“When I got drafted to Seattle in 2016, that’s what I thought about: I’m going to play with the best point guard in the world,” said Breanna Stewart. Breanna was referring to her now good pal, Sue Bird.
Today, Sue Bird has spent 17 years dominating women’s professional basketball. And she has celebrated championships around the globe, from capturing high school state titles at Christ the King and two NCAA crowns at UConn, to winning four WNBA titles and four Olympic gold medals.
For someone who barely talks about her own greatness, who instead frames it as part of a collective effort of everyone around her – teammates, coaches, ownership, fans – Sue has already reached a peak few athletes in any professional sport do. She ranks eighth in the WNBA in career points (6,262). Plus, she ranks first in playoff appearances (14).
Additionally, in 2011, she was voted by fans as one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All Time. And was voted into the WNBA Top 20@20, as one of the league’s top 20 players of all time.
Furthermore, Sue has earned universal praise in the basketball world, including from the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, who has also concluded his 17th season and won his fourth NBA title.
“To have LeBron recognize me in that way is obviously a huge compliment. I think we’re two of the players — you can throw Tom Brady and Diana [Taurasi] in there — us four are kind of in this elite company of people who are closer to the end than the beginning but still able to have a huge impact on the game.”Sue said.
Led by Sue, the Seattle Storm has won two titles in three seasons, and is anticipated to be the preseason favorite in 2021. “The proof’s in the pudding in a lot of ways. I am who I am. I do what I say, I say what I do.” shared Sue. And what she does is deliver — while talking like a grandmother (and Brian Agler).
So today, we’ll take a look at how Sue Bird’s game has evolved, including two career defining moments. We’ll explore her go-to moves (do you know the Sue swipe!?), and her strengths and weaknesses. Plus, we’ll reveal what her statistics show, and what might be next for the “strongest strategist” in the game — according to Diana Taurasi.
How Sue Bird’s game has evolved
It all started back at age six, when Sue attended a New York Knicks game, and became interested in basketball. Shortly after that, Sue’s sister Jen, who is five years older, started getting involved in sports. And Sue followed in her footsteps. “I looked up to Jen. I wanted to do whatever Jen did.” she shared.
During the sixth grade, Sue joined her first AAU team, The Liberty Bells. And soon after she began receiving college recruiting letters, which made her realize she could possibly go to college as a basketball player.
And she was beginning to make a name for herself. When her middle school team was part of the halftime show for a St. John’s University basketball game, a security guard came up and asked for her autograph. When she asked him why, he told her “He knew it was going to be worth something someday.”
Shortly thereafter, Sue attended Christ of King High School in New York. Which is known for great basketball teams – for example four of her graduating class teammates also signed with Division I colleges. There, she won two New York State titles. And during her senior year, her team won the state championship, the national title, finished ranked first in the country, and went undefeated. That year personally, Sue was the New York City and New York State Player of the Year, and the New York Daily News Player of the Year. (Say that ten times fast!)
As Sue was deciding which college to go to – between Vanderbilt and UConn – a couple days before she was going to make her decision, she was on the phone with Coach Geno Auriemma. And he asked her, “How are you feeling…What are you thinking?” And she basically said, “Well I feel like in my heart I want to go to UConn but I think my head might be saying Vanderbilt.” And all he said was, “Well, I hope you follow your heart.” Click! Luckily, she chose to become a husky.
As her college career got underway, Coach Auriemma called her into his office. There he made it clear to her that win, lose, whatever happens it’s all on her. And understanding that responsibility resulted in the biggest shift in her game. Because she came in as a shy, reserved type of player, who led mostly by example. But once she knew – even if someone else missed the shot – it was her fault, she stepped up and became the more vocal floor general we’ve seen thrive today.
