By Matthew Roberson
When you’ve played as long and achieved as many things as she has, it could be easy for the seasons to blur together. For Sue Bird, the 2017 season is one that will likely stand out among the rest.
There was the 10-assist night in her first game of the season on May 21. The double-double of 21 points and 10 dimes at Madison Square Garden in her home state of New York on June 11. The home game against Chicago on July 18 in which $5 from every ticket was donated to Planned Parenthood, the first event of its kind in any professional sports league. The All-Star Weekend in Seattle which featured her record-tying 10th appearance (including eighth starting nod) and memorably un-Bird like performance in the Three-Point Contest. The move of Gary Kloppenburg to interim head coach, which was immediately followed by a four-game winning streak to put Seattle back into playoff contention. Of course, there was also the 2,600th assist of her career on Sept. 1, which broke the record for most in WNBA history.
“Personally, individually, I had a lot of highs,” Bird said. “The assist record is amazing in a lot of ways. It speaks to my career. It speaks to the consistency, the longevity. It’s a momentous thing in someone’s career to be at the top of a career list in this league.”
2017 was Bird’s 15th year of games with the Storm, and her 16th year on the roster (she missed all of the 2013 season recovering from an injury). She is unquestionably the face of the Storm franchise and one of the faces of the WNBA. As her career starts to wind to a close, she gets to be hyper-involved with the development of young players Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd, and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.
What keeps her going after more than 475 games and thousands of practices?
“I never had plans to retire,” Bird said. “I don’t feel that retirement itch as of now. I’ve always defaulted to ‘I’m coming back, and if something changes I’ll let you know.’ My feeling on retirement is, if the physical aspects of things isn’t the reason why, if you’re still passionate about it, you still have the hunger, you still want to win, I don’t see why you don’t keep playing. I’m finishing my career here.”
Bird’s 6.6 assists per game this season was the highest season average of her fabled career. She logged 10.3 points a night, keeping a double-figure streak alive that was born in 2002. Every year of her WNBA career, Bird has averaged at least 10 points per game. Her field goal percentage and three-point percentage are right in line with her career numbers. Her turnovers are down from her career average, and her offensive rating is the second highest it’s ever been. Earlier in the season, she passed DeLisha Milton-Jones to move to No. 9 on the WNBA’s all-time scoring list, and she needs just 160 more points to eclipse the 6,000 point total – something that only seven players have done in the league. On paper, the precocious point guard had another excellent season. But if you ask her, the season did not meet her expectations.
“I got off to a bit of a late start,” Bird said. “Starting with the surgery definitely wasn’t amazing. It put me on my back foot for most of the season. I don’t think I had a bad season by any means, [but] I always felt like I was playing catchup.”
While the amount of games she has left in the tank is up in the air, there is no doubt that whenever Bird decides to call it quits, she will do so as one of the very best players the WNBA has ever seen.
- Recorded a season-high 10 assists on May 21 vs. Washington, the first game of the season she played in
- Scored a season-high 21 points on June 11 at New York, which paired with 10 assists to provide her first and only double-double of 2017
- Notched seven consecutive games with six or more assists to start the season
- Named to her 10th WNBA All-Star Game, tying the league record
- Raised the 12th Man flag at a Seattle Seahawks preseason game on Aug. 25
- Dished her 2,600th career assist on Sept. 1 at Washington, breaking Ticha Penicheiro’s WNBA record