Earlier this week, Seattle Storm legend Sue Bird announced that she will retire at the end of the season. While that has long been expected, Bird wanted to make it official prior to the Storm's matchup with the New York Liberty on Sunday. Barring a playoff meeting between the two teams, this would be her final game in her native state.
If that was indeed the end for Bird in New York, she went out in style. With dozens of friends and family members in attendance, Bird finished with 11 points, three rebounds and four assists to help the Storm beat the Liberty, 81-72, for their fifth win in six games.
The sending-off party started with a three-minute pre-game tribute video from the Liberty, which featured clips of Bird throughout her career and messages from athletes across the sporting world, including Nancy Lieberman, Billie Jean King, Steve Nash and her fiancee, U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe.
The Liberty players also wore special warm-up shirts honoring Bird, and presented her with a custom jacket just before tip off.
Once the game got underway, the fans were treated to an entertaining matchup that was within a few possessions for nearly the entire game. Fittingly, Bird closed the show with a 3-pointer that caught every single part of the rim before dropping through the net.
"To all the fans that came out, thank you so much. I've got people in here that I've known my whole life," Bird said. "Friends, family, old friends, new friends, some homies. It's really been amazing. I'm so glad I was able to hit my final shot in my final game in New York."
As the final seconds ticked away, the crowd inside Barclays Center gave Bird a standing ovation, which she acknowledged with a salute and a "Thank you."
"Unbelievable. I want to thank the New York Liberty," Bird said. "They really showed me a lot of love, getting my family tickets, the team wore 'Thank you Sue' shirts to warm-up, that took me totally by surprise.
"This is where I grew up. Anybody knows who's from New York. It teaches you a lot about basketball. New York basketball is the best. I tried to uphold my side of it, and now it's time to pass the torch."