Mutual Respect: A Bond Between Sue Bird and LeBron James

After dishing out a playoff-record 16 assists in Seattle’s win over Las Vegas in Game 1 of the 2020 WNBA Finals, Sue Bird received plenty of praise. But there was one Instagram post that stood out. It came from LeBron James.

“Who said records couldn’t be broken in your 17th season????? Keep going @sbird10. We all we got. lol. Congrats!! 👏” (via KingJames/IG)

Bird responded to the Instagram story post by saying “I feel seen” with by a pair of laughing emojis followed by the grandma and grandpa emojis.

“I feel seen 😂 😂 👵 👨‍🦳
Thank you! Back at you 👏 👏” (via S10Bird/IG)

There are few people that can truly understand not just the magnitude of the achievement that Bird accomplished in Game 1, but the work and sacrifice it took make that happen this deep into her professional career.

LeBron is one of the few that can relate, as he’s looking to make his own history in year 17 as well.

Think about how rare it is for a player in any sport to be competing for their fourth championship in their 17th season. Now think of how rare for it to happen for two players simultaneously in the same sport.

Leading the WNBA Finals 2-0, Bird is just one win away from winning her fourth WNBA title in her 17th season in the WNBA. She entered the WNBA in 2002, but has missed two full seasons due to injury. She won her first title in 2004 and is close to winning her fourth 16 years later.

Leading the NBA Finals 2-1, LeBron is two wins away from winning his fourth NBA title in his 17th season in the NBA. While Bird has won all of her titles with the Storm, LeBron is looking to become only the third player in NBA history to win championships with three different franchises – the Miami Heat, the Cleveland Cavaliers and now the Los Angeles Lakers.

LeBron just moved to second place on the NBA’s all-time playoff assist leaders. Sue already holds that spot in WNBA playoff history and is 36 dimes away from becoming the all-time leader. LeBron still has a lot of work to do to catch Magic Johnson for first in the NBA.

Bird is one of two players – along with fellow unicorn Diana Taurasi, who continues to defy Father Time – to rank in the top 10 in career points (8th at 6,262 points – one shy of Lisa Leslie for 7th) and assists (1st at 2,888).

LeBron is the only player to accomplish this feat on the NBA side as he ranks third in scoring (34,241 points) and 8th in assists (9,346).

Perhaps the greatest connection that Bird and LeBron share is a sustained excellence, a consistency of elite play that some players may only be able to match for a short window, but they have found a way to accomplish year over year throughout their respective careers.

One of the most fascinating stats about LeBron James is that he has averaged at least 25 points in 16 consecutive seasons – that is five more than the longest streak from Michael Jordan and Karl Malone, six longer than Shaq and seven longer than the trio of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Kobe Bryant.

But throughout his career, LeBron has seen himself as a playmaker first and scorer second. The same can be said about Bird. She is the consummate point guard, always looking to set up her teammates and run the Storm offense efficiently. But when the game is on the line, she is ready to call upon her own number and deliver in the clutch.

Think back to Seattle’s last run to the WNBA title in 2018 when Bird carried the Storm to a Game 5 win over Taurasi and the Mercury in an epic semifinal series. With the season on the line, Bird was the one that was draining dagger threes to send the Storm back to the Finals.

Could Bird have been a 20 points per game scorer in the WNBA like Taurasi or her current teammate Breanna Stewart? Sure. She’s that good of a shooter and can get to her spots for high percentage looks. But her first instinct is to pass. The same goes for LeBron.

Which brings us to an early connection between LeBron and Bird – all the way back to 2003, when LeBron and Nike debuted a commercial titled “Book of Dimes” that featured the late Bernie Mac (happy belated birthday to the legend, who would have turned 63 yesterday) as a preacher delivering a sermon about basketball’s chosen one asking for the gift of court vision because he sought glory for the team.

If you look behind Bernie Mac, there is a choir filled with WNBA players and Bird is front and center. Two of the greatest passers and two of the greatest players of all time. And in my personal opinion, the greatest LeBron ad ever.