It’s time we join Megan Rapinoe and brag about Suzanne Brigit Bird.
Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird is already the WNBA’s all-time assists leader and keeps moving up the bar. She’s now the record holder for most assists in a WNBA playoff game after dishing out 16 in Game 1 of the Finals. She had 10 in the first half alone, and broke her former record of 14 that was also reached by the Chicago Sky’s Courtney Vandersloot.
We’re sorry, Sue, but we have to add: Bird will turn 40 years old on Oct. 16.
She’s an ageless wonder, a gift to the game, a basketball queen who has never lost in a championship round. A four-time Olympic gold medalist, a two-time NCAA champion, plenty of overseas titles. And now two wins away from a fourth WNBA title. The No. 1 draft pick out of UConn in 2002, she and the Storm have lost only one WNBA Finals game they’ve played in.
The mark for assists in a WNBA Finals game was 11, reached eight different times by six players. Bird’s personal mark was 10, set in the 2018 Finals against the Washington Mystics.
Her 10 first-half assists on Friday night, which was also a record, makes it all the more impressive.
She held the mark for most assists in a WNBA playoff game already with 14 set on Oct. 5, 2004, when the Storm beat the Sacramento Monarchs in the Finals. The 31-year-old Vandersloot tied it in September 2015.
Bird dished out four assists in the final quarter to Breanna Stewart, who smashed into the record books herself with the first playoff game of at least 35 points and 15 rebounds. Bird may not have been a factor in the points column, but she’s not slowing down at near 40. In fact, she’s speeding up and is increasingly able to see the court.
“Through my career, I’m lucky in a way,” Bird said earlier this week on a Zoom call with media. “My position and how I play it allows for longevity. I never really relied on my physical quickness or speed or size, obviously. So as long as I continue to add to my game from a mental perspective, I was always going to be able to stay on the floor. Assuming, again, the physical part stayed with me as well.”
Earlier in the day, it was announced by the league the 17-year veteran led league jersey sales for the first time in her career. That’s arguably a factor of visibility, given her relationship with longtime girlfriend Megan Rapinoe as well as her work with the WNBA Players Association. It’s also because she’s only gotten better in her nearly two decades at the top. (And fun fact, her career has spanned all five WNBA presidents/commissioner.)
And let us not forget, she’s doing all of this during a pandemic that cut short overseas seasons, pushed back the 2020 start and forced it into a fast-paced bubble environment. The rehab for her knee was derailed and she hadn’t played in more than 600 days. She had to find a way to stay in top shape — she played pick-up against Rapinoe (!)— at an age when many ache getting out of bed.
In April, Bird was discussing the age difficulty with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on “The Jump” when the conversation turned to wine, the fuel to the “A Touch More” Instagram Live chats hosted by Bird and Rapinoe.
“I’m sure all you follow LeBron on Instagram,” Bird said. “It seems like the wine is working.”
The two GOATs sent cheers to each other over Twitter. More than four months later, they shared TV screens as the WNBA Finals and NBA Finals collided in an unprecedented year.
Shortly after the Storm’s win, James’ Los Angeles Lakers tipped off Game 2 against the Miami Heat. It’s his 10th NBA Finals and he’s going, as is Bird, for his fourth ring. They are both showing that age is nothing but a number when you have hard work and talent. They may not be as quick or nimble as they once were. But their minds are sharper, and their experience is greater. They know when to take things seriously and when to let the game come.
Cheers to the wine and aging as fine as it. And cheers to getting to watch them both again on Sunday.