Has Sue Bird Left the Door Open For One More Year After 'One More Year'?

Has Sue Bird Left the Door Open For One More Year After ‘One More Year’?

If it wasn’t for the impassioned pleas of the Seattle faithful, who serenaded her at the conclusion of the Storm’s run in the WNBA Playoffs last fall, Sue Bird wouldn’t be gearing up for a 19th season in the league.

The “One More Year” chant that nearly brought Bird to tears—as pal Diana Taurasi offered emotional support while simultaneously egging on the crowd—carried the 41-year-old, four-time WNBA champion through the grueling offseason workouts required to remain one of the game’s premier point guards. But when you listen to the 12-time All-Star talk about how she’s approaching what’s expected to be the final season of her legendary career, it almost sounds like Bird hasn’t completely shut the door on the idea of ​​one more year after one more year.

“I’m not really leaving the door open as much as I’m… this is probably really unrealistic and I’m probably being delusional, but I really don’t want the whole year to be about me. So here we are,” she says.

Good luck with that, Sue. The WNBA’s all-time leader in assists and one of women’s basketball’s best ambassadors will certainly be the subject of more celebrations and tributes than she’s probably comfortable with. But make no mistake—the No. 1 pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft didn’t come back just to bask in the glory of a well-deserved farewell tour. With the season just six weeks away, Bird’s all about business.

“So you have the enjoyment, the fans, the ‘One More Year’ chant, and then now what’s trickled in is, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to go out with the trophy?’” says Bird. “That wouldn’t be so bad.”

We caught up with the future Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer via Zoom last week to talk about the upcoming WNBA season, the direction the league’s headed, what kind of tributes her college coach, Geno Auriemma, might receive when he decides to retire, and her partnership with Corona. If you’ve watched a basketball game—pro or college—the past few weeks, there’s no way you’ve missed the spot Bird appears in with Devin Booker, Vince Carter, and Christian Laettner.

(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

So you are the creative behind the design for the Corona Fine Life Fridge that someone can win. How’d you make it so unique?
So partnering with Corona has been super fun, as you can see from the ads. Given how the partnership goes, it’s kind of like a vibe of bringing some levity, having some fun at a really stressful time, which is the month of March for athletes, for fans. So dot, dot, dot, my connection with the fridge, and kind of bringing in my love of sneakers, is kind of a really fun way of having a sweepstakes, give away this fridge, obviously throw some Coronas in there, which is the point of a fridge. But it’s also a way to showcase your shoes. It keeps you fresh—it’s something that Kyrie [Irving] came up with and it’s something that I’ve been able to play with with my own shoes. So you’re able to keep your shoes fresh, your Coronas fresh, you get a fridge, you enter the sweepstakes, it could all be yours.

How many pairs of deadstock do you own? Are you a collector or do you wear your sneakers?
Ninety-nine point nine percent of my shoes I’m wearing. I said 99.9 because I have a pair of the Jordan Dior sneakers and I wore them once and haven’t worn them again. Every time I go to wear them, I’m like, “Ehh, what if they get scuffed?” All the other pairs I’m like, “I don’t care.” They’re sneakers. They’re going to get scuffed.

Did you rub it in at all to Devin Booker or Vince Carter while shooting the commercial since you and Christian Laettner have multiple rings from college?
You know, it didn’t come up. I think it’s one of those things where it’s known. You don’t even have to say it. There was an unspoken understanding. I think they knew. They knew. But I will say, just hanging out with those guys, it was really fun just to hear stories, tell my own stories, kind of just talking casually. There were no bragging rights going. It was just really cool to get to know them.

It’s your 19th season coming up. I know you had previously talked about how all the prep and conditioning required to get ready for the season isn’t easy and the chant of “One More Year” from the fans has pushed you through offseason workouts. My question is, now that the season is rapidly approaching, is that still your biggest motivation or has it changed?
It still is the “One More Year.” That’s still a big part of it. In all honesty, the real reason I came back. But as it gets closer, as our roster has become a little more finalized and you see what it’s going to be, the competitor in me is shifting. It’s like two things are happening at the same time: I’m trying to enjoy what will probably be my last year. To be honest, I don’t think any player who is playing in one of their final years should tie winning and success to what their career meant. Like if we lose every game this season, it shouldn’t impact how I feel about my career. To me, that’s a little bit of a trap. So that lane is happening where I don’t want to tie wins and losses to how I feel about the year, but at the same time, in the back of my head, I’m like, I’m trying to win this thing . I’m trying to go out on top. So you have the enjoyment, the fans, the “One More Year” chant, and then now what’s trickled in is, “Wouldn’t it be nice to go out with the trophy?” That wouldn’t be so bad.

But you’re still leaving the door open for a 20th season a little bit?
I’m not really leaving the door open as much as I’m… this is probably really unrealistic and I’m probably being delusional, but I really don’t want the whole year to be about me. So here we are.

After 18 seasons in the WNBA, you’ve seen the league go through a ton of change. I don’t want to ask you how far it’s come. I want to ask what direction you think the league’s headed?
You can already see over the last few years where it’s heading. In us having to call out the lack of media coverage, the lack of corporate sponsors, you can tell society’s kind of shifting in that way. What you’re seeing is we’re getting more media coverage, we’re getting more corporate sponsors, we’re getting more partnerships with brands like Corona. It changes people’s perceptions about what women’s basketball is. I think optics play a huge role in sports in our country and how people view them. And for a long time, for whatever reason, the optics around women’s basketball was negative or that it was boring or that it wasn’t exciting. And now that’s starting to shift and I think that’s going to take us to another level and the more support we get from the media and corporate sponsorships the growth is going to continue and when you see that, to me, is it changes how younger generations look at us. And pretty soon, those younger generations are going to be the 20 and 30 year olds are going to be the ones making decisions in their households. And that’s when things really, truly shift.

Have to get in a UConn question while we have you. I was talking to Kenny Smith about the whole Coach K-UNC no tribute controversy. Does Geno Auriemma get special tributes from Big East schools when he decides he’s done?
Probably not. I can tell you the one—well, they’re not in the Big East anymore, but I can tell you the one that won’t and it’s Notre Dame, that’s for sure. But this is sports. This is what it is. You respect people but it doesn’t mean you like ’em. Coach Auriemma does have some friends in the Big East, but even then I don’t know if the schools are going to go out of their way to honor him.

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