At the time she was at UConn, nothing was bigger in women’s college basketball than the UConn-Tennessee rivalry. And the teams met three times that season. In her first game in the series, Sue scored 25 points on 8-for-10 shooting as the Huskies won. A month later, the Lady Vols got them back, ruining what had been a perfect season to that point with a one-point win. But UConn enjoyed the last laugh, beating Tennessee in the final.
“I think the series helped establish my identity as a player,” Sue told ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel. “As someone who, hopefully, makes their teammates better, and when needed can come up with big plays and big shots.”
Her 114-4 record at UConn shows just how much she made everyone around her better. In fact, her senior year team (the 2001-02 UConn team) which also had three other seniors (Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, and Tamika Williams) in the starting lineup, is largely regarded as the best in women’s college basketball history.
The Huskies went 39-0 and steamrolled opponents by a 35.4 average margin of victory. And they won the 2000 NCAA Championship Game. Meanwhile, Sue averaged 14.4 points and 5.9 assists and was the consensus National Player of the Year, winning the Wade Trophy, and Naismith Award.
Less than three weeks later, Sue was the number one pick in the WNBA draft, and off to Seattle. After going 6-26 and 10-22 in their first two seasons in the WNBA, the Seattle Storm turned the tide drafting Sue, whose selection marked the first time a guard was the top player drafted in the WNBA.
Her new WNBA team initially struggled. She lost 7 games in the first 3 weeks, which was a stark difference from her college days of not losing. And Lauren Jackson, the previous first year’s pick, absolutely hated her. But eventually they earned each other’s trust on the court. And even built a friendship, which later brought Sue her first WNBA Championship win in 2004.
She followed that up by playing in the Olympic Games for the very first time that summer, winning her first gold medal in 2004. By 2008, Sue was a regular starter for the Olympic team, adding gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Games, 2012 London Games, and 2016 Rio Games. She also earned four FIBA World Championships and World Cup gold medals with the US national team. Today, Sue is 142-6 all time when competing for Team USA. Just think about that for a moment: this 5’9″ guard has a 96% win record against the very best athletes in the world.
Speaking of competing on a worldwide stage, in the WNBA off-season, Sue played overseas for ten seasons. As you’d expect, she made her mark on the game abroad as well. There she won five EuroLeague and Russian National League championships playing for Dynamo Moscow, Spartak Moscow Region, and UMMC Ekaterinburg.
Back in the WNBA, the wins weren’t coming quite as easily though as her career progressed. Sue had so many wins early in her WNBA career, that at the time she didn’t realize how hard it is — even to just get back to the WNBA finals.
Sue questioned herself. She went through a knee surgery that cost her the 2013 season. In 2014, the Storm missed the playoffs and coach Brian Agler left to take over the Los Angeles Sparks. Sue had felt physically subpar that whole season, and she knew some people thought she was nearly finished as she approached age 34.
So she committed to getting into the best shape of her life. She also made up her mind to stay with the Storm, rather than explore options as a free agent.
Eventually, though, Sue and the Storm finally brought another title back to Seattle, winning the 2010 WNBA Championship Game. She averaged 12.9 points and 5.4 assists in the series, essentially maintaining her consistency.
Eight years later, she found herself back in a similar spot. In Game 5 of the 2018 WNBA semifinals, her top-seeded Storm trailed the Phoenix Mercury entering the fourth quarter. Over the last six minutes of the game, Bird went off. She hit 5-of-6 shots and scored 14 of her 22 points, helping Seattle clinch a spot in the WNBA Finals. (Where Seattle swept the Washington Mystics, as Sue yet again became a champion.)
Sue later called her fourth quarter a “career-defining moment.” Now more than ever her team knew she was always one to maintain her cool, and deliver in high-pressure situations.
Unfortunately the years ahead were riddled with more broken noses (so many now, that whenever she gets hurt, even if she’s holding another part of her body, everyone begins murmuring about her nose!), a busted knee in 2019, and a bruised leg bone in 2020. But, the result was that four years later, Sue entered her 17th WNBA season, more focused than ever before. And, of course, it paid off with her team taking the 2020 WNBA Championship title.
