Sue Byrdone of the most profitable basketball players will ever retire from the WNBA after this season, the Seattle Storm guard announced on Thursday.
Byrd, the leader of the league’s career assistants, revealed the official news on social media, writing: “I loved every minute and I still love, so I will play my last year, just like this little girl played her first.”
The 2002 number one overall pick, Bird played his entire career with Storm, where he won four championships to go along with five selections in the first team of the All-WNBA and a record 12 appearances in the All-Star Game.
Bird won championships at every level, in particular the record five Olympic gold basketball games with the US team. She has also competed in four World Cup teams and a number of Russian Professional League and Euroleague titles. In college, she won two NCAA championships at the University of Connecticut. According to the WNBA website, she also won a national title at Christ the King High School in New York.
Teammate Reshanda Gray tweeted: “Thank you for paving the way !! You will really be missed. I am forever grateful! @ S10Bird. ”
The team wrote: “Sue Byrd is Storm basketball.”
Bird, 41, told reporters she felt as if she had played as long as she could at a very high level, both physically and mentally.
She said she was looking forward to things that basketball seasons are hampering the player from, saying she would not have to set an alarm for early morning workouts and could take real vacations without paying attention to next year. But she will miss the “grind” moments – difficult practices and a difficult travel schedule – because “you’re still doing it with a team”, she added.
Her hope, Byrd said, is to find something that fulfills her that way, but she knows it will be difficult to replace things that are part of life as a professional athlete. She hinted at an ESPN show she did with Diana Taurazi during the Final Four, saying boldly, “Maybe this will happen.”
Asked if the message was for a happy or sad day, she said it was a combination.
“Not many people do something all their lives the way athletes do,” she said, noting that this is the end of a sports life that began when she was 5 or 6 years old. She is looking forward to retiring, saying she is excited and: “I have to start this new life.”
Bird led Storm this season in assists (6.6 per game) and is expected to return to court on Friday when Seattle face Connecticut Dream on the road. On Sunday, Storm will play against Liberty, which will be Bird’s last game in her hometown of New York.