Sue Bird’s subsequent 25 years

The 19-year-old who had simply scored 19 factors to guide her group to the nationwide championship sport sat within the locker room showing neither nervous nor overconfident. She simply regarded prepared.

Sue Chicken wasn’t new to the highlight: She had performed for highschool powerhouse Christ The King in New York Metropolis and was a sophomore for the UConn Huskies, though she had misplaced most of her freshman season to a knee harm. However the 2000 ladies’s Ultimate 4 was her largest stage but: in Huskies coach Geno Auriemma’s Philadelphia hometown with a title-game matchup between UConn and the Tennessee Woman Vols when their rivalry was at a zenith.

As a media throng enveloped Chicken to ask her to place all of it in perspective after UConn’s semifinal win, she did simply that. So effectively, the truth is, {that a} reporter summed up the emotions of others strolling away: “Whatever ‘it’ is, that kid has got it.”

She nonetheless does. If that was “how it started,” that is “how it’s going”: Chicken is in her nineteenth and ultimate WNBA season with the Seattle Storm, a future Corridor of Famer in search of a fifth league title to match her 5 Olympic gold medals. She is the league’s all-time chief in assists (3,202) and video games performed (575, not counting 54 within the playoffs). This week, she is going to play her ultimate two regular-season video games in Seattle, on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET, NBA TV) and Sunday (3 p.m. ET, ABC).

However Chicken will not disappear. If something, she may turn out to be a good bigger presence within the sports activities world after her enjoying profession. She just isn’t a ride-off-into-the-sunset sort. Whereas she is going to take a while to relaxation, loosen up and replicate, there are lots of issues she will and can pursue. That is likely to be group administration and possession, or in teaching, broadcasting and media. Trend and product endorsement? Social activism? Doubtless, it may very well be a mix of all the above, and in addition issues she hasn’t found but.

“There are no limits,” Auriemma stated. “There are no boundaries that are going to prevent Sue from being successful in whatever endeavor she chooses — whether that’s within sports or outside the sports world.

“There is a large push now that I believe she’s on the forefront of, amongst others, in bringing much more consideration, recognition, help and appreciation for girls generally, and ladies in sports activities particularly.”

As Bird’s career winds down, it’s a celebration for that increasingly rare athlete who is linked to one franchise: Her entire WNBA career has been with Seattle, where she is on the city’s mythical sports “Rushmore.” Tears will be shed and the applause will crescendo as she finishes her final moments in a Storm jersey, whenever that is.

And then? Bird will be “younger” again, starting in a world beyond that of a professional athlete.

“I’ve 100% internalized being ‘previous’ for the final a number of years,” said Bird, who turns 42 in October. “I have been the oldest participant within the league since 2017, continually requested about it. You may’t ignore it. I do know being in my 40s just isn’t a spring rooster by any means. However within the grand scheme of issues, I’ve a complete life to stay and a lot to do.”

“I wish to do issues in a method that grows the pie for everyone. I really feel actually enthusiastic about that, given my expertise as a feminine athlete preventing for scraps. I do not need that to be the case for the subsequent technology.”

Sue Chicken

When Chicken stopped enjoying in Russia after the 2014 abroad season, she began spending her WNBA offseasons pursuing different issues. She was an analyst for girls’s school basketball video games, labored within the Denver Nuggets entrance workplace, did public talking and helped launch a multimedia and commerce firm, TOGETHXR, with fellow athletes Alex Morgan, Chloe Kim and Simone Manuel.

“I started out just dipping my toe in some waters,” Chicken stated. “I didn’t want to be the 42-year-old intern who didn’t know anything. I wanted to learn before I retired from playing. Staying involved in basketball and sports is really important to me. That could mean a lot of different things.”

Here is a take a look at what may lie forward for Chicken after she performs her ultimate WNBA sport.

A future in administration, possession

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Natasha Cloud cannot get the 3-pointer to fall because the Storm seize the win and clinch a playoff spot.

