When Sue Bird’s farewell tour as WNBA superstar and Team USA flies to Connecticut on Thursday, a celebration will erupt in a matchup between two playoff-bound teams.

I have fond memories of taking my daughter and two of her friends to the Pepsi Arena in 2003 to see Bird – after his rookie season with Seattle – present to about 500 boys and girls as part of a program from Siena College called Women Assisting Youth. . Siena hosted a triple title at the end of January featuring both men’s and women’s teams.

Former Times Union sportswriter Maureen Kelly wrote this about Bird’s visit: As a young girl, football was Sue Bird’s first love. But by the time she turned 15, the athletic girl knew basketball had become her passion.

“I love telling my story to kids,” said Bird, a 5-foot-9 guard who was the WNBA’s first draft pick in 2002. “It’s possible for anyone to get to where I am today. I was just an ordinary kid.”

Articles from Siena and in local media promoting her Albany appearance cite Bird’s college stats and that she will “most likely be known for leading a UConn team that went 39-0 en route to a national championship. during his senior season.

Two decades later, the Long Island native is known for much more than that. She led Seattle to four league championships and was a 12-time WNBA All-Star. She spent her entire 21-year career with the Storm, having played in 19 seasons – the most of any player in WNBA history. She took two seasons off due to injury, but still holds the record for most seasons played by a single player in the league.

The 41-year-old is the WNBA’s all-time leader in assists and is FIBA’s most decorated male or female athlete with five Olympic gold medals (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020).

During the 2003 appearance at Albany, Bird attributed part of her success to a left knee injury and surgery she underwent as a freshman in college.

“It opened my eyes and gave me perspective,” Bird said. “It gave me a mental toughness that I didn’t have. There have been a lot of conversations with coaches and discussions with coaches. It was motivating and I learned never to take anything for granted.”

Bird only played eight games as a freshman because of that knee injury, but that certainly didn’t slow her down. She then scored 1,378 points in her career at UConn.

She continues to rack up her WNBA career stats. She will retire No. 1 in games played (572 so far), second in career three-pointers (986), fourth in steals (713) and seventh in points (6,728), according to the Storm website with updates from basket-ball-reference.com.

Bird is also engaged to Megan Rapinoe, the Team USA soccer star who won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, on July 7. Both women are at the forefront of pay equity, racial justice and LGBTQI+ rights.

Both are dedicated to ensuring that attention remains focused on the release of Brittany Griner, wrongfully detained in Russia. The Olympic gold medalist and Phoenix Mercury All-Star pleaded guilty this month to drug possession charges on the second day of her trial in a Russian court in a case that could see her sentenced to 10 years in prison.

“I think for all of us, we just always want to keep the BG name front and center in everything we do,” Bird said during the All-Star Game. “Yeah, from time to time we’ll answer questions about All-Star and talk about basketball, but you’re going to see his name on the back of all of our jerseys, and so like I said, that’s not not the case. really change. We want it to always be there.

Tickets for the 7 p.m. game at Mohegan Sun Arena are yet to sell out, with prices ranging from $39 to $79 still on sale online. Count on the Connecticut Sun organization to send it off in style with a fitting celebration featuring former teammates, coaches and a few surprises.

Chantel Jennings, senior women’s basketball editor at The Athletic, says to look for a “combination of videos and tribute/thank you ceremonies. For the more ironic, I’m sure there will be face mask celebrations to honor the number of times she broke her nose.

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