Roughly 20 years ago, a young woman began dominating on the court for the UConn Huskies. She hailed from a Long Island hamlet known as Syosset. And she was great under the guidance of legendary head coach Geno Auriemma.
Auriemma once called this bright face, standing at 5’9”, as the best point guard in the world. He’s probably right.
Fast forward to 2020 and Sue Bird is a four-time WNBA champion, setting the standard for professional ballers across the globe, both in men’s and women’s competition. Bird just secured her fourth title with the Seattle Storm, a year after missing an entire season due to knee surgery.
At 40 years old, Bird showed exactly what it means to be a Long Islander during the shortened WNBA season. Her perseverance and leadership ability on the court is second to none. She continues to define leadership on the court, rallying her teammates through the WNBA bubble in Florida amid a global pandemic.
“Bubble life is weird and you can’t get away from basketball,” Bird said in an ESPN interview on Oct. 7 after winning her fourth championship. “When we won, it was bizarre. There was no noise. It’s a strange experience.”
At a time when advocacy for equal pay is at an all-time high, Bird’s voice is one needs to be heard. When LeBron James also won his fourth basketball championship, the gender pay gap was clear, with James earning $30 million more than Bird. While the WNBA doesn’t gross nearly the same amount of money as the NBA, the conversation is continuing to stir as to what can be done.
Bird is also a four-time Olympic gold medalist with Team USA and that might turn into five if she joins the squad in Tokyo next year at a remarkable 41 years of age.
“For me, personally, I’m a little bit of a throwback because I’m not out there to score all the time,” she said. “I’m all about getting my teammates involved and getting them in successful positions. My experience now puts me at a different level. I have this coach-player thing going.”
It’s quite remarkable that Bird, even after a major surgery, is showing no signs of retiring or even losing her ability on the court. Bird hit for a career-high 52.9 percent from 2-point range this year and made 46.9 percent of her 3-point shots. Overall, she shot a career-best 49.4 percent from the field.
Bird is the ultimate person for any young athlete to look up to and Long Islanders should aspire to be like her, both in and outside of arenas.