Seattle showed up for its four-time WNBA champion potentially one last time.
A record 18,100 fans turned out for the Climate Pledge Arena, many of whom arrived hours before kickoff, to watch Sue Bird play her final regular season game in Seattle on Sunday. It’s a franchise record and a record for a sporting event at the arenawhich also hosts the NHL’s Seattle Kraken and the Seattle University men’s basketball team.
Bird, 41, has spent her entire career in Seattle since the franchise drafted her No. 1 overall in 2002. The UConn star has been with the franchise for all but two of its 23 seasons. The arena was full of Bird merchandise, but the line anyway for more birds merch was long. She has won four WNBA championships, all in different decades, and announced last month that she would effectively retire.
In the last playoffs, the crowd’s chant of “one more year” contributed to his comeback. This time they bellowed”Thank you Sueas Bird wrapped up his ESPN postgame interview with sideline reporter Holly Rowe.
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell officially declared Sue Bird Day in Seattle ahead of the game. The league’s all-time leader in assists was honored with a pre-match ceremony and gifted a special GOAT ring while her teammates wore honorary GOAT T-shirts celebrating their leader.
One of the sweetest moments of the day came when a young fan gave her a flower as Bird prepared to kick in the ball in the first quarter. It quickly made the rounds on social media.
“Can you hold it for me,” Bird, who was mic per ESPN, asked him as he handed it back.
Everything was heightened in Seattle, from the team’s march to the field to what could be the last time Bird runs on his behalf in front of the home crowd.
The top four teams host the first two games of the first-round best-of-three series. But if the Storm fall below the fourth seed and can’t force a Game 3, they won’t make it home in the playoffs.
There is a chance that if the Storm does not play Climate Pledge again before 2023, it will be very different. Breanna Stewart is an unrestricted free agent after signing a one-year contract last offseason. Only Jewell Loyd and Mercedes Russell, who hasn’t played this year due to injury, have signed deals.
Back in the present, Bird wasted no time getting into the scoresheet. She hit a 14ft elbow pull jumper less than three minutes into the competition on an assist from Breanna Stewart. Every shot and assist was met with roars from the packed house.
Bird finished with nine points (4 of 9), six assists, four rebounds and one steal in the 89-81 loss. The Storm didn’t give up the No. 4 seed, which hosts the first two games of the first-round best-of-three series, as the No. 5 Mystics lost in the process. The Mystics are now half a game behind Seattle.
She didn’t have a speech scheduled and wasn’t going to speak for long, according to ESPN. But in the end, she delivered a long, endearing speech to the sold-out crowd that watched her for two decades.
She came out throwing shoes at fans. And she reminded them that she would see everyone in the playoffs.