Sue became the second-oldest player to win a WNBA title, behind Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who was 13 days from turning 41 when she won with the Minnesota Lynx in 2011.
Reflecting on the win in the moment, Sue shared, “Being younger, you talk about being in the moment and you don’t even know what that means. But as an older player, I fully understand. So I think for me right now, it’s a little – it’s almost surreal, shock. I’ll be honest, even today preparing for the game, thinking about it, I was getting a little emotional at the thought of potentially winning. I have a feeling it is going to hit later, and for me as an older player, I think it’s coming out more emotional than excitement.”
This is the fourth title for the Storm, and unsurprisingly, Sue is the one common denominator for all of them. At this point, there’s no doubt she’s created a lasting legacy for the Seattle Storm. “I think the fact that I’ve been able to do it in different decades, with the same franchise, not many people can say that,” Sue said. “To recreate it over time and stay at a high level over time is definitely something I’m proud of, because it hasn’t been easy.”
She’s also made an impact in the WNBA beyond her team. Sue was named to the WNBA All-Star team 11 times. She made the team in 2002 as a rookie, and made her 11th trip in 2018. She’s the all-time leader in WNBA All-Star appearances, moving past Tamika Catching (10 appearances) in 2018. Plus, in the 2017 All-Star Game, Sue set an All-Star record with 11 assists.
Clearly Sue’s journey, from falling in love with New York Knicks to winning her fourth WNBA Championship, has involved tremendous growth. The once reserved guard disappeared, and has been replaced with a strategic warrior, who knows what it takes to make the players around her shine, and delivers every time.
So how exactly does she do it? Let’s take a look at Sue Bird’s skill set.
Discover Sue Bird WNBA go-to moves
Sue’s bag runneth over! For real though. While she may not be the flashiest player on the court, she’s always the one who’s most in control. She can shoot (near or far!), drive, pass, defend: you name it. Which means she has endless options. Let’s take a look at some of her best-known moves.
1. The no-look full-court pass
According to ESPN, the Storm finished the 2020 WNBA Finals shooting 73% (33-of-45) off Sue Bird’s passes. More than half of the assist opportunities she created were uncontested. And Seattle also was 6-of-7 off her passes in transition. Basically Sue passes very well. A lot.
“She’s just an orchestrator. She’s like a maestro out there directing traffic, finding open people,” Seattle Storm coach Gary Kloppenburg said.
For her storied no-look full-court pass Sue sends her eyes in one direction, and then chucks the pass in another. Often greeting her teammate with the ball all the way at the other end of the court. Basically, her default is to always look up in transition. Because the fastest way to get the ball down the court is to throw it.
2. Pick and roll dish
Because Sue is a threat from the three, as well as the pull-up two, and the drive, the pick and roll is a very simple move that she makes lethal. Sue can do this with Breanna Stewart all game long — and she does. The big (most often Breanna) sets a screen at the top of the key, and then peels off for an open look. Sue gets her the ball, and it’s a bucket. Or if she’s not open, Sue steps back for the open shot herself. In this example, Breanna rolls off high and get the open look.
3. The Sue swipe
This one is just a simple reach around the back. As a player runs by, Sue basically sticks out her arm, wrapping it around the player’s body to attempt to knock the ball out on the dribble. She’s had success with this during some pretty clutch moments. For example, in the 2018 WNBA Finals, with the Mystics trailing 74-73, Washington guard Kristi Toliver drove the baseline. Sue reached around her to knock the ball loose. Kristi tumbled to the floor and a jump ball – won by the Storm – followed.
When asked about it, Sue retorted, “You should go talk to Chris Dailey” (the UConn Huskies’ longtime associate head coach). “I’ve been doing that swipe-around-the-back thing since I was, like, 18 years old. She absolutely hates it. She calls it the ‘Sue Bird move.’ In fact, when she does scouting reports, she will say, like, ‘Watch out for so-and-so; they do the Sue Bird move.'”
