When Bird was introduced to the Seattle media after the 2002 Draft by Lin Dunn, it was just her second visit to the city.
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Bird's 10 Years Full of Memories
Sue Bird apologizes for being repetitive. She knows she's told these stories before. Then again, that's sort of the point, isn't it? A decade means a lot of games, a lot of big shots, a lot of incredible passes, a lot of wins and, yes, a lot of interviews.
This is Bird's 10th season with the Seattle Storm, which the organization will celebrate during Saturday's game against the Atlanta Dream (7:00 p.m., ), when the first 4,000 fans will get a special Sue Bird Decade bobblehead.
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Bird has found success on the court in Seattle, as well as coming to love the city.
"When I think about being with this franchise for 10 years, I really feel like I've grown up here," says Bird. "From year 21 to now I'm 30, a lot happens in your 20s. Basketball-wise, the fans, the community, they've embraced me and they've watched me do that. It's something special."
The first thing that struck Bird about Seattle was its distance from her home in New York. Bird had been able to stay relatively close while starting in college at the University of Connecticut. After the Storm landed the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft - and then-Head Coach Lin Dunn turned down the tempting packages the New York Liberty and other teams offered to trade for the pick - Bird was headed all the way across the country to a town she'd been to just once before, when UConn opened up the remodeled Hec Edmundson Pavilion by blowing out the University of Washington in 2000.
"I just knew it was really far," Bird recalls. "It was the first time I was going to be really far from my home and my friends and family. I wasn't nervous about that, but that's all I knew."
Bird's rookie season was, as she describes it, a whirlwind. Newly anointed the face of the WNBA, Bird was busy with media requests and travel, leaving little time to learn about her new surroundings outside of a handful of go-to spots. She can joke now about driving 10 minutes to get groceries instead of going to the store that was just down the street from KeyArena and the Storm's practice facility.
"The minute the season was over, I was on a redeye," says Bird. "We got knocked out of the playoffs - the next day I was on my way home."
When she returned for the start of her second year in the WNBA, Bird wanted to get to know to Seattle better.
"I remember prior to the 2003 season, in my head I made this deal with myself," Bird says. "You're going to go out and enjoy things, you're going to explore. I knew I wasn't giving myself a fair chance to enjoy things, so I really made a concerted effort to do that and it opened up a whole new world. That next offseason, I bought a home."
Along the way, Bird also realized that her relationship with Storm fans would be a special one. She cites a few moments that gave her an indication of how the fans felt about her, including voting her to the All-Star Game and wearing band-aids on their noses when Bird broke hers during the 2004 Playoffs.
Outside of the two championships she's won, Bird's most memorable moment in Seattle was one that was all about the fans. After the Storm suffered a stunning home loss in Game 3 of the 2005 series with the Houston Comets, the Storm faithful stuck around KeyArena to give the team an ovation Bird wasn't sure was deserved.
"It speaks to our fans and their passion for the game of basketball, the WNBA and for us," she says. "That's an odd highlight but it's something I'll always remember."
"When I think about being with this franchise for 10 years, I really feel like I've grown up here."
Looking back over the last 10 seasons - and apologizing again for not remembering everything - a variety of things stand out for Bird. There have been big performances like Lauren Jackson putting together a rare 20-point, 20-rebound game against the Charlotte Sting in 2003, and also light-hearted moments like Simone Edwards passing to Doppler and Jackson scoring in the wrong basket.
Bird also points to the crucial game in 2002 against the rival Portland Fire the Storm needed to win to make the playoffs. Powered by a crowd of more than 10,000 fans that Bird remembers as loud and energized, the Storm did just that. (Bird is too modest to mention that her 33 points were crucial to the victory.)
Someday, when her playing career is done - a point that remains far in the future - Bird looks forward to coming back to Seattle and reminiscing about all of those moments as part of the Storm family.
"When there was talk of us moving to Oklahoma with the Sonics," she says, "that was one of the things that really made me the saddest - the thought of not finishing my career here, not retiring here, not being able to come back as a retired player and sit courtside at games. That was something that almost hit me harder than anything else. I want that to be the case."
Bird's longevity with the Storm is notable. Besides her and Jackson, just one other player in the city (Mariners superstar Ichiro) has been here at least a decade. Even in the WNBA, whose rules make it easier to keep stars around, there are just three players who have spent at least 10 years with their current team: Bird, Jackson and Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever. That fact surprised Bird.
"I didn't realize how rare it was, I guess," she jokes. "Either we're really good and they didn't want to give us up or we're really loyal and we didn't want to leave."
She's wrong, actually. It's both, and that's what makes Bird's 10 seasons in Seattle worth celebrating.Comments blog comments powered by Disqus