SEATTLE – The comedy team of Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi took the podium following the West’s 130-121 win over the East in the 2017 WNBA All-Star Game at Key Arena.
The longtime teammates, close friends and WNBA legends came in to speak out a sunny Seattle celebration, in which a near-capacity crowd cheered loudly and enjoyed a great show of fun and competition by some of the best players on the planet.
Taurasi was asked what she was playing for on this day. Bird, smiled and pointed at herself.
At first Taurasi didn’t see the gesture. She talked about playing for the great fans in Seattle, who have been one of the most passionate, dedicated fan bases in the league for years. And then it was pointed out that Bird might have been secretly hoping she was playing in her honor.
“Yeah, and I played for Sue, too. I mean, when you’re 40 and you can run around like that, that’s something to play for, I guess,” Taurasi said, ribbing her 36-year-old friend.
Maya Moore finished the day as the game’s MVP. Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones finished it as a breakout start, the first-time All-Star finishing up with 24 points and nine rebounds.
But this was, as it was always going to be, Sue Bird’s day.
Bird was the last player introduced to the crowd, emerging from the orange-lighted tunnel to thunderous applause and a long, standing ovation.
In her 10th All-Star Game appearance, one in which she has been personally and professionally invested for more than a year, she was also a record-breaker. Bird finished the game with 11 assists, a game record.
And even though the 3-point shooting contest didn’t turn out the way she would have wanted – Bird was eliminated in the first round after a tough trip around the arc – the day was everything she hoped it would be. Bird had a smile on her face for two straight hours as she brought the ball up the floor, dishing to her teammates and finishing with eight points and four rebounds.
“The party was a success,” Bird said. “As far as the game, you hope good things happen and you put on a good show. The franchise, the City, those of us from Seattle, I think we showed the City off pretty well.”
West head coach Cheryl Reeve said the success of Seattle’s first turn hosting the All-Star Game was a tribute to Bird.
“I can’t imagine being Sue Bird and feeling that energy and passion from her fans,” Reeve said. “You know, for it to be her 10th All-Star Game, she’s closer to the end than the beginning of her career and to experience such adulation, I just can’t imagine what that would feel like. That was special to experience.”
The Seattle sports community turned out for the occasion. NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell sat on the baseline. Seattle SuperSonics legends Lenny Wilkens and “Downtown” Freddie Brown were in the stands. The Seattle Seahawks were represented by Richard Sherman and K.J. Wright. Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, who starred at the University of Washington, was there with his young sons.
Breanna Stewart, the young Storm star playing in her first All-Star Game.
“The crowd was amazing. People were excited, people have been excited about this since it was announced and they were excited to come, excited to represent Seattle,” Stewart said. “I think they wanted to show the players who flew in here for the weekend that they have an appreciation for basketball and they wanted to celebrate that.”