4. The pull-up two
Sue can knock these down from anywhere around the foul line all day. Sometimes it’s a cross-over pull up jumper, or a quick in and out to set up the defense. But typically she can get free enough on a screen from a big to create the little space she needs, by locking elbows with the screener, and then pull up fast.
Though sometimes she can feel that the defender slipped through too early, so she fakes the shot, lets the defender fly by, and then nails the bucket. Below she rolls right off into an open two. Just look at this beauty!
5. The long-range three
As Chennedy Carter said, “She can shoot the three from anywhere and it’s just God-given. Her jumper is really fire.” She’s spent eight seasons in the top 10 for her three-point shooting percentage. And just this season, Sue has hit her career-high three-point-shooting clip of nearly 47%.
Look, everyone is pretty much open for a long-range three all the time. But Sue knows when to actually take the long-range three from deep.
Another go-to for her three is: you’ll often see her run from one side of the court to the other under the backboard. And pop out for the open three look in the corner.
So now that you know some of her better known moves, let’s take a look at what makes her such a storied player.
Sue Bird’s strengths
Sue has always been a steady, consistent player on the court. And similarly to Seattle teammate Breanna Stewart, she tends to come up big when the game is on the line. Here are a few of her basketball skill strengths that make for a winning combination.
1. Passing the ball, bruh
Duh! As Sue put it, ““I do pass a lot… I do pass a lot.” On Sept. 1, 2017, Bird became the WNBA’s all-time assists leader, breaking Ticha Penicheiro’s mark. Through this past season, Bird has 2,888 assists.
During the playoffs this year Sue was dropping dimes, upping her regular-season average of 5.2 assists to 9.2. In Game 1’s 93-80 win, Sue posted a career-high 16 assists. Which was also a record for the WNBA Finals and overall postseason record. In Game 2’s 104-91 victory, she spearheaded the 33 team assists that set a finals record.
“I think Stewie and Jewell were pretty much on fire; what do you think?” Sue said after her 16-assist performance. “For me as a point guard, I’m just out there trying to find the open player. But like I said, and I’ve always said this, assists is a two-person thing, and tonight those two played amazing.”
2. Smart shot selection
She’s not going to beat people with height, and probably not with speed either. But where she is going to beat people is with smarts. She only takes the shot when she knows it’s the best one on the court. And her shooting record shows it.
Sue took the eight spot on the WNBA all-time scoring list this year with 6,262 regular-season points. She averages 12.1 points per game in her career. And she averaged at least 14 points per game in three seasons.
Plus, she averaged double-digits in points per game each season except 2020, when she averaged 9.8 in 11 games – which makes sense because now she has a strong supporting cast in Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart.
3. Obsession with details
Sue watches tons of film, and knows that series are won by small adjustments.
She even does her homework on the rookies. “Every now and then you notice a rookie going extra hard against you,” Sue said. “If someone’s going extra hard — like, I just watched film on you and I never saw you do that — then you kind of realize like, OK, they’re trying to maybe make a name for themselves.”
She’s also fond of having as much information available to inform her decisions as possible. Sue said that having more data available beyond just points, rebound, etc “can change how you are as a player and what you do out there. I try to just take in as much information as I can that I know will help myself, but also my team.” For example the Storm no longer organizes pre-game shoot-arounds in order to give players more rest. And that’s been a big win.
Sue adheres to a fairly strict fitness regime in order to stay in peak performance mode. She bypasses the extra piece of cake or glass of wine. And she has diligently kept to an exercise and sleep schedule.
“I’ve found that what separates athletes isn’t always talent. Yes, that is a huge component, and honing your skills must be a part of your regimen, BUT being in the best shape possible is also a major piece of the puzzle. Let’s put it this way – skill can be affected if you are fatigued. But if you’re never tired, your skill is only enhanced.” she said.
