Three short words from Sue Bird‘s Instagram Friday answered one of the biggest questions of the WNBA’s 2022 offseason: Would the legendary Seattle Storm star return for a 19th WNBA season at age 41?
On Friday morning, Bird posted a video of fans chanting “One more year” during her ESPN interview after last season’s playoff loss to the Phoenix Mercury. Bird’s caption: “Ok. Let’s gooooo.”
Back in September, Bird was noncommittal about her future in the WNBA for the first time. Although retirement has been a topic with Bird for years, never before had the league’s all-time assists leader been uncertain about whether she’d continue playing if physically able to do so.
“I’ve been really trying to push away those thoughts,” Bird told reporters after the game. “The minute I even let myself think about it, it makes me want to cry. This is the first offseason where I feel like I need to weigh it. Usually, I’m like, ‘Nope, one more year if I feel good, I’ll be there.’
“This is the first time where I’m really going to have to sit back, see how I feel, weigh some things. I know for sure that I want to let the emotion of the season die down. I don’t want to make some emotional decision.”
Bird did acknowledge a desire to complete her career at Climate Pledge Arena, the Storm’s new home in Seattle after a full renovation to KeyArena, where the team played through 2018. While renovations were completed, the Storm played last season at Angel of the Winds Arena in nearby Everett.
In October, Bird was one of the featured guests as the NHL’s expansion Seattle Kraken played their inaugural game at Climate Pledge Arena. Two days later, Bird referenced that experience as part of her decision-making process when she was a guest on ESPN’s ManningCast during a Seahawks Monday Night Football game.
“We just opened a new arena here in Seattle,” Bird said, “and I happened to be in there for the opening of the Kraken game. And … it was tempting. The thoughts of playing there were very tempting. I’ll leave you with that.”
The team’s return to uptown Seattle brings Bird’s career full circle. She played her first WNBA game at KeyArena as the No. 1 overall pick of the 2002 draft by the Storm. Bird has helped the franchise win four championships, most recently during the 2020 “Wubble” season in Bradenton, Florida, as well as last year’s inaugural Commissioner’s Cup.
At age 40, Bird remained one of the WNBA’s premier point guards in 2021, making her record 12th All-Star appearance and averaging 10.0 points and 5.3 assists while playing in 30 of Seattle’s 32 games during the regular season. She also led the USA women’s national team to a gold in the Tokyo Olympics, a record-setting fifth basketball gold medal for her and teammate Diana Taurasi.
Although the Storm participated in Friday’s announcement on social media, Bird is technically an unrestricted free agent. Teams and players cannot begin negotiating new contracts until Jan. 15 and those contracts can’t officially be signed until Feb. 1.
Fellow Seattle All-Stars Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart will both also be unrestricted free agents unless the team opts to use the core designation on one of them. Bird is ineligible for the core designation because she has already been a core player the maximum of two times.