With Sue Bird’s career coming to an end, her true influence has become the focus

Suspension

Seattle – Last week, after Sue Bird watched Serena Williams face a similar inevitability looming, I thought about authenticity. From teenage white hair beads to diamond-encrusted Nikes as a 40-year-old mom, Williams has always been original and comfortable. Baird in awe of Williams. It took Bird decades to grow into herself.

There is no written way to deal with celebrities. However, there is only one path to healthy fame – yours – and discovering it challenges people not to lose themselves in the public’s expectations. When Williams announced to her “I’m just Serena” In the US OpenIt was more of a mission statement than a low mic.

And after the past five years, since then Bird came out as gay And she began to use her influence to amplify every social issue in her mind, she could now say only Sue.

On Tuesday evening, she and Seattle Storm will try to extend their distinguished basketball career. They trail the Las Vegas Acces 2-1 in a thrilling streak of the WNBA’s top-five into the semifinals, bringing Byrd One loss from retirement. The past two and a half months have been filled with celebration and nostalgia, but today she feels the same urgency as Williams in what was most likely her farewell to tennis. Even if this is for Baird, the estimate will hold more than closing.

Her lasting star strength can’t be measured just by accumulating, all trophies, stats, and accolades. You should look at what she spilled, too. Any fear, any mask, any submission to perception are long gone. She is celebrated for her sportiness, daring and compassion. As Bird grew, the greatest goalkeeper in women’s basketball history, known for her courtship to others, discovered how to help herself.

“There is strength in who I am,” Baird said. “This is just for me personally. I forget everyone. I feel good about it. I go to bed at night and I feel good about it.”

The arc of Bird’s life so far embodies the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Being yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” She knew she was gay while in college in Connecticut, but she had already been painted as the girl next door, with her trademark ponytail and natural glamorous charm. So I smiled for the cameras and maintained privacy.

No one knows Bird, at what point in her life, would consider her a fake; It is very warm and elegant. But she was under guard. She rarely said anything controversial. When she did, she made up quickly. In 2003, during her second season with Storm, Bird agreed to bet with a male sports radio host about the assist-to-turn ratio: if it was high enough, the host would buy season tickets. If not, you will be hit. cause a stir. Bird called off the bet, apologized and expressed his embarrassment. She has remained insightful and compliant with the media, but has perfected her ability to hold back while still appearing open-minded.

“It was interesting to have a public profile in terms of what people saw on the field and who I was as a player and maybe a glimpse into who I am as a person, but I know I was also hiding something inside of me,” Byrd said. “I was hiding my sexuality, not really showing that side of myself. And that’s a huge part of who you are, because it’s who you love and who you’re going to spend your time and life with. For me, I was growing up as a basketball player and I felt in the early stages that I wasn’t really my true self. Then it was I have that moment where it’s time to do it.”

Byrd progressed from her twenties to her thirties. She won, she won, she won. Two college degrees with Connecticut. Four tournaments with Storm. Five Olympic gold medals. She also fell in love with soccer star Megan Rapinoe, her now fiancée. In 2017, she let the world know that she is gay. By 2020, she was helping her WNBA teammates Revolt against Kelly Loeffler, co-owner of the Atlanta Dream By supporting the candidacy of Reverend Raphael J. Warnock for a seat in the US Senate in Georgia. Warnock ended up winning. Loeffler, who was at odds with the WNBA players over their decision to protest police lethality, later sold the Dream.

The Association has found its voice and realized its strength. Bird was a vanguard in this transformation, a white woman supporting a personal effort for black women. In men’s sports, the black athlete continues to wait for more white stars to give up their privilege and stand with them. But the women who play these games—who fight persistent sexism and marginalization—understand the need for synergy. Baird came on her own at a good time. The base, which has been around for 21 of the WNBA’s 26 seasons, has grown with the sport.

“Our league is like, ‘This is who we are,'” Baird said. ‘We finally embraced that. We were just trying hard. We’d throw things at the wall, trying to survive, to see what could stick. We were trying to do it in a society where we thought, “Oh, we have to put the female side first. Oh, we have to be nice, and maybe more fans get into it. And then it was like, ‘No, you just have to be yourself. And people will love you’.” really or hate you. But at least it’s real.”

A few weeks ago, after her last game of the regular season in Seattle, Bird addressed a record crowd of 18,100 at the new Climate Pledge. It was the most intimate five-minute conversation anyone could have with a crowd. During her observations, Wildrose, a 37-year-old lesbian bar in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, is mentioned among the oldest of its kind on the West Coast. Bird first visited the rose, as regulars call it, early in her career. A Storm fan approached her that night and wondered if she was in the right place. Bird pretended to be naive, but she knew where she was. She was at home.

When referring to Wildrose, Bird can sense that “about 10,000” people are cheering. She told the story to emphasize the influence of Seattle on her. I grew up in Syosset, New York, went to high school at Christ the King in Queens and stayed close to college at U-Conn. But it became a sports institution in Seattle. I grew up with a league, town, and pub that is still operating despite the struggles during the pandemic.

“There was a sense of acceptance,” Baird said. “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 had been buzzing with text messages all afternoon.

“We just love Sue,” Manning said. “Whenever she visits, I’ve never seen her turn anyone away. She’s almost accessible by mistake. Sometimes, we don’t know if we should go and make an intervention, but she never seems upset.”

A bird notices everything. Its vision extends far beyond the basketball court. You can walk beside her on the street, share the shortest interaction, and you’ll remember it a few days later. You ask a curvy question, and she listens carefully so she can decide exactly what you want to know. Former Storm coach Brian Agler, who won a championship with Bird in 2010, loves to tell the story of a training interaction with the base. She told him she wasn’t feeling well.

“I think I’m a pound or two heavyweight,” Baird told Lagler.

The coach was surprised. He laughed and asked, “Do you know when you’re a heavy weight or two?”

With that kind of self-awareness, imagine how it felt to know she had more of herself to share. It took almost 36 years for her to fully trust, not only in the public but in herself as well. She’s 41 years old now, and while that makes her an old athlete, the rest of her life is full of possibilities: basketball coach, general manager, television personality, entrepreneur, activist, motivational speaker, and life coach. But what you do doesn’t matter as much as it is.

“I wish I’d done that sooner,” Bird said of being herself. “The timing wasn’t right. And that’s fine too. I feel that if you’re someone who might be in a similar situation, the timing should work for you. But the lesson to learn is that the sooner, the better. The more you are, the more you are.” Things feel better.”

Bird adapted to fame, and then made fame adapt to it. You’ve amassed more than two decades’ worth of hardware, but while you’re trying to keep winning and playing, you don’t have to worry about how to remember it. It’s just soo. This title, priceless and powerful, is the greatest achievement.

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