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As Sue Bird’s career nears its end, her true impact comes into focus

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SEATTLE — Last week, Sue Bird thought about authenticity after watching Serena Williams face a similar final decision looming. From teenage gray-haired beads to her 40-year-old mother’s diamond-encrusted Nikes, Williams has always been original and comfortable, and Bird is in awe of Williams. It took decades for her bard to grow into herself.

There is no textbook way of dealing with celebrities. However, there is only one path to healthy fame. it is your own. Discovering it challenges people to live up to the public’s expectations.When Williams declared ‘I’m just Serena’ at the US Openit was more a mission statement than a mic drop.

And since the past five years have passed, Tori came out as gay And I started using my influence to amplify whatever social issues were on my mind. Now I can say that I am just Sue.

On Tuesday night, she and the Seattle Storm will try to extend her outstanding basketball career. They brought Bird to her 2-1 victory over her ace in Las Vegas in her WNBA semifinal series of thrilling best-of-fives. one loss from retirementThe past two and a half months have been filled with celebration and nostalgia, but today she feels the same sense of urgency that Williams probably felt during her tennis breakup. Even if this is the end for Bird, her appreciation will outlast the closure.

Her enduring star power cannot be measured solely by her accumulation, all her trophies, stats and accolades. You have to see what she shed too. Fear, masks, and submission to perception are long gone. She is famous for her athleticism, her boldness and her empathy. As Bird grew up, the greatest point guard in women’s basketball history, known for dishing on others, figured out how to give herself assists.

“There is power in who I am,” Byrd said. “It’s just for me personally. I forget everyone else. I feel good about it. I sleep better at night.”

Bird’s life story thus far embodies the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson. She knew she was gay during her college days in Connecticut, but she was already portrayed as her girl-next-door with her trademark ponytail and natural, seductive charm. So she smiled for the camera and respected her privacy.

Anyone who knew Bird at any point in her life wouldn’t believe she was fake. She is too warm and personable. But she was protected. She rarely said anything controversial. When she did, she quickly made her amends. In 2003, during her second season with the Storm, Byrd agreed to bet with her radio host of male sports on her assists-to-turnover ratio. Otherwise she will be beaten.She caused a ruckus. Byrd called off her bet, apologized, and expressed her embarrassment. While she continued to be her insightful and media compliant, she perfected her ability to appear open yet reserved.

“It’s been interesting to have a public persona in terms of what people are looking at on the court, a glimpse of who I am as a player and maybe who I am as a person. , I also know that I was hiding something in myself…”I was hiding my sexuality, but I didn’t really show that side of myself because, Because it’s the person you love and the person you spend your time and life with. There was a moment when it was time to do

Byrd progressed from his twenties to his thirties. She won and won and won. At the University of Connecticut she won two college titles. 4 championships in the Storm. 5 Olympic gold medals. She also fell in love with her now-fiancé, football superstar Megan Rapinoe. In 2017, she let the world know she was gay. By 2020, she was helping her colleagues in her WNBA Mutiny Against Former Atlanta Dream Co-Owner Kelly Leffler By endorsing the Reverend Raphael G. Warnock’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat in Georgia. Warnock won in the end. Leffler, who was at odds with a WNBA player over his decision to protest the police killing, later sold Dream.

The League has found its voice and recognized its power. Byrd was a pioneer of this shift, the white woman most supportive of personal endeavours, for black women. But the women who play these games are women battling constant sexism and marginalization, and they understand the need for synergy. The bird came into its own at just the right time. Of her 26 seasons in the WNBA she spent 21 of her points points her guard has grown with the sport.

“We’re a league that’s like, ‘This is who we are,'” Byrd said. “We finally embraced it. We were trying so hard. We were throwing things at walls, trying to survive and see what would stick. We were like, ‘Oh. Oh, we have to be prettier, maybe more fans will go crazy for it. It got to the point where you have to be yourself, and people really like you or hate you, but at least it’s real.”

A few weeks ago, after the final regular season game in Seattle, Bird addressed a record crowd of 18,100 at the new Climate Pledge Arena. It was the most intimate five-minute conversation one could have with the masses.In her remarks, she mentioned Wild Rose, her 37-year-old lesbian bar in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. did. Byrd first visited Rose early in her career. That night, a fan of her Storm approached her, wondering if she was in the right place.Bard pretended to be naive, but she knew where she was. she was at home

Referring to Wild Rose, Byrd could feel “about 10,000” people cheering. did. She grew up in Syosset, New York, attended high school at Christ the King in Queens, and attended college at U-Conn. But she became a Seattle sports facility. She grew up in a state where leagues, cities and bars are still kicking in despite her struggles during the pandemic.

“There was a sense of acceptance,” Byrd said. “And also a sense of protection.”

Wildrose co-owner Martha Manning was visiting family on the East Coast and missed Bird’s regular season finale. Her phone was ringing with her texts all afternoon.

“We love Sue,” said Manning. “Every time she comes to visit, I have never seen her turn anyone away. She is almost certainly accessible. Sometimes I don’t know if I should interfere, but she never cares.” It doesn’t look like there is.”

Birds notice everything. Her vision extends far beyond the basketball court. She walks past her on the street and shares a brief exchange, which she mentions a few days later. You can ask a tortuous question. Former Storm coach Brian Agler, who won a championship with the Birds in 2010, likes to tell the story of his practice interactions with point guards. I told him it was bad.

“I think I’m a pound or two heavier,” Bird told Agler.

The coach was astonished. he asked with a laugh.

Imagine how she must have felt to have that kind of self-awareness, knowing that she had more of herself to share. It took her nearly 36 years to do so. She is now 41 and an aging athlete, but she is also a basketball coach, general manager, television personality, entrepreneur, activist, motivational speaker, life coach, and more. , the rest of her life is full of possibilities. But what she does isn’t as important as who she is.

“I wish I had done it sooner,” Byrd said of himself. But the lesson to be learned is that the sooner the better.The sooner you become your true self, the better things feel.”

Bird adapted to fame, and she adapted fame to her. She’s amassed over 20 years’ worth of hardware, but she’s trying to keep winning and playing, so she doesn’t have to worry about how she’ll be remembered. She’s just Sue. That title is irreplaceable and robust and the greatest achievement.

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