Twenty years ago, Sue Byrd joined the WNBA as No. 1 by UConn in general, the women’s basketball talent factory that wants to make a career in a league that was revived just five years earlier.
A two-time national champion, Big East player of the year and AP College player, expectations were high for the point of entering the league.
Four WNBA titles, five Olympic gold medals, 12 nods to all WNBA stars and becoming the all-time assistant of all time in the league later, Byrd decided to move away from the women’s game, leaving it in a better place than find him.
But how exactly can you put into words an exceptional game for two decades on the court, combined with moving not only women’s basketball, but the world as a whole off the court?
It’s easy to look at the point guard’s ability to see the court, play for a teammate to find a basket, and also be a sniper of his own, even after the age of 40.
Not only that, but Byrd managed to achieve everything in his career with one team, Seattle Storm – even before Breana Stewart, before Storm won in 2018 and again in the WNBA bubble in 2020, Byrd had done all this many times. .
“I’m very proud to have played my whole career here in Seattle, not that it has anything to do with the fact that it’s a rarity these days or it has nothing to do with it, I just enjoyed all my time here,” Bird told the media in saying goodbye.
“I think as you go through your career, you realize that it’s really about people, so I’m really lucky to have played for a first-class organization with some of the best in the world, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
The less visible side of Bird, the one who stands up for those with quieter voices than hers, knowing that life is bigger than basketball, knowing that when she stands up, she speaks from a women’s league, a league of black women and the League of Gay Women.
When she first entered the league, going to college just a year after the WNBA was founded, it is not known if there will be a future for women’s professional sports, but those who invest their money where their mouths are can see. Court Product by Players Like Bird.
Now, with the rise of the WNBA and players who never give up on their dream of playing women’s basketball as a career, Byrd leaves the league as one of the highest paid players in the league, being able to sustain his life outside of professional sports, something which many women and girls did not believe was possible.
“I can say that some of my best days were in my last… I mean, if my memory serves me correctly, I was in the first team of the WNBA when I was 35, two championships at 37 and 39, so I think that’s a big part of it, “Byrd said.
“What I’m proud of in this regard is that I hope other players see a career like this, see its duration, see its success and know that they can do it too, because not that they don’t It’s easy, but it’s doable, isn’t it? “
You can see career statistics – 6653 career points, good seventh for all time, 702 stolen balls, good fourth for all time and 3118 assists, good for most who have stepped on the WNBA court.
It also has the highest turnover in the WNBA of all time, but it comes with territory that remains for 20 years.
There have also been changes in the league itself because Byrd is committed to change and growth, knowing that even her home in the WNBA is not perfect and there is always room for learning and growth as an organization.
The league is now offering the Commissioner’s Cup as a way to share more money from prizes – a bird trophy it managed to raise in its first edition because one of the greatest of all time knows how to win hardware.
She also advocated changing the form of the playoffs from two rounds of singles elimination games to give teams more chance in the playoffs, as only eight teams managed to qualify for the league with 12 teams.
And in 2022, the format changed after Bird’s comments to give more opportunities to those who have won their playoffs through hard work and dedication to their season.
“I think women’s basketball is in a great place, I think women’s sports are in a great place, so many differences in a good way since I first entered the league, and obviously, I think we can all feel that momentum.” we feel that impulse, “Byrd said.
“I could not be more proud of the younger generation at the moment, because they are the ones who are entering this league now and they are really crossing the line.
Even with the next generation pushing for change and demanding more from women’s sport, spectators and investors, the opportunity to demand better on the backs of players like Bird is not lost on those who enter the league 20 years after it.
For someone who seems quiet and reserved in the face of the media, especially in the presence of her crime partner Diana Taurasi, who has never hesitated to answer a question, Bird’s impact on the game is immeasurable when it comes to for looking at a 20-year legacy, even if he doesn’t admit it.
“Of course, I’m sad, it’s a bit like mourning, knowing that I will miss it, but I want to say that I’m not sorry … I feel great in my career, the people I met, the things we’ve all achieved. It’s kind of a summary of this, and I’m excited about the next chapter – like I said, I can start this new life, “Byrd said.
Bird not only proved that sometimes you can beat the test of time as an athlete – she also proved that investing in women’s basketball is worth it.