Similarly, her UConn coach Geno Auriemma credits her wins to her resolve and willpower. “Sue’s discipline is, ‘I want to win championships every single year I’m in the league. And I’m going to give up all the things that cause me to not be able to do that,'” Auriemma said. “That’s unusual, but that’s how you last that long.”
“There are definitely sacrifices that you make,” Sue said. “There’s a certain lifestyle that I feel like I’ve committed to. But I don’t see it as giving something up, because you get in return.”
Sue is such a leader by example and wins games by grinding teams down on good play after good play. And she does that by providing a sense of calm, by seeing the full floor, and by knowing her personnel.
“For Sue, her incredible consistency as a player comes from her consistency as a person,” Geno Auriemma said. “She’s an incredible leader on the basketball court of epic proportions. As long as she has the opportunity to direct the team, they’re going to find a way to win.”
6. Defensive communication
For someone with such a low-key profile, she’s outspoken when it counts. Sue is always telling players where to be on the court up to the second, even on the defensive end. She’ll guide a teammate playing defense on a guard near the top of the key, saying “Stay, stay, stay, and drop!” to ensure they drop down low at just the exact right moment to put a double on a big.
7. Seen it all
Diana Taurasi said Sue Bird is the best strategist in the game. Sue knows the playbook. She knows all the personnel. After all, she is the WNBA leader in career minutes (16,430), which comes with just a little bit of knowledge about: the plays, the defenses, the clutch moments – you name it.
“There are just things that a rookie isn’t going to know — things none of us knew coming into the league,” Sue said. “So there are just small ways in which you can take advantage of that lack of knowledge, whether it’s terminology they don’t know, or different defensive schemes they don’t know, or how to guard certain actions that they just don’t know yet.”
“It’s all about maximizing your strengths and hiding your weaknesses,” Bird said. “Whether you’re a role player or the best player on the team, if you can do that it’s a recipe for a long career.”
So now that you know her strengths, what are some areas Sue can grow in?
Explore Sue Bird’s weaknesses
For obvious reasons, there’s not much Sue Bird has an opportunity to improve on. At this point, she’s mostly just helping to grow the players around her. But, there are a few small weaknesses worth highlighting.
1. Left side, strong side
No doubt Sue favors her left from the top of the key. She plays that side particularly strong when she’s looking to do the pick and roll, or pop out for a three.
2. Prefers the pull-up or the pass
Look 9/10 she’s going to hit a pull-up jumper or pass the ball. No one wants another broken nose. And when she’s tired, her legs are going to give out, making the three a little harder. She knows the smart percentage shot is the field goal.
3. Too many assists?
Can there be such a thing? Probably not when you’re surrounded by the Breanna Stewarts of the world. But there are games where Sue clearly takes herself out of the game as a shooting threat. Perhaps the Las Vegas Aces in Game 1 just didn’t believe she’d keep dishing the ball away, and so failed to give her a little more room. But that’s something she’ll need to watch out for. She could get to a place where she’s trained the defense to drop off her a little, making it tougher for those around her to get open looks.
How to play Sue Bird to win
Talk about a pickle! Sue’s pretty much going to grind you down, and grind it out because she can shoot (and make it!) from anywhere on the floor. But there are a few things you can try.
Over play her perimeter shooting to make her drive. She doesn’t want another broken nose. So she’ll go for the pull-up two.
Knowing that, the defender just needs to ensure her hands are always wide on the drive and that she makes herself thin like a sheet of paper to slip between the inevitable screen and shimmy over the top of it. And then keep those hands straight up high closing out the minute Sue pulls the up.
Or a big needs to be ready to step up. But that gets risky fast because she’s such a wicked passer.
