August 8, 2022
Sights and sounds from Sue Bird’s final regular season game in Seattle
'The most memorable game of my career'
SEATTLE — Thousands of fans flocked to Seattle this weekend to watch one of the most highly anticipated Storm games in the history of the franchise. The event was one that fans, players, and coaches knew was inevitable, but that they all hoped would never actually happen: the final scheduled game in Seattle for Sue Bird.
The anticipation for Sunday’s game had been building since Bird officially announced her retirement back in June. By July 20, the Storm’s final regular-season home game on Aug. 7 versus the Las Vegas Aces was already sold out. Eighteen thousand one hundred fans from all over the world were in attendance for the last leg of Bird’s “Farewell Tour.” This sellout crowd was the largest crowd in franchise history, largest crowd in the WNBA this season, and largest sports crowd at Climate Pledge Arena.
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While the magnitude of the crowd is a testament to the impact that Bird has had on women’s sports in Seattle, many people travelled from out of the state, or even out of the country, to see Bird play for the first and last time. “I didn’t know I had fans in Thailand and Mexico and literally all over the world,” Bird said. “To have people take the time to fly to Seattle or anywhere else we’ve played on the road this year to have their last chance to see me play, because they’ve probably only seen me play on a computer screen, is wild. It speaks to the growth of the WNBA, the fact that it’s getting to that global level.”
The minutes leading up to tip-off were filled with emotional tributes to Bird from teammates, coaches, family, friends, and fellow athletes. The most significant tribute came from WNBA legend and Bird’s former UConn and Storm teammate, Swin Cash, who reflected on her memories of their friendship and time on the court together in a long video played for fans on the Jumbotron. Bird, alongside her Storm teammates Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd, and Tina Charles, was then presented with her fifth Olympic ring from the Tokyo Olympics.
Finally, after an emotional pregame, the Storm were ready for a tough match against the Aces. While most of the focus in the arena was on Bird’s final game and not as much on the actual basketball being played on the court, this Aces-vs.-Storm matchup was playoff-level basketball. Seattle wasn’t able to make it a perfect night for Bird, falling to Las Vegas 89-81. Stewart led all scorers with 35 points and 10 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to shut down fellow MVP candidate A’ja Wilson, who finished with 29 points and six rebounds.
The Aces had a slight edge over the Storm the entire game, but Seattle had plenty of chances throughout to get the win. Seattle trailed by only one point at the end of the first quarter (19-18) and again at the half (44-43). The last two quarters, Las Vegas and Seattle both went on runs, but the other team was always able to respond. Chelsea Gray and Kelsey Plum hit some key shots in the fourth quarter to seal the deal for the Aces.
Sue Bird takes the mic
After the final buzzer sounded, Bird gave her own tribute to the fans of Seattle by addressing the crowd. Her five-minute impromptu speech to the fans in the arena included some stories from her time in Seattle, some shoutouts to her former teammates and coaches, and words of gratitude for the Seattle basketball community.
“I just want to say from the bottom of my heart how thankful I am, not only for today and for all of you showing up and supporting us, but for 21 years. You all supported me from day one. I was a 21-year-old kid, didn’t know what the city was about, but I learned very quickly. You all supported me and watched me grow up,” Bird said.
In her postgame interview with reporters, Wilson discussed the details of her team’s win, but also gave her own tribute to Bird:
“I wasn’t crying to crash Sue’s party! She invited me!” Wilson joked about beating Seattle on Bird’s special night. “But no, this was a big night for Sue and I’m so glad that she and [Sylvia Fowles] are both getting their flowers. The things that she’s done within this franchise has been amazing and I have to give respect where it’s due all the time. I’m honored to be her teammate on the Olympic team, especially getting her fifth win alongside her. It’s all love for sure.”
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Bird also discussed the outcome of the game, saying, “you know, while I would’ve loved to have gotten a win on my last night, I didn’t win my first game either. So maybe it’s a sign of good things to come.”
But her main focus in her postgame press conference, filled with reporters from numerous media outlets across the country, was reflecting on her extensive 21-year WNBA career, all of which she spent with the Storm.
“I’ve played here 21 years, so I know that my name is synonymous with this franchise,” Bird said. “But what I represent is all of the players who have played here. All of the championships we’ve won, all of the coaches who have come through, everyone who has been on staff here. So I think today was in honor of me and people showed out, for sure, but it’s really truly a celebration of Storm Basketball because I kind of am Storm Basketball.”
Despite the Storm’s loss to the Aces, Bird was still able to fully enjoy her special day:
“It’s really been nice to enjoy today and it’s been wonderful to see the tributes and see my jerseys in the arena. It’s definitely been the most memorable game of my career.”
Bird may be done with regular-season games in Seattle, but her final season is far from over. The Storm are headed on a three-game road trip to take on the league-leading Chicago Sky, the Minnesota Lynx, before meeting the Aces again in Las Vegas before playoffs begin on Aug. 17.