Sue Bird starts farewell tour with emotional win in New York

Almost an hour after her last game of the regular season in New York, Sue Bird was still lost in the moment.

NEW YORK (AP) — Almost an hour after her last game of the regular season in New York, Sue Bird was still in the moment.

The WNBA’s all-time assistant was on the court to sign autographs and take photos with the 100-odd family and friends who had come to the Barclays Center to see them play one last time in their hometown.

Bird announced Thursday in Connecticut that this would be her final season in the WNBA. Fittingly, the first stop on her retirement tour was New York. She will have another play next month in Connecticut, where she starred in college. Although she still has a few away finals ahead of her this season, none will match the emotion of playing in New York.

Bird says she’s shed a lot of tears, both good and bad, over the past few days. But Sunday was a day to celebrate in New York.

“It was really just about soaking it all up and enjoying the moment,” said the five-time Olympic champion. “I really couldn’t have written it better.”

Right from the start, Liberty treated Bird as if she were one of their own. The team wore shirts that said; “Thank you, Sue, Love New York., and the organization played a pre-game video tribute featuring clips of Bird throughout her career, as well as tributes from Billie Jean King, CC Sabathia and Bird’s fiancé, Megan Rapinoe. The team gave her a jersey and jacket that featured every New York sports team.

The pre-game celebrations would normally be given to one of their own rather than an opposing player who had never played in New York. But it would have been hard not to honor the beloved New York native, who said after the game she plans to split time between Seattle and New York after she finishes playing this year. She plans to get season tickets on the Liberty.

While Bird will have played her entire 21-year career in Seattle, she is a New Yorker at heart, born and raised on Long Island — about 30 miles from Sunday’s game.

Her mother, Nancy, traveled to the game wearing a black t-shirt with a picture of Bird’s current Slam cover printed on it. The couple had come to many NBA basketball games when Bird was a kid, including Michael Jordan.

This was the last time she saw her daughter playing near her home.

“I can’t say enough about her to see what she’s accomplished,” said Bird’s proud mother. “It’s amazing, she’s always loved the sport.”

Bird received a long ovation before the game from the approximately 7,000 fans, many of whom were wearing Bird jerseys from their UConn, Seattle and USA Basketball days.

“When anyone thinks of the WNBA, they think of Sue Bird and what she means to the sport,” said New York Guard Sabrina Ionescu. “She exceeded it. What she really means to everyone outside of sport is something that really cannot be put into words. So it was really cool to see how many people were here tonight to support her – her career. and what she did.”

Ionescu definitely plays a big part in the present and future of the WNBA, and she did everything she could to give New York the win, but the Liberty succumbed in no small part to Bird, who finished with 11 points.

With play still a little iffy in the last minute, she tucked it away and sunk a 3-pointer that sealed the 81-72 win for the Storm. Then she left the game for the last time after a time-out.

“I’m not usually a big scorer, but the 3-pointer at the end is something I’ll always remember,” Bird said. “It felt pretty much like a fairy tale. So I’ll take it.” Sue Bird starts farewell tour with emotional win in New York

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