The other way to go is to tire her out with the full-court press just on her the entire game. Sue’s big (Breanna) often steps in to help Sue shake the guard defending her one-on-one down the court, but it’s important to try to stick with Sue on each step. It will make her think (exhausting!), keep her on her toes, and wear her out physically. And it seems like a part of her game she’s still not as confident in as she could be. As a bonus, you might even earn the steal off of it.
And finally, you can wear her down with physicality on the defensive end. Pick and rolls are hard to defend and physical, so you could put her through a lot of those. But even with all that, good luck!
To see what you’re up against, check out some of her greatest plays and shots.
Sue Bird WNBA & college video highlights
Funny is the wrong word for it, but there’s a frustrating lack of Sue Bird highlight videos to be honest. For someone with 17 years of professional play, there are an insane amount of highlight moments that appear to not have been compiled.
Unfortunately, those who are more flashy and controversial tend to get the spotlight, whether deserving or not. Because of our click-bait culture. So just putting in the work and delivering results, isn’t always enough to be newsworthy, without time spent talking it up. And who has time for that! We can’t ask these athletes to win games, parent the next generation, change society, and broadcast it. Anyhow, here are some of Sue’s most memorable plays and makes.
OK check out the long-range three at 1:34. And the no look all the way down the court at 1:59. Classic Sue Bird. during her games winning her 4th title with the Seattle Storm. And becoming the 10th player in WNBA history to win four or more championships.
This video shows Sue’s best plays from the 2018 WNBA Semifinals. It begins with hitting a three. Then she moves onto a pull-up jumper. Then she hits another three, and another one…and you get the point.
Now we’re going way back to WNBA 2010 finals Game 1, when Seattle played the Atlanta Dream. Take a look at the assist at 1:14.
And finally, Sue from the UConn vs. Tennessee championship game in 2000, with a final score of 71-52. Hittin ’em with the cross over pull up jumper on the fast break. Sue is always setting the pace – and it’s not going to be slow.
The influence of Sue Bird’s game on and off the court
This year, Sue Bird’s jersey topped the list for the WNBA player with the highest-selling jersey of the 2020 season. Which is a sure-fire sign of her growing mark on the game. But it’s kind of bizarre considering how long she’s been in the league.
She’s postulated her recent increase in popularity could be because more people are watching the WNBA than ever before. “It’s pretty cool, I’m not going to lie,” Sue said. “It actually kind of dawned on me: We must have some new WNBA fans because at this point I’ve been here for so long, if you were a fan of me you probably got that jersey 10, 11, 12 years ago.”
And certainly shout outs from NBA players have helped raise her profile in recent years. For example the love from LeBron James, who wrote: “Who said records couldn’t be broken in your 17th season????? Keep going @sbird10. We all we got. lol. Congrats!! 👏”
However, it looks like her injury and year out in 2019 drove a lot of recent interest. Even more than her 2017 coming out (she’s dating U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe). As the relative amount of searches for Sue’s name skyrocketed in 2019, about the same time that her season had been cancelled. So it could be that even old fans are just pumped to see her back on the court producing this year. It turns out, no press is bad press, indeed.
But, regardless, Sue Bird is making her name known both on and off the court. “It’s her leadership on the court,” Seattle coach Gary Kloppenburg said of what Bird means to the Storm, “but also how she’s developed as a leader off the court in standing up for a lot of things that have to be done, and for a lot of progress that we have to make in this country.”
Off the court, Sue’s fought for more pay for women’s basketball players
Sue is a vice president of the players association, which negotiated a groundbreaking collective-bargaining agreement earlier last January. And she helped engineer a pay raise for the U.S. women’s basketball team, on which many WNBA players play. Her fight for stronger pay has helped give the next generation of lady hoopers even more possibilities.
Of course for her own career, she was welcomed into a league that was only five years old at the time she was drafted. But its sheer existence, and seeing Liberty games in her own backyard, had bolstered her pursuit of basketball.
