Bird hopes WNBA growth will make her a 'disgruntled' ex-athlete

Juan Ocampo / National Basketball Association / Getty

Seattle Storm legend Sue Bird says she aspires to become the "disgruntled older athlete" who complains about modern players not knowing how good they've got it.

If that's the 41-year-old's legacy after a storied run in women's hoops - a career that includes four WNBA championships and five Olympic gold medals - it'll mean she advanced women's sports for generations to come.

Speaking Friday at the 2022 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on a panel on the impact of Title IX, Bird detailed how her perspective on personal impact has changed as she nears the end of her career.

"I got really hung up on just the basketball part for a large part of my career," Bird said. "There's going to be another great point guard. I have the (career) assists record; somebody is going to break that record. Somebody is going to win more championships than me. Somebody is going to do things better. That's just how sports works. So if there's going to be others who do that, what else can I leave?"

That shift in mindset is why Bird, known for being media-friendly, said she hates to pass up opportunities to publicly stump for women's sports.

The byproduct of that advocacy has seen the WNBA's viewership, influence, and finances trend upward in recent years. The maximum player salary nearly doubled from $117,500 after the league and its players' union agreed to the latest collective bargaining agreement in January 2020. Bird's Storm teammate Breanna Stewart is set to enter the 2022 season with a league-leading $228,094 salary.

Still, Bird envisions a future where even Stewart's figure seems quaint.

"I always joke, the second the first player signs a $1-million deal in our league, I know I'll have played a role in that," Bird said. "I'll be like, 'Damn, I never got a million.' But that's going to be a good thing.

"If I'm that disgruntled older athlete that we hear from nowadays, where it's like, 'I didn't get that,' or 'I didn't fly charter,' I hope I'm doing that. Because it means that I played a little role, and it worked."

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Bird hopes WNBA growth will make her a 'disgruntled' ex-athlete
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