Those that stick to the NBA for their share of basketball miss out on stars that don’t get the recognition they deserve. Sue Bird, one of the great WNBA players to ever play, has achieved what many NBA players wish they did.
“Never did I sit down as an 18-year-old and say ‘By the time you’re done, you will have this many championships and this many gold medals,’” said Bird. “I never saw it that way. You take it as it comes. You try to be the best player you can and win championships. That’s what was most important for me and I found that if you put that first, everything seems to work out. That’s how I approach things and I’m very lucky to be where I am now.”
Bird was born and raised in Syosset, growing up in a quiet, peaceful area. She and many of the neighborhood children spent time at a park near Renee Rd., which helped fuel her love for sports.
“If we weren’t playing basketball, we were playing with a football, kickball, hide and seek, [and] tag,” said Bird. “Walking down there and playing is probably one of my earliest memories.”
Jen Bird, Sue’s older sister, was also an athlete in school. She served as an inspiration to Sue to get involved with sports in school.
“As long as she was playing basketball, I was always going to the games,” said Bird. “Anytime there was a timeout, I would grab a ball, run out onto the court and get as many shots off as I could. Then when timeout was over, I had to run back and go sit with my mom.”
As she reached Syosset High School, Bird’s main focus was on basketball and soccer. However, after a few years of play, she transferred to Christ The King Regional High School in Queens and had to make a decision on what she wanted to pursue more.
“That’s when I realized I wanted to go to college for basketball,” said Bird.
Early on, Bird showed why she was bound to have a breakout career. Her accolades at Christ The King included winning a national championship in her senior season, becoming a WBCA All-American, and being named New York State Player of the Year. Then when it came to picking her college, she ended up going with one of the top programs in the country: The University of Connecticut.
“It felt right,” explained Bird. “I felt good about it academically and it was only a few hours a way from home but what was most important was that I was comfortable.”
Her success continued at UConn where she won two national titles with the team in 2000 and 2002. She won the Wade Trophy and the Naismith Award after her senior season, which earned her the title of college basketball player of the year. There was even a book written about her game-winning shot vs. Notre Dame in 2001, titled Bird At The Buzzer by Jeff Goldberg. All of these achievements led to her getting picked first in the WNBA draft by the Seattle Storm.
“When it happened, I was finally able to wrap my mind around the fact that I got picked that high but had to go across the country, which was both exciting and scary,” said Bird. “I’ve never been that far away from home. It was a bit of an adjustment, but by my second year I really started appreciating the city and what it had to offer.”
Since she began her professional career in 2002, she has become an 11-time WNBA All-Star, five-time All-WNBA First Team member, four-time Olympic gold medalist, and three-time World Cup gold medalist. She won three championships with the Storm, including the 2018 championship on Sept. 12. She is currently competing in her fifth World Cup and, at the age of 37, has no plans to stop anytime soon.
“This is my passion,” said Bird. “Now, of course, sports are a little different as the older you get, the harder it is to play. But I’ve always said as long as my body can stand it, I’m going to play until the wheels come off.”
Bird is an inspiration to those who are passionate about something and want to pursue it for the rest of their life. Her experience has given her plenty of lessons for young female athletes who want to play the sport.
“The things that you can control, you want to make sure you are taking care of them,” said Bird. “When you are about to take a test, if you studied, you are confident. If you didn’t, then you are nervous. It’s the same thing in basketball. Do what you can to be prepared and that’s