Sue Bird leaves the court Sunday after the final regular-season home game of her career for the Seattle Storm. Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times via AP

SEATTLE — Sue Bird was at the conclusion of her speech to the sold-out crowd, nearly all of whom still remained, and decided – maybe hoped – this would not be the last time she would get to play in the city she’s called home the past two decades.

“I don’t really have that ‘Mamba Out’ moment,” Bird said, referencing Kobe Bryant’s retirement speech. “I just want to say I love you, thank you so much, and I’ll see you in the playoffs.”

The day set aside to honor Bird and her career with the Seattle Storm was slightly soured when the Las Vegas Aces pulled away late for an 89-81 win on Sunday. A’ja Wilson scored 29 points and Kelsey Plum added 16, including a key 3-pointer in the final minute.

But the result didn’t take away from the three hours where Storm fans, WNBA fans and the city of Seattle said thank you to Bird for her career as the face of the franchise. The largest crowd in Storm history packed Climate Pledge Arena to honor Bird for her career as one of the best women’s basketball players ever.

Bird said while the day was recognition of her, it was also recognition of the players and coaches she played with through her career and the accomplishments of the franchise.

“I think today was, yes, an honor in honor of me and people showed up, showed out for sure. It really was amazing,” Bird said. “But I think it’s really, truly a celebration of Storm basketball, because I am kind of Storm basketball.”


Unfortunately for Bird and Seattle’s fans, the Aces weren’t willing to play their part. Wilson dominated the first three quarters, Chelsea Gray and Jackie Young both scored 15 points, and the Aces never trailed over the final 28 minutes.

“I wasn’t trying to crash Sue’s party. She invited me,” Wilson joked.

Breanna Stewart finished with a season-high 35 points and Tina Charles added 19 for Seattle. Bird finished with nine points, six assists and four rebounds.

“I’m not going to lie, it kind of sucks to lose my last game. But you know what, I lost my first game, too. So it’s OK,” Bird joked with the crowd after the final buzzer.

Both Seattle and Las Vegas were jockeying for playoff positioning. The Storm are battling for home-court advantage in the first round. The Aces go into the final week trying to catch Chicago for the No. 1 seed.

Bird is the WNBA record holder for assists and games played. Whenever this season ends, she will retire with five Olympic gold medals and at least four WNBA titles, to go along with the two NCAA championships she won at UConn.


“To be so good for so long,” said Las Vegas Coach Becky Hammon, who was an opponent of Bird’s in her first WNBA game on May 30, 2002. “A lot of people, you have nine to 10 years of being amazing. She’s been amazing for decades, which is, to me, remarkable.”

For the most part, Bird said she was able to keep her emotions in check. She was surprised when leaving the locker room to take the court for pregame warmups and saw members of her family lining the hallway, with fiancee Megan Rapinoe the final one in the receiving line.

An overwhelming wave seemed to hit her during a video tribute just before tipoff that included messages from Rapinoe, LeBron James, Russell Wilson, Chloe Kim, Lauren Jackson and Bird’s college coach, Geno Auriemma, and roaring cheers from the 18,100 in attendance – the largest crowd ever for a Storm home game.

“We all know you’re not going away. I’m looking forward to what your next act is,” Auriemma said.

Bird said it felt a bit like a college senior night where all the ceremonies and emotional moments come pregame, “and then it’s like, ‘Oh, you gotta play this game.’”

“So in some weird way, compartmentalizing this wasn’t that difficult,” Bird said. “Like a little moment where you glanced up at the jumbotron and it kind of all comes rushing back. But outside of a few moments feeling the emotions kind of build in those 40 minutes, I didn’t really have to fight that off too hard.”

For now, Bird’s next act is trying to make sure the Storm play again on their home floor. Seattle is currently fourth in the standings, and with the WNBA’s new playoff format, Seattle would host the first two games of its opening-round series if it can hang on to that spot.

Seattle was without Coach Noelle Quinn after she tested positive for COVID-19 and was in the league’s health and safety protocols.

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