On October 16th of this year, Sue Bird will celebrate her 36th birthday. While she may still be years away from the senior citizen discount at the movies, she’s in what many would consider the twilight of her career.
Drafted first overall back in 2002 by the Storm, Bird was playing her first year of professional basketball before her fellow Storm teammate and now Olympian, Breanna Stewart, celebrated her eighth birthday. In other words, Bird has been at this a long time.
One would think that after 14 WNBA seasons, three gold medals, and most importantly a knee surgery in 2013 that caused her to miss the entire season, the shifty point guard would have lost a step. She’s proven this season for the Storm and now in Rio that it’s quite to the contrary.
Her 12.5 points per game for Seattle at the break would be her highest scoring average since 2011. If the season ended today, her 6.0 assists per game would be the second-most she’s ever dished out in her professional career. It’s often said that the only competitor in sports that’s undefeated is Father Time, but it appears Bird is set on taking him to seven games.
Now, she’s brought her fine play in the W to Rio with the Olympic team. Bird’s spry play at point guard has been a catalyst behind the United States’ back-to-back 100-point outbursts to start group play, as she, along with Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings, looks to make history alongside Lisa Leslie and Teresa Edwards as the only basketball players in the world with four gold medals.
“I think it would probably just be our depth that’s making that happen, Bird said after Monday’s 103-63 win over Spain. “I think a lot of Olympic teams that I’ve been on have had offensive power, but now we go all the way down to the 12th player and the minute you sub there’s no let off, that person who comes in can do just as much offensively as the next.”
Always the courteous teammate, Bird attributes the team’s success to its depth, but, it’s hard to look past her individual production. Her seven points per game are the second most among the United States’ talented group of guards, and more impressively, her 6.5 assists are a team-high, and tied for the second most per game in the entirety of the Olympic field.
As strong as her game on the court has been, Bird has been dishing out the assists off the court as well. Bird recognizes that while this may be her last Olympic go-around a new generation of stars can be cultivated under her well-experienced watch.
“I mean God, they could be starting on this team, there’s no question about it,” Bird answered when asked about the first-timers on the squad. “They’re playing so well. I just got asked about scoring 100 points and that’s why. When Stewie (Breanna Stewart) and Elena (Delle Donne) come in, they’re like top five in the WNBA in scoring. When they come in it just keeps rolling.”
Stewie and EDD may be the future but it’s clear that Bird is not the past. She’s cemented herself comfortably in the present, and doesn’t look to be going anywhere but to the gold medal podium in Brazil.