Bird and Jackson React to Being Named All-Star Starters
The Seattle Storm's stars are headed for the Big Apple. Guard Sue Bird and forward Lauren Jackson were named on Wednesday as starters for the 2006 WNBA All-Star Game, which will be played a week from today at Madison Square Garden in New York as part of the league's ongoing 10th Anniversary Celebration.
Bird, who has been voted to start every All-Star Game since she entered the league in 2002, led all Western Conference players in balloting, receiving 99,258 votes. Jackson, voted by fans a starter for the second straight season and making her fifth straight All-Star appearance overall, received 92,523 votes. Bird and Jackson were two of six players league-wide to earn at least 90,000 votes.
"You never know what's going to happen and it's hard to maintain a level of play that can get you on an All-Star team," said Bird after the Storm practiced Wednesday, "so every time I'm selected, it feels the same as it did the first year - that's just pure excitement."
When discussing the selections, Storm Coach Anne Donovan hearkened back to last season. While Bird was then as now a lock to be voted in by fans, Jackson's selection was in doubt until the final announcement of starters. It was the first time Jackson had been voted in by fans, though she started in 2003 because of injury after being voted by coaches onto the team.
"I remember last year, for Lauren to be voted in by the fans was such a big deal," said Donovan. "This year, it's just a given. That says a lot about their ability to establish themselves in this league."
Jackson is touched by the support she's earned in the U.S. She is one of just five international players and two Australians (Phoenix Mercury legend Michele Timms is the other) to be voted a starter.
"I've made a lot of fans from all over America since I've been playing better," she said. "People have really been great to me and supportive. The American fanbase has embraced me, and that's pretty cool. I'm proud to be a starter. I don't know how long it's going to last for, so I really just have to be thankful, and I am."
The Storm was one of three teams represented by multiple players in their conference's starting lineup. Given that six of the league's top seven scorers (and five of the top eight in terms of rebounds and assists per game) are in the Western Conference, the Storm stars faced especially difficult competition.
"To have two of the starting five given the strength of the Western Conference really speaks to how well these two have been playing," said Donovan.
"There's so many great players coming up, there's so much talent out there - which is the main reason why the league is so good and so competitive," she said. "I know my points and my stats aren't always the most glamorous, so for me it's all about what my team does. I always try to make sure my team's playing well, and I always try to maintain that level of play."
As much as the selections of Bird and Jackson honor the Storm's star players, they are also testament to the Storm fans. The Storm had five home games during the voting period, which ran from May 27 to June 25, slightly below league average (5.5). Still, the Storm used its entire allotment of 150,000 votes, in fact exhausting them by the June 21 game against Phoenix.
The 330,877 votes for the five Storm players on the ballot - also including guard Betty Lennox, injured forward Wendy Palmer and center Janell Burse - were the second-highest total for any team, trailing only the Sun.
"Thanks to everybody who voted for me," concluded Jackson. "It's definitely a huge honor."