Sue Bird never had any doubt she’d finish her career in Seattle. She just isn’t letting on when that will be.
The veteran point guard signed a multi-year deal with the Storm on Tuesday.
“I think what I wanted was a contract that wasn’t going to put an end date,” Bird said in a phone interview with the AP. “The contract says I will finish my career in Seattle. It takes away that question of letting the amount of years dictate anything.”
The 35-year-old Bird was the top free agent in the WNBA this season, although she was always expected to stick with the team she has spent her entire career with since being drafted No. 1 in 2002.
“Sue’s commitment to this team and to the city of Seattle is unprecedented,” said Storm president and general manager Alisha Valavanis. “It’s special for a professional athlete to leave a legacy with one franchise. We’re grateful she will continue to lead the Storm.”
Bird averaged 10.3 points and 5.4 assists last season in 27 games. She helped Seattle win WNBA championships in 2004 and 2010.
“I started in Seattle and I feel like I was a part of building it, and that’s something I was extremely proud of,” Bird said. “Even though we did hit that rebuild, I do think we’ll come out on the other side of it, and I wanted to be there for every part of it. Never a part of me that thought I wanted to ditch town.”
The Storm, who finished 10-24 last season, have the No. 1 pick in the upcoming WNBA draft and are expected to select UConn star Breanna Stewart. It is the second consecutive season Seattle has the No. 1 choice. Last season, the Storm drafted Jewell Loyd, who went on to win rookie of the year.
“When you’re an older player that’s coming to the end of their career, when you have that young talent alongside with you, it adds years to your basketball life,” Bird said. “Not everything falls on your shoulders. You can help them and they can help you. It’s a cool relationship I found last year on my team.”
Bird is second on the WNBA all-time career list for assists and is ninth in steals and 11th in points. The nine-time All-Star was recognized as one of the league’s 15 greatest players in 2011.
“Sue is unequivocally the best point guard to ever play our game,” said Storm coach Jenny Boucek. “Her accolades speak for themselves, but her impact goes way beyond the numbers or the wins. She is one of the best leaders, teammates and competitors to play any sport on any level.”
Bird has spent the offseason working for ESPN to get a feel for what that might be like when her playing career ends.
“I have enjoyed doing it. It’s cool to be on the other side of the interview, so to speak,” Bird said. “It’s been really cool to learn and see other college programs and players. It’s really an experience I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. There’s a learning curve. The best part for me is I’m still a basketball player and it’s still my focus. ESPN has allowed me to do X amount of games per year, dipping my toe in that water.”
Before Bird starts her 14th season in the WNBA, she will take part in training camp for the U.S. women’s national team this weekend in Connecticut. Bird has helped the Americans win the last three Olympic titles. The U.S. will be trying for a sixth straight gold medal in Rio de Janeiro this summer.
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