Home Miami jersey Sue Bird kicks off her farewell tour with an emotional victory in New York

Sue Bird kicks off her farewell tour with an emotional victory in New York

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Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird, center, poses for a photo with former Storm teammates New York Liberty forward Natasha Howard, left, and guard Sami Whitcomb during a presentation before a game of WNBA basketball between Liberty and Storm, Sunday, June 19.  2022, in New York.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird, center, poses for a photo with former Storm teammates New York Liberty forward Natasha Howard, left, and guard Sami Whitcomb during a presentation before a game of WNBA basketball between Liberty and Storm, Sunday, June 19. 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

PA

Almost an hour after playing her last regular season game in New York, Sue Bird was still soaking up the moment.

The all-time WNBA leader was on the court signing autographs and taking photos with the hundreds of family and friends who had come to Barclays Center to see her perform one last time in her hometown.

Bird announced Thursday in Connecticut that this would be his last season playing in the WNBA. The first stop on his retirement tour was fittingly New York. She will have one more game in Connecticut, where she played in college, next month. While he still has a bunch of finals on the road this season, none will come close to the thrill of playing in New York.

Bird says she’s shed a lot of tears, good and bad, over the past few days. But Sunday was a holiday in New York.

“It was just about soaking it all up and enjoying the moment,” said the five-time Olympic gold medalist. “I really couldn’t have written that any better.”

The Liberty treated Bird like she was one of their own from the start of the day. The team wore shirts that read, “Thank you Sue, Love New York,” and the organization released a pregame tribute video that featured clips of Bird throughout his career, as well as tributes from Billie Jean King, CC Sabathia and Bird’s fiancée Megan Rapinoe The team gave him a jersey and jacket that featured all of New York’s sports teams.

The pre-game festivities would normally be given to one of their own and not an opposing player who has never played in New York. But it would have been hard not to honor the beloved New York native, who said after the game that she planned to split her time between Seattle and New York after she finished playing this year. She plans to buy subscriptions for the Liberty.

While Bird will have played her entire 21-year career in Seattle, she is a New Yorker at heart, born and raised on Long Island – about 30 miles from Sunday’s game.

His mother, Nancy, walked into the game wearing a black t-shirt with an image printed from Bird’s recent Slam magazine cover. The pair had come to many NBA basketball games when Bird was a kid, including seeing Michael Jordan.

Now she saw her daughter playing near her home for the last time.

“To see what she’s accomplished, I can’t say enough about her,” Bird’s proud mom said. “It’s amazing, she’s always loved sports.”

Bird was greeted with a long standing ovation before the game from the nearly 7,000 fans, many of whom wore Bird jerseys from his days at UConn, Seattle and USA Basketball.

“When someone thinks of the WNBA, they think of Sue Bird and what she means to the sport,” said New York guard Sabrina Ionescu. “She transcended it. What she means to absolutely everyone outside of sport is something you really can’t put into words. So (it was) really cool to see how many people were here tonight supporting her – her career – and what she’s done.

Ionescu is definitely a big part of the WNBA’s present and future, and she did everything she could to make New York win, but the Liberty failed in large part because of Bird, who finished with 11 dots.

With the game still somewhat uncertain in the final minute, Bird put it away by sinking a 3-pointer that sealed the Storm’s 81-72 victory. She held her follow-up to the great admiration of the crowd, who gave her a standing ovation as she exited the game.

“Normally I’m not great at scoring, but that 3-pointer at the end I will remember forever,” Bird said. “It sounded pretty much like a fairy tale. So I’ll take it.

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