No one will be able to doubt that Sue Bird is one of the great women basketball players of all time. Most players could only imagine achieving half of the accolades Bird has accomplished in her 20-plus years in the basketball scene. Not only is her WNBA résumé stacked, her Olympic and collegiate careers are not too shabby either.
However, all good things come to an end.
After a painful 92-97 defeat to the upstart Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA Semifinals, Bird will finally say goodbye, leaving behind a legacy that’s more than secure. She finished the game with 8 points and 8 assists, with the 41-year old veteran handing over the reins to Breanna Stewart, who finished with 42 points.
With her career on the court reaching its end, now might be the best time to ask whether Sue Bird is the greatest WNBA player of all time.
Only a few players in women’s basketball history could make a compelling argument to be called the greatest, and Bird is on that shortlist. Here are two reasons why Sue Bird is in consideration for being the WNBA’s greatest-of-all-time.
2. Sue Bird made sure everybody ate
When a player ends up being the all-time leader of certain counting stats (or at least in the Top 5 or 10), it is usually a testament to their durability and ability to stay motivated. Sue Bird has these two in spades.
Sure, she might not have an MVP award to her locker, but the role she played in getting MVP teammates Lauren Jackson and Breanna Stewart easy buckets should not be overlooked. She leads the WNBA in all-time assists, finishing her storied career with 3,234 dimes, setting the table for a Storm team that had stayed in contention for most of Bird’s tenure.
She is seventh all-time in the WNBA scoring list, third in all-time steals, and has the most number of All-Star appearances with 13 as well. Bird may not have been the most explosive scorer, but her ability to play her playmaking role at an elite level has contributed to winning unlike any other.
1. Sue Bird set an unmatched winning culture
A winner everywhere she goes, Sue Bird certainly possessed the secret sauce to winning. She finished her career with 334 regular-season wins, the all-time WNBA leader, a testament to the longevity of the 5’9 guard out of Connecticut.
Heck, even before stepping foot in the WNBA, Bird had already triumphed, leading Connecticut to two NCAA Titles, and she’s cleaned up after international competition as well, continuing the USA Women’s Basketball Team tradition of winning gold medals, claiming five golds in total since 2004.
With tonight's loss to the Aces, it is the end of the postseason for the Storm…and presumably the end of an excellent career for Sue Bird.
Bird retires as one of the most decorated players in men’s or women’s basketball history, particularly in terms of championships. pic.twitter.com/v0Ao06ghuk
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 7, 2022
Since Sue Bird was drafted first overall in 2002 by the Storm, she only missed the playoffs thrice and finished with a record under .500 only five times. The Bird-led Storm was a constant threat to go deep into the postseason, and she claimed the ultimate victory four times in three separate decades, in 2004, 2010 and 2018, and in 2020.
Sure, Bird always played with elite-level players like Lauren Jackson and Breanna Stewart, but greatness elevates greatness, and that’s what Bird did for her more scoring-inclined teammates.
Jackson, the Australian international taken first overall a year before Bird, is also in consideration as the greatest WNBA player of all time. Before nagging injuries forced the Aussie to an early retirement, Jackson won three MVP awards and two championships alongside Bird. Jackson also had her jersey hanged on the Seattle rafters in 2016.
Jackson credited Bird for bringing out the best in her, as the two combined for arguably the best duo in WNBA history.
In an interview with The Hype Magazine in 2016, Lauren Jackson showered Bird with tons of credit for helping her achieve what she did in her career.
“Sue brought out the best in me, and I know that as a basketball player. I am not sure if I played with anyone else as well as I did with Sue,” Jackson said. “Sue and I just had that immediate chemistry on the floor; she is the sort of player if I ever needed to understand something she was always there to certify things. That was just the type of relationship we had, and those are the type of memories I will cherish and never forget.”
Stewart on the other hand, was also taken first overall again by the Storm fourteen years after the selection of Bird. The 2018 WNBA MVP credited Bird for being a calming presence, helping her reach superstardom early in her brief WNBA career.
“Sue doesn’t get too high, too low, and we know she’s going to give it to us straight,” Stewart told People.com.
Stewart further elaborated that Bird knew how to deal with the pressure that comes with being someone everyone looks up to and that Bird elevated everyone with her calm yet motivating brand of leadership.
“[Sue Bird has a great level of] understanding that not everyone is going to like what you say, but the impact you’re going to make is going to go way beyond that. Without her being able to be herself, I wouldn’t be able to be myself,” Stewart added.
Lauren Jackson and Breanna Stewart’s love for Bird shows that there is nothing greater than the love of a peer. Bird played with two MVPs who are quick to commend her even if she isn’t, so to speak, the bus driver of the contending Storm teams.
Sue Bird’s penchant for winning basketball, timely buckets, and unquantifiable leadership traits that elevate greatness into legendary status make for compelling arguments as to why she is the WNBA’s greatest of all time.