“My rookie year, I got voted in, and I didn’t really understand it fully,” Sue Bird says. “I remember being in a huddle at one point, and I don’t exactly remember the other starters, but I wanna say it was Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson, Ticha Pinacheiro, Sheryl Swoopes. And I had a moment of ‘Oh, I belong in this group now?’”
Bird’s memory is correct. Back in 2002, she started with those legends and led that year’s All-Star Game in assists, handing out 8 helpers in the West’s 81-76 win.
Now with the WNBA world getting ready to travel to Seattle, where Bird’s been dishing out dimes for her entire Hall of Fame career, she’s played her way into ASG history.
By getting voted into this year’s game, she’s been selected to 10 All-Star games, tying Tamika Catchings for the most ever in the WNBA. Her young teammate, Breanna Stewart, has been named to her first All-Star appearance, and so have nine of the other players who will lace up in Seattle on Saturday. Bird, the ultimate leader and veteran, has advice for the first-timers.
“Usually you just wanna have fun with the All-Star Game,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to play with these other great players. That’s how I felt my first year. I’m sure that’s how they’ll be feeling. You just want to have fun with it. You wanna put on a good show. Stay competitive, but also enjoy. Just enjoy the whole weekend and know that you got selected as an All-Star, and that’s saying something so you should take pride in that.”
At 36-years-old, Bird’s averaging a career-best 6.9 assists per game and shooting 43 percent from three-point land. She and the Storm haven’t been winning all that much, sitting at 9-11, but they’re not out of the playoff race.
Bird’s planning on enjoying the upcoming weekend-long basketball celebration before thinking about the postseason. And once the rest of the W gets up to Seattle, Bird knows they’ll enjoy the city just as much as she does.
“The basketball culture and community here is really one of a kind,” Bird says. “I’m from New York, I don’t say that lightly. The city isn’t quite as big as a New York, but it produces great basketball players. And not only that. Whether it’s the University of Washington, the defunct Sonics and then with us, there’s so many great players that have come through here. Whether you’re from Seattle or not, you’ve made your mark on the city and it really has made for this special, special community. From a basketball standpoint, the fans know good basketball. They’re gonna be cheering, they’re gonna be loud. And I think the community, in general, is really excited for this All-Star Game.”
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The 2017 WNBA All-Star Game takes place on Saturday, July 22 at 3:30 ET on ABC