MINNEAPOLIS – One day there will be a WNBA All-Star Game that does not include Sue Bird. It has to happen at some point, right?
Whenever that happens, it will end a record-breaking run for the Seattle Storm point guard, who has rewritten the WNBA record books over the past 12 months as she became the all-time leader in assists (2,786), games played (501) and All-Star selections (11).
Dating back to her rookie season in 2002, Bird has been selected as an All-Star every year with the exception of 2013, when she missed the entire season with a knee injury. Simply put, Sue Bird has been a top 20 player from year one to year 16 and is showing no signs of slowing down. She has displayed a combination of longevity and consistency that is unmatched in the league’s history.
“There are times where I’m like, ‘Here I am. I’m still playing.’ There’s no fancy story about it. It’s not some, in my mind, great accomplishment,” she said. “At times, mostly when I’m asked questions about it, I do take a step back and I’m like OK. I’ve played in 500 games, which recently broke the record. Why haven’t other people done that? I’m in my 11th All-Star Game. Why had nobody done that before?
“So while I’m doing it, I don’t really necessarily think I’m doing anything special. I’m just kind of trying to stay as healthy as I can so I can play as long as I can. In those moments of retrospect, I’m like OK – I guess it is pretty unique and cool that I am the first to play in 11.”
Bird does not allow herself to reflect on her accomplishments often. But when she does, she admits that there is a sense of pride with being able to play at such a high level for such a long time.
“There is a sense of pride in that because like everybody in this room, it takes an incredible amount of discipline, hard work, sacrifice, I mean all those words, if you look in the thesaurus, all of them … it takes that to play at this level,” she said, referring to her fellow 21 All-Stars in the interview room.
“And the older you get the harder it is; your body starts breaking down on you, things start to hurt that never hurt before, you really have to tend to it and it’s like a 24/7 job in a lot of ways. So because I know what it takes, I have a great deal of respect for all of the other players and I’m extremely proud that I’m still playing.”
On Friday evening, Bird was announced as a starter for Team Delle Donne, making it the ninth time she’s been named an All-Star starter (one behind Catchings’ record 10). Bird enters Saturday’s contest as the all-time leader in All-Star assists (47) and will overtake Catchings as the all-time leader in minutes played (Bird’s 190 trails Catchings by seven). Bird also ranks seventh in scoring (73) and rebounding (32), tied for fourth in 3-pointers made (14) and tied for eighth in field goals made (27). She also holds the record for most assists in a single-game as she registered 11 during last year’s Western Conference victory.
— WNBA (@WNBA) July 28, 2018
“It’s really been one of the fun things of my career, to share so many moments with Sue,” said Diana Taurasi, who will team with Bird in the starting backcourt for Team Delle Donne. “From college to Olympic experience, All-Star teams, she’s a great person. She’s been so great for women’s basketball. She’s done it in a very classy way and she’s playing the best basketball of her career. That just shows through a lot of hard work and commitment, the sky is the limit.”
Bird is averaging a career-best 7.3 assists for the Storm, who sit atop the WNBA standings at 19-7 at the All-Star Break. She was able to taste championship glory back in 2004 and 2010 while teaming with Lauren Jackson. Now flanked by young All-Stars in Breanna Stewart (23 years old) and Jewell Loyd (24), can the 37-year-old Bird help lead the Storm to title No. 3 in her 16th season?
During the Team Delle Donne practice session, Bird was asked about her record-setting 11th All-Star selection and responded with the “Dazed and Confused” line: “I joke I get older and they all stay the same age.”
— WNBA (@WNBA) July 27, 2018
“I really wasn’t joking,” she said following the practice. “I say that about my own team, the Seattle Storm. I’m getting older, but the people around me are generally between ages 23 and 28, maybe 30, they’re all kind of always in that range.”
While All-Stars have come and gone, Sue Bird has been the constant. When it comes to this year’s roster, there are the veterans in Bird (11), Taurasi (9) and Seimone Augustus (8), but there are also 10 players that are playing in their first or second All-Star Game. Bird has more All-Star experience than five of her Team Delle Donne teammates combined: DeWanna Bonner (2), Kayla McBride (2), Stewart (2), Kristi Toliver (2) and A’ja Wilson (1).
“I’m just here to have fun and enjoy it,” she said. “These All-Star experiences they go by so fast, you blink and they’re over. So because I know that, I know that I want to take in every moment, enjoy the team, enjoy the players, get to know some people that I don’t know as well and of course put on a good show for the fans.”