Sue Bird commands floor once more as Storm retire her No. 10

Jun 11, 2023, 7:24 PM | Updated: Jun 12, 2023, 4:38 pm

Seattle Storm Sue Bird...

Sue Bird watches her retired jersey rise to the rafters at Climate Pledge Arena. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

SEATTLE (AP) — For more than two hours, Sue Bird was back commanding the middle of the court.

At times funny, at times emotional, Bird’s 21-year career received a ceremony that matched the longevity of her basketball exploits when the Seattle Storm retired the No. 10 she wore during her WNBA career on Sunday.

Photo Gallery: Sue Bird raises flag at Space Needle ahead of jersey retirement

The event pushed nearly three hours in total length with Bird’s speech taking up more than half that amount. But it was the comprehensive closure that never materialized after Bird’s career ended in the 2022 WNBA playoffs.

“I didn’t anticipate it being that long, but the truth is I don’t know that I could have taken anything out,” Bird said afterward. “That’s what this has meant to me. It was just so important for me to say names and to point people out and to tell them what they’ve meant.”

From Bird’s fiancée Megan Rapinoe and hip-hop star Macklemore serving as emcee’s, to former teammates Swin Cash and Lauren Jackson giving heartfelt speeches, the event was Seattle’s opportunity to embrace Bird once more.

And for Bird to share her thanks to former coaches, teammates, family, friends and fans who watched her win four WNBA titles and five Olympic gold medals and become the standard by which all other point guards are judged.

“That’s what has made this all so wonderful. To feel seen and safe here, whether it was with the ball in my hands on the floor, or me out in the community, I could always be my ever-evolving self,” Bird said toward the conclusion of her speech. “As I’ve said, Seattle wasn’t always home, but that’s exactly what it became.”

Bird’s number was the second retired by the franchise, joining Jackson’s No. 15 hanging in the rafters of Climate Pledge Arena. It was a weekend of celebration that started with a flag honoring Bird’s No. 10 being raised to the top of the Space Needle in the rain on Thursday and ended with Bird back on the court serving as the floor general once more.

The ceremony was scheduled for approximately 45 minutes and lasted nearly four times longer. win over Seattle that preceded the ceremony, most of the building still had seats filled by the time Bird finished.

“That’s very rare that you get to have these types of moments, so it was really special for everyone who spoke to hear what they had to say,” Bird said.

The ceremony was what Bird didn’t get last season when her career ended as the Storm lost in the WNBA semifinals to Las Vegas. Bird was honored after that last chapter of her career came to an abrupt conclusion with the playoff loss, but it didn’t have the closure that was brought by Sunday’s event.

Teammates weaving the entirety of Bird’s career showed up, most notably Jackson who flew in from Australia for the weekend activities.

“She has been nothing short of inspirational to me and everyone else,” Jackson said.

It was at times emotional and had those involved fighting back tears with speeches that stretched far beyond the allotted time. It was also partly a roast, especially when Bird got the microphone and had a chance to touch on the different aspects of her life, career and influences.

There was an interlude where Rapinoe led the crowd in a version of Tina Turner’s “The Best,” and finally the No. 10 hanging above the court.

“Congratulations on, like, arguably the best career anyone has had in the history of any sport. Ever,” Rapinoe said.

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