If there was any doubt that Sue Bird is the best pure point guard in the history of WNBA, it was erased these past two weeks as Bird pushed the Seattle Storm to the franchise’s third WNBA title.
Bird didn’t just have a postseason for the ages. She had one for the aged.
When you consider the demands of her sport and the fact women have to play basketball year-round in multiple countries to make a living, Bird leading Seattle to a third WNBA championship at the age of 37 ranks right up there with Nolan Ryan throwing a no-hitter at 46 or George Foreman winning a heavyweight title in his 40s or Dara Torres winning three silver medals at the age of 41.
This postseason, the oldest player in the WNBA proved herself to be one of the toughest.
Playing with a broken nose and plastic facemask, Bird saved her team’s season by scoring 14 points in the final six minutes of Game 5 of the semifinals against the Mercury. Her poised, follow-through on killer three pointers was almost reminiscent of Michael Jordan’s pose when he shot down Utah in Game 6. There was just a feeling at the end of the game that Bird was on fire and there was nothing that could be done about it.
"Birdie has given hope to those over 30 that you can indeed age like fine wine," 32-year-old two-time MVP Candace Parker said recently.
Bird certainly came up with some smooth moves in the sweep of the Washington Mystics in the championship series. The most notable was the play Bird made near the end of the game to force a jump ball in Seattle’s 75-73 Game 2 win. With the Mystics trailing, 74-73, and Washington’s Kristi Toliver driving to the baseline, Bird reached around her to knock the ball loose. Toliver tumbled to the floor, and a jump ball ensued that the Storm won.
Bird’s first title came in 2004, just her second year in the league. She won again in 2010 and now this title comes 14 years after her first. It was clear Wednesday night after closing out the series with a 98-82 win over Washington, that this one meant the most to Bird because she just wasn’t sure that she would be back in this position again.
Bird, from Syosset, was the league’s top free agent in 2015 and almost elected to leave because she thought Seattle faced a long rebuilding process. It was accelerated after the team got lucky in the draft and ended up with Breanna Stewart, this year’s regular season and finals MVP, and Jewell Lloyd.
Still, the team got a new coach this season in Dan Hughes, and Bird wasn’t sure what kind of team it was going to be at the start of the season.
"I mean, Stewie and I joke, I don't know if I should even say this, but at the start of the season we lost to Phoenix at home, and we were like, 'Oh, crap, what kind of year is this going to be? . . . because we hadn't clicked yet," Bird said. "But pretty quickly, like a week later, we turned it right back around, and then onward and upward from there. You just never know. So to be here is incredible."
Stewart, 24, on Thursday tweeted a photo of her and Bird hugging on the court from Wednesday night with the words “This one’s for you, Sue.” Hughes also said in his postgame news conference that part of the reason he was so interested in coaching the team is he wanted to help get another title for Bird.
Bird shows no signs of showing down or talking about retirement. Why would she? Right now she just wants to soak up and enjoy a very special season.
“It's incredible to be sitting here right now,” Bird said after the game. “I was just saying this earlier, I really believe it just came to me. This is probably going to be one of the defining moments of my career, to have played however many years I've been playing, to have won in all these places, but then to do it at the end in such a way that was different from all the others, it's really incredible.”
A performance for the ages, and the aged.