Sue Bird talks 2021, advice to WNBA draftees and more on NBA’s Instagram

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UConn great and current Seattle Storm star Sue Bird popped on the NBA’s Instagram feed Wednesday afternoon as part of the NBA Together and WNBA Together initiatives to discuss a host of topics ranging from how she’s spending her days of quarantine to her future basketball endeavors. Here are some highlights of her conversation with ESPN’s Ryan Ruocco.


— Bird wants to play through 2021

Bird, who is the oldest active player in the WNBA and will turn 40 in October, knows better than to think too far into the future, especially if that involves predicting how her body will hold up. But if all goes to plan, she’d like to be able to play in a fifth and final Olympics with Team USA in Tokyo next summer.

“I mean, it’s a year away. So much can happen in an athlete’s life in a year,” Bird said. “The way I feel about it is if I’m in good health, I’m still at the top of my game, playing at an elite level and USA Basketball calls me and is like, ‘Hey, you want to do this?’ Of course I’m going to do it. You’ve got to take care of what you can and then once you get to that point, you’ll know.”

After missing the 2019 WNBA season due to injury, Bird says she’d also like to play one last season on the court she’s played her entire career with the hopes of winning her fourth WNBA championship. The New Arena at Seattle Center, formerly known as Key Arena, is being redone and is set to reopen in 2021.


— Advice to draftees

Around this time 18 years ago, Bird was the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 WNBA draft, awaiting to hear whether she’d be headed to Seattle, where she’s spent the entirety of her career since.

With this year’s draft coming up a week from Friday, Bird shared some advice to draftees, including Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu, who will likely be taken first overall by the New York Liberty.

“For the No. 1 pick, they’re coming for ya,” Bird said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s the strongest draft of all time or the weakest draft of all time. When you’re the No. 1 pick, that’s it. The target’s on your back the whole season. Everybody comes for you. It’s just the way it is.”

For others, such as UConn’s Crystal Dangerfield and Megan Walker, Bird’s message was simple: stay opened minded, both on and off the court.

“You’re in a new city, you’re with new teammates. Keep an open mind,” Bird added. “Whatever you had in college, there’s a comfort there so I think it’s natural to be like, ‘Well in college, we did this or on my last team we did that.’ I think you’ve got to shed that immediately and just kind of buy in to what’s happening, whether it’s the coaching or (being in) a new city.’ ”

Bird will be part of ESPN’s broadcast for the draft, which begins at 7 p.m. on April 17.


— A look at her friendship with Diana Taurasi

Bird also shared stories about some of the memorable times she’d had to guard Diana Taurasi that shed light on their friendship, which originates from their time in Storrs, Conn.

Bird named Taurasi and Sheryl Swoopes as the toughest players she’s had to guard in the league. True to form, Taurasi often ratchets up the intensity level when the longtime friends are going head-to-head.

“A couple years ago, she fouled me really hard, like swiped my head and I was like, ‘Bro, really?’ ” Bird recalls. “She’s like, ‘They’ll watch it on film, it’s not as bad as you think.’ ”

More recently, in Game 2 of the 2018 WNBA semifinals, when the Storm were playing the Mercury, Taurasi took a half-court shot right before the half with Phoenix down 12. She missed badly, and Bird tried to joke with her about it.

“She was not feeling the joke,” Bird said. “She was pissed.”

Taurasi went on to score 14 fourth-quarter points in a huge comeback effort and sent the game into overtime on a 3 with less than 10 seconds to play. The shot served as her revenge on Bird, who was guarding her on the play.

“I’m pretty sure she patted me on the back after that went in,” Bird said. “Some sort of (thing) where I was like, ‘Fine, we’re even.’ ”


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