“I like to think that my class was one of the first that made its college choice knowing there was a professional league,” she said. There had been the option to play internationally as well as for some lesser-known American leagues but nothing with the full weight of an existing organization like the N.B.A. behind it. Now she’s provided even more of that security to future generations.
She’s led social activism
She’s also helped lead social activism in pro sports’ most socially active league, and even more so in this year’s wubble where social justice was the bedrock. Sue was a big part of the Vote Warnock movement, as the players urged people to vote against one of the league’s owners, the Atlanta Dream’s Kelly Loeffler, in her senate race against Raphael Warnock. After Loeffler’s remarks questioning the league’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement alienated players.
“A league of women, a league of Black women, a league of gay women,” said Sue, who has admitted that in earlier times she tended to steer clear of anything controversial. “We’re kind of checking off all these boxes of people that just get left behind, or don’t get talked about. And so who better to stand up and speak about these issues than those who it directly affects?”
She’s voiced her stance on LGBTQ community issues
In recent years, Sue has become more outspoken about many issues, including those involving the LGBTQ community. In 2017, Sue came out publicly as gay in an ESPN story, and spoke about her relationship with U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe — and the two became a popular power couple in sports. They also became the first gay couple to pose in ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue (2018). In short, her willingness to share openly, brought crucial lesbian representation into pop culture, giving hope to young women and old women around the world.
She’s still pushing for equality
Now that she’s found her voice, Sue is speaking out to bring more visibility to her peers accomplishments this year. She believes the WNBA and its players deserve more credit for what they were able to achieve in 2020. Sue cited how much attention the United States women’s national team received in 2019 for their World Cup win, comparing it to lack of attention the WNBA women have received this year, telling CNN she thinks the difference is a matter of the demographics in each sport.
“Where’s that same energy for the best women’s basketball players on the planet? And to be blunt it’s the demographic of who’s playing. Women’s soccer players generally are cute little White girls while WNBA players, we are all shapes and sizes … a lot of Black, gay, tall women … there is maybe an intimidation factor and people are quick to judge it and put it down,” said Sue.
On the court, she’s set the example too
On the court, Sue has set the example of what a woman’s pro basketball career can look like. Specifically just how very long it can be.
At age 39, Sue played 31 regular season games for the Storm this year and averaged 26.6 minutes per game. Just so you can understand the sheer accomplishment of that: only about 0.6% of all NBA players ever, have been as old as Sue Bird and spent as much time on the court.
But, Sue didn’t just play: she was amazing – even relative to her NBA counterparts, who tend to reach their peak productivity around their mid-20s. For example, consider Kobe Bryant who in his last season at 37 years old had an effective field goal percentage of only 41.7% compared to Sue’s 49.4% in 2020. Meanwhile, Sue this season produced 0.291 wins per 40 minutes, while the average WNBA player produced only 0.100.
Only two players in NBA history managed to produce at least 0.200 wins per 48 minutes in at least three different seasons when they were 37 or older: John Stockton and Jason Kidd. Both of whom are also point guards, which could have something to do with the lesser beatings their bodies take versus those who plant in the lane and play with more physicality.
Sue said as much, sharing, “Through my career, I’m lucky in a way. My position and how I play it allows for longevity. I never really just relied on my quickness or speed or size, obviously. So as long as I continue to add to my game from a mental perspective, I was always going to be able to stay on the floor, assuming the physical part stayed with me as well.”
Nonetheless, Sue has put in way more than her 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, and the results have paid off. Both in showing young women they can build a career in the WNBA, and in lifting up those around her. Basically, Sue has set the bar for her sports dominance and her commitment to social justice issues.
And her stats show she walks the walk.
Sue Bird WNBA statistics
Sue’s spent twelve seasons in the top 10 of three-point shots made, and sixteen seasons in the top 10 of completed assists. She’s spent two seasons in the top 10 of field goal percentage, and four seasons in the top 10 of win shares. Her career totals and her 2020 performance both show off her incredible shooting accuracy.
