In 2001, the Seattle Storm landed Australian center Lauren Jackson with the No. 1 overall draft pick in a franchise-altering move. But their selection a year later would come to define the Storm and WNBA history going forward.
UConn point guard Sue Bird joined Jackson to form one of the league’s preeminent inside-out duos. The pair teamed up to win the WNBA championship in 2004 and cap their careers together with another title in 2010.
Here’s what Bird had to say about her longtime teammate’s jersey retirement during media day in Seattle on Thursday:
(On best memories in Seattle with Lauren)
“Luckily because we played so long here together, we have a lot to choose from. Obviously on-court, the easy answer is winning championships, but I think some of the best memories we have are the nights we went out after games, or the long road trips when flights get delayed and you have to make it fun. But as far as on the court and the city of Seattle. the city watched us grow up since we were 21 and our relationship continued to grow as the years went on.”
(On good feelings with where the Storm is at)
“Obviously having back-to-back No. 1 picks sounds a little familiar. But one can only hope that we did enough here to leave a good legacy and to leave the team in good hands, and I hope they exceed the things we accomplished.”
(On how much was known about Lauren before the draft)
“Google wasn’t really a thing, so I didn’t know much about her. I watched the 2000 Olympics just like everyone else, so I saw this 19-year-old kid go toe-to-toe with the U.S. team. I had heard about her and seen her play in the Olympics and then one other time, but that was it. And now she had already had a season in the WNBA, but I didn’t really catch too many Seattle games – we weren’t really on TV too much, which is still a problem. But I really didn’t know much. I think I even got asked about that on draft day — ‘What do you know about Lauren’? — and I think I made some stupid joke about her being Australian. But it was the truth. She probably knew just as much about me since she thought I was Adia Barnes.”
(On always being mentioned as a duo)
“I love it. It’s only right because so much of what we did here was together. We really complemented each other. We have been together since day one. The attributes that we both possess as basketball players, it just fits. I love that my career is tied to hers. I have no other way to describe it. It’s only right that it would happen like that.”
(On how often they talk)
“We talk often. It’s easy now with texting and WhatsApp and all of that stuff, it keeps us alive and going. It’s easy to stay in touch. The fact that’s been almost four years is crazy. I didn’t really even realize that until I got asked the other day and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, it’s been four years?’ It doesn’t feel like that at all.”
(On what Lauren’s legacy will be for the WNBA)
“I mean, she’s a badass. That’s going to be her legacy. She is. Everyone talks about ‘the look.’ That’s going to be the cover of the book. The title will be ‘Badass.’ That look was her everyday and every game. That’s what identity of our team was all of the years that she played here. We kind of followed that.
The impact that she had on her teammates was tremendous and could have only been done the way she did it, because that’s who she is. You look at what she did on the court — the play speaks for itself as well. But a badass. You could bring up a player and argue this, argue that, but you can’t argue this. There’s no arguing it. She proved it every time she stepped on the court. You’re real. Numbers don’t lie.”
(On Lauren being the best)
“In Storm history, absolutely. In WNBA, each player, each team, it’s hard to argue, but in my mind, her and Diana are the best to play. I get it, there are other players involved, but if you want to say top-two to top-five, she’s definitely the best.”