‘Total inspiration’: Storm fans reflect on Sue Bird’s impact ahead of her final regular season home game

After 21 years with the Storm, Sue Bird is a Seattle icon. Surely Storm fans think that’s true. Seattle’s adoration of Bird was evident Wednesday when the Climate Pledge Arena sold out for its penultimate home game of the regular season.

Her trainer, Noelle Quinn, called her a ‘pillar of the city [and] of the community” which deserves to be celebrated before his retirement at the end of this season. Storm legend Lauren Jackson – wearing a ‘Sue Bird 4EVER’ shirt – threw her arms in the air after Bird landed a long jump in the first half. Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole donned a Bird jersey from his courtside seat.

And Jumbotron Stadium went from a three-point bird that crossed the net to a fan holding a sign that read, “We’re witnessing greatness and her name is Sue Bird.” On Sunday, Bird will play its last home game of the regular season in front of another sold-out crowd.

“She kind of embodies Seattle,” lifelong Storm fan Melissa White said ahead of Wednesday’s game. “She’s not only a great athlete, but she also stands up for the things she believes in and I think that’s what a lot of people in Seattle are. We work hard, but we also like to stand up for ourselves and the interests of the people around us.

Half a dozen fans have cited Bird’s positivity, community involvement and social justice stances as reasons they turn to the Storm legend. She’s never been afraid to use her voice as a platform, White said, and her activism has ripple effects on her teammates, the Storm franchise and the entire WNBA.

“She’s a total inspiration,” said fan Christi Tremblay. “It’s going to be sad without her here; it won’t be the same.

For Wayne and Megan Storer, bringing their daughter to see Bird and the Storm in 2015 was both significant and influential. They wanted to “show him something empowering that women do.” The pleasant experience led them to buy season passes the next day.

“What she has done to help put the sport on the map, as well as what she has done for young women, showing them what is possible, not just on the pitch but also off the pitch, I think it’s so inspiring to so many people out there,” Megan Storer said.

Bird has been a key figure in women’s empowerment, White added, as well as gender pay equity.

“Especially now that she is speaking out more about … what she believes in and fights for the cause, she has gone – for me – from one of the greatest basketball players of all time to one of the greatest leaders, role models,” Wayne Storer said.

Alongside the entire WNBA, Bird called for the arrest of the officers who killed Breonna Taylor and wore Taylor’s name on her jersey in 2020. Fan Diane Edwell applauded Bird’s outspokenness on the issues. of social justice.

In May 2021, the Storm star and his fiancée, OL Reign’s Megan Rapinoe, were guests at a major Seattle COVID-19 vaccination clinic. Fan Reiny Cohen cited this as an example of how Bird seems to take his role of “being part of the public good” very seriously.

“It’s more than just ‘I’m a basketball player.’ She is rooted in this community and has been here for so long,” Cohen said.

Bird came out as gay in July 2017. Her friends and family already knew it, Bird said at the time, but she felt it was important to share her journey publicly with others. Cohen said coming out was part of Bird’s decision to “take on a more public role.” She’s become a more visible community leader since then, Cohen added.

“Balance, class, consistency – there’s no reason not to love Sue Bird,” Wayne Storer said. “She has no bad grades against her. Everything is of quality, everything is integrated.

The Storers say their favorite on-court Bird memories come from Game 5 of the 2018 WNBA Semi-Finals against Phoenix. Bird, who broke his nose in the previous game, was playing with a mask. She scored 14 of her 22 points in the final quarter as Seattle won the WNBA title.

“It was the Sue Bird show. It was the best sporting event I’ve been to,” Wayne Storer said.

“The energy in the stadium, it was incredible,” added Megan Storer.

Cohen and Edwell said they typically check Bird and the Storm for two or three games per season. They weren’t there when fans chanted “One more year” as Bird walked off the court in 2021, a moment fellow fan Tremblay called her favorite Bird memory. But Cohen said she cried watching the video and hoped Bird would come back so she didn’t feel like she wasted her senior year.

Bird did just that. Now, Cohen and Edwell have tried to make the most of Bird’s final season by playing most home games.

“I’m so excited that these last two games are completely sold out and Seattle came to give him the send off of a sold-out Climate Pledge Arena,” Cohen said. “She deserves it coming out.”

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