Chicken was on court docket as KeyArena swelled with a cacophony of joyful yells and thunderstix because the Storm received its first of 4 WNBA titles in 2004. She was there in 2008 when Seattle misplaced the Sonics. She is there now after a $1 billion-plus renovation reworked the constructing into state-of-the-art Local weather Pledge Area, which can be dwelling to the NHL’s Seattle Kraken.

The WNBA was at its peak of 16 groups in Bird’s 2002 rookie season. She has seen six franchises fold, three relocate (two of them doing so twice) and two enlargement groups be a part of the league. She has been a part of 4 collective bargaining agreements between the WNBA and the gamers union, the WNBPA.

Chicken has noticed how franchises and leagues work and the way they do not. She acknowledges the complexities of infrastructure, and that negotiation means give-and-take. She is aware of that progress and loss are a part of enterprise, {and professional} sports activities are at their core simply that: enterprise. However in addition they may be a lot extra to cities, areas and nations.

Thus, involvement in group administration and possession could also be a part of Bird’s future. Actually, it already is: In July, Chicken joined an possession group for the Nationwide Ladies’s Soccer League’s NJ/NY Gotham FC, the place she is anticipated to have a major advisory position.

Bird’s time with the Nuggets gave her larger perception into the participant analysis and growth facet of sports activities, too. She frolicked with former Nuggets executives Tim Connelly and Arturas Karnisovas, together with present Denver common supervisor Calvin Sales space.

“It was the guys on the staff who build the roster,” Chicken stated. “I would sit in on all their meetings, whether it was about the current roster, the future, trade scenarios. You start getting into the salary cap ins and outs. I’d watch film of players and give my opinion.

“I realized a lot that I’ve taken with me to the WNBA, and it confirmed up in a number of the CBA conversations we had, seeing how the NBA does issues and selecting what works for us.”

Ginny Gilder, one of the Storm’s owners, said Bird’s time with CBA negotiating and being involved in some Storm business matters showed she understood both sides of the equation between labor and management, along with what is needed to get deals done.

“She is aware of the right way to pay attention, the right way to ask questions, the right way to negotiate,” Gilder said. “She understands you could’t simply push for what you need. You have acquired to consider what the opposite facet desires, too, and that ‘win-win’ is the best way to do it.”

‘Coach’ Bird?

No one who has watched Bird in even one game would question the point guard’s ability to expertly run a team on the floor. Everything else that is required of a coach — scouting, strategizing, decision-making, communication — fits her skill set as well.

“I like issues to circulate proper,” she said. “It is really the best praise if somebody says that after I’m on the ground, issues simply make sense.”

But does Bird want to coach? For now, she doesn’t, but she won’t shut that door entirely.

“Simply the X’s and O’s, determining methods and schemes, the right way to beat sure groups — that to me might be how folks really feel once they create music,” Bird said. “There’s like a concord to it, and I find it irresistible.

“But there are all kinds of other things in a coach’s life that really don’t interest me. It is so stressful worrying about subbing, players’ mentalities, preparing for games — all the things that cause sleepless nights. And to some extent, I feel like I’ve already lived that life as a player.”

Auriemma coached Chicken at UConn and with the nationwide group in two Olympics and two FIBA World Cups. He thinks the aggressive itch may be scratched in some ways past teaching.

“More former players are now looking to go into the places where you have the most impact, and that’s not as a coach,” he stated. “They will be looking at ownership and front-office jobs.”

However Chicken stated that if she does determine sometime to educate, she would have an interest within the highest-level professionals. Along with her 20 years on the nationwide group, she might current an intriguing choice for USA Basketball. Even when she did not coach elsewhere, maybe she may very well be an assistant and even head coach of the U.S. ladies’s nationwide group. The best way it’s now, school and professional coaches take that on as an additional job.

“That’s an interesting question,” Auriemma stated. “If you’re a former player with enough credibility, you are given a little more leeway in coming into coaching than someone else.”

Auriemma has teased Chicken that he hopes she coaches sooner or later, “Just so she will see how miserable it is. She’ll feel terrible about how bad she made it for everybody who coached her because she always thought she was smarter than us.”

In all seriousness, Chicken has been a coach on the ground for thus lengthy that this would appear a pure development.

