? Michael Jordan,” Bird said. “Because Michael Jordan played a full career. He won six episodes. So, six episodes became the norm. In our league, when I got into the league, it wasn’t really there.”
She continued, “There was no real path to follow, because no one has had that 20-year career yet. So, I didn’t really know what I was dreaming of, and so I’m sitting here now with all the trophies I have, feeling really good.” “.
Now a young player – Bird named Erice Ogunpole of the Dallas Wings for example – can shape the careers of players like Maya Moore and Diana Torassi.
Of course, many will look back on Bird’s illustrious career.
“I think there’s something that motivates you in that way, but at the same time, as I’m shaping your own path, I enjoyed it too,” Bird said. “I’m not confident. Maybe getting something to chase after him is better. Maybe there will be more pressure.”