Andy first met Sue Bird when he was covering the AAU National Girls 11 & Under tournament on assignment for Sports Illustrated Kids in 1992. She has since become one of the WNBA’s living legends with three championships and 11 WNBA All-Star accolades.
Bird explains how she learned to channel her competitive edge from being “the sorest of sore losers” to a world-class athlete. Bird is the oldest WNBA player at 39 and on track to be a fifth-time member of the U.S. Olympics Women Basketball team.
“I was a huge Knicks fan growing up…I didn’t model my game after him but Kenny Sky-Walker was my guy,” Bird said. She also describes finding inspiration from watching college basketball and the 1995-96 Women’s National Team compete.
Bird hopes that the WNBA and other sports leagues can return later in the summer in a tournament-style capacity if not for an official season.
“It’s this whole unknown aspect [of the pandemic] makes it more difficult,” Bird said. “Anything that can get on TV right now would be a huge morale booster.”
Bird is also optimistic about the newly ratified collective bargaining agreement (CBA) which will go into effect for the 2020-21 season.
“I think for a long time we had a lot of CBAs that didn’t really represent the difficulties we face…This new CBA created a whole new framework, a whole new groundwork, It really set us up for success,” Bird said.
The CBA includes a 53 percent increase in total cash compensation allotted in the deal will help keep players from going abroad during the off-season and give more opportunities to earn bonuses. Other benefits include maternity leave and mental healthcare.
Bird and Bernstein also reminisce about how the basketball landscape changed in 2008 when the Seattle SuperSonics left the city in and became the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“The basketball community in Seattle is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” Bird said.
Bird recounts that the SuperSonics and the Storm were a package deal but, thanks to a group of determined women, the Storm stayed in Washington. Former Seattle Deputy Mayor Anne Levinson led a group of women who purchased the Seattle Storm from the Sonics ownership group for $10 million.
Bird ends the podcast by sharing a memory of the late Kobe Bryant, who was a champion for women’s basketball.
“I think what he saw in Gigi was a kid who just loved basketball…but what he also saw was that the path for her was gonna be kind of bumpy and rocky because for a women’s basketball player it is. You have to prove yourself in all these different ways,” Bird said. “I think he was on this journey through Gigi which was going to change the landscape of women’s basketball…it was going to impact all of us and it will continue to.”
Listen to the full podcast here.