Sue Bird leaned over toward Breanna Stewart and made sure the current MVP of the WNBA was paying attention to what the oldest player in the league was saying.
“This is advice,” Bird said.
The message to Stewart was clear: At age 24, don’t take for granted that she’s leading the Seattle Storm to the WNBA Finals and expect it to happen all the time.
Bird should know. She won a title in her third WNBA season. It was another six years before she was back in the finals winning another title. And it was eight more years on top of that before Bird and the Storm finally made it back to the Finals, where they will face the Washington Mystics in Game 1 on Friday night.
“I didn’t think we’d be back, to be honest,” Bird said. “We started a rebuild and there was no telling when we’d get on the other side of it. It’s not that my hunger for it went away or my motivation. Clearly, I wanted to stay at the top of my game and wanted to help this franchise get on the other side of this rebuild, but the Finals? That was very far from my imagination.”
Bird is relishing this opportunity knowing it could be one of her last chances to win another title. And it was her performance in the fourth quarter of Game 5 against Phoenix that put Seattle in the championship series, hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 14 of her 22 points during a brilliant six-minute stretch that left the likes of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James singing her praises on social media.
Also not taking this trip to the Finals for granted are the Mystics. It’s their first Finals appearance in franchise history. Star Elena Delle Donne went to the Finals in 2014 with Chicago, as did guard Kristi Toliver with Los Angeles in 2016.
“We’ve been leaders of this team and have just been trying to make sure everyone is focused, staying light, having a good time and spending time together, not just on the court but off the court,” Delle Donne said.