“Never say never,” Chicken stated. “But I just don’t know if I’ll ever get into it.”

A path forward in media, endorsements and activism

Chicken acknowledges she hasn’t thought loads about her private branding. However she understands it higher within the final stage of her enjoying profession.

“The first things that come to mind are my confidence and my power, and how I have come into just being myself,” she stated. “Authenticity and being genuine are really the keys.

“We’re all continually on a journey of figuring ourselves out. I am a extremely good instance: I did not even come out as homosexual till I used to be 36, and I really feel like life actually started in that second as a result of I used to be dwelling my fact. I began to see different issues I used to be all for, issues simply sort of mendacity dormant inside me as a result of I used to be a product of society saying to simply match into sure molds.”

Bird is engaged to U.S. women’s national soccer team star Megan Rapinoe, who recently won the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her activism as an athlete. The two have done television commercials, photo shoots and appeared on panels together.

“Pinoe is a born change-maker,” Gilder said. “I believe Sue has stepped into that area as effectively.”

Rapinoe and Bird did a podcast called “A Contact Extra” during the pandemic, and Bird and Taurasi combined during the women’s Final Four for an alternate broadcast that featured them chatting and interviewing people during the games. Bird said the production part of those endeavors and TOGETHXR interests her as much as being the “identify” talent involved, as she’s intrigued by the technical aspects of how to plan and organize shows. That is the point guard in Bird coming out.

“As any individual who’s been interviewed my entire life, I completely embrace and settle for that being the interviewer is a complete completely different factor,” Bird said. “And with commercials, they’ve nice writers. However you need to work to get the comedic timing proper.”

Some athletes can maintain or even increase their popularity and influence long after they have stopped playing.

“And take into consideration somebody like John Madden — complete generations know him as a broadcaster and from the Madden online game,” Auriemma said. “They do not keep in mind him as a coach. That is the identical method for former gamers like Shaquille O’Neal or Charles Barkley or Rebecca Lobo, who’ve taken on completely different roles. I consider folks like Sue are exceptionally well-positioned to carve out a profession that’s going to outline them to a complete new group of followers.”

Whatever Bird does will always have a strong aspect of social conscience. Bird was in high school when the WNBA launched in 1997, so she remembers when a women’s pro basketball league didn’t exist in the United States. Her time with the union has shown her the contrasting challenges of protecting a growing league while also pushing the needle for change. She knows women’s sports still battle age-old prejudices, just as women themselves do.

It’s why she was eager to invest in the NWSL team, and why she no longer avoids controversial topics that benefit from her insight.

“I wish to do issues in a method that grows the pie for everyone,” Bird said. “I really feel actually enthusiastic about that, given my expertise as a feminine athlete preventing for scraps. I do not need that to be the case for the subsequent technology.”

Gilder, an Olympic silver medalist in rowing, understands the transition from world-class athlete to the rest of life. She entered the business world in the 1980s and then was part of the Force 10 Hoops group that bought the Storm in 2008 and kept them in Seattle when the NBA’s Sonics left for Oklahoma.

“The factor about being an athlete on a day-to-day stage, is you do not actually have to consider your goal,” Gilder said. “You are targeted on caring for your group, ensuring you are wholesome and as robust as you may be. Sue’s been enjoying this sport her complete life. Quickly, she will not have the security web of all the time understanding what you could do when there’s one other sport.

“She deserves the opportunity to just take a breath and see what it’s like. And then it’s, ‘What does she want?’ Sue can do anything. There is more of a roadmap for her and other athletes now. Are you willing to push for change? To put your credibility on the line as you do that?”

Bird’s largest focus proper now, after all, is what is correct in entrance of her with the Storm’s season. She has all the time been capable of hold the group entrance and heart. However sooner or later later this 12 months, the remainder of her life begins.

“I’m going to miss playing basketball terribly,” Chicken stated. “I think there are aspects of it that are just so hard to replicate or duplicate outside of sports, but I also have no regrets.

“So it is gonna be — straightforward just isn’t the best phrase, however manageable. I really feel at peace in so some ways. And, yeah, I am very excited.”