Sue’s complete career highlights include:
- Four-time WNBA Champion (2004, 2010, 2018, 2020)
- The all-time WNBA assists leader, passing Ticha Penicheiro on Aug. 1, 2017 at Washington with dime No. 2,600
- In that same game on Aug. 1, 2017 at Washington, she became one of only two players to accomplish a 13-assist, 0-turnover game.
- She broke the WNBA’s all-time career games started on Aug. 5, 2017 at San Antonio, starting her 470th career game, moving past Tina Thompson.
- Eleven-time WNBA All-Star (2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018)
- Five-time All-WNBA First Team (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2016)
- Three-time All-WNBA Second Team (2008, 2010, 2011)
- Three-time WNBA regular-season assist leader (2005, 2009, 2016)
- Four-time Olympic gold medalist with USAB (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016)
- Four-time FIBA World Championship gold medalist with USAB (2002, 2010, 2014, 2018) & one bronze medal (2006)
- Three-time WNBA Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award (2018, 2017, 2011 co-winner with Ruth Riley)
- Two-time NCAA Champion at UConn (2000, 2002)
- WNBA All-Decade Team (2006)
- Became Seattle’s all-time leader in field goals at Los Angeles on July 25, 2017
- Scored her 5,000th career point on Aug, 2, 2015 at New York, in front of friends and family, becoming the first player in WNBA history to score 5,000 career points and record 2,000 assists
- 2002 Sportswomen of the Year
- Sixth player to win an NCAA Championship, a WNBA Championship, and an Olympic gold medal
- Won a national high-school championship at Christ the King High School, a Euroleague title, and Russian Superleague title
So what’s next for Sue Bird?
By the age of 23, Sue really had won everything. Since then she’s always been asked the question, “What’s next?” And usually her answer is to win more. But she now realizes that can’t be the answer for everything. So it’s becoming a more interesting question.
Recently, she’s commentated a lot on ESPN. And she’s also learned more about the business side of the sport. For example, she held a front office position for the NBA’s Denver Nuggets as their Basketball Operations Associate in 2018. Both of which could come in handy for her future. But her eyes aren’t straying past the court just yet.
Sue hopes to play at least through next year – the 2021 season, during which she could go to her fifth Olympics. “The way I feel right now, if I can go through my offseason and continue to build on that in a good way, I don’t see why I won’t be playing next summer,” Bird said. “I’m not trying to be elusive but as I’ve always said, things happen. That’s what the last two years have taught me. Anything can happen. So I’m just like, you know, cautiously optimistic.”
Sue Bird told High Post Hoops that she’s planning to stay in what has become home for her, returning to the Seattle Storm. “No, obviously where I am now, it makes zero sense for so many reasons,” Sue said of leaving. “The main one being: I don’t want to.”
She’s also happy to be a sounding board for anyone interested in joining her there. She said, “So, I don’t think anybody’s out there trying to convince anyone that their team’s the best. You want people to believe in it. So, I think there’s only so much you can do, but I can 100%, obviously, as someone who played in Seattle for a long time and knows what the franchise is about and the culture that we’ve built, I can be somebody who can explain things and be very honest and very open.”
Already, Sue has won at every level, and she has worked hard to become the player that she’s become. And the game is better because she’s in it. As a result, when she retires, she’s a lock to join The Glove and J-Kidd in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Regardless, she knows she wants to finish her career on the right note, whatever that might look like. And then go from there — see what life brings. For now, it’s brought her 40th birthday, and some much deserved recovery time.
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Everything else you need to know about Sue Bird WNBA player
Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions about Sue, rapid fire.
Yes Sue Bird is still playing.
Lol. No Sue Bird is not Larry Bird’s daughter.
Megan Rapinoe is Sue’s girlfriend.
Sue Bird’s Instagram is @SBird10.
Sue Bird is 5’9″ tall.
Sue Bird’s Twitter is @s10bird