Aces spoil Sue Bird’s retirement party and overthrow Storm 89-81
SEATTLE – A’ja Wilson scored 29 points, Kelsey Plum added 16, including a key 3-pointer in the final minute, and the Las Vegas Aces ruined Sue Bird’s final home game of the regular season by beating the Seattle Storm 89-81 Sunday.
The largest crowd in Storm history swarmed the Climate Pledge Arena to thank Bird for her two decades as the face of the franchise and one of the greatest female basketball players of all time.
But the Aces were unwilling to play their part in ensuring Bird’s final was a victory. Wilson dominated the first three quarters, Chelsea Gray and Jackie Young both scored 15 and the Aces never trailed the final 28 minutes.
Breanna Stewart finished with a season-high 35 points and Tina Charles added 19. Bird finished with nine points, six assists and four rebounds, but the result looked a lot like the first game she played in Seattle there. 20 years ago – a defeat.
“I’m not going to lie, it sucks to lose my last game. But you know what, I lost my first game too. So that’s okay,” Bird joked with the crowd after the final buzzer.
The result counted and was not in the same breath. Seattle and Las Vegas were vying for playoff positioning, and for the Storm, the loss was a blow to their chances of having home-court advantage in the first round of the WNBA playoffs. The Aces kept their hopes of nabbing Chicago for the No. 1 seed going into the final week.
But playoff position was entirely secondary to the day’s focus.
Bird is the WNBA record holder for assists and games played. Whenever this season ends, Bird will retire with five Olympic gold medals and at least four WNBA titles, to go along with the two championships she won at UConn.
“To be so good for so long,” said Las Vegas coach Becky Hammon, who was an opponent of Bird in her first WNBA game on May 30, 2002. “A lot of people are nine to 10 years from being amazing. She’s been amazing for decades, which to me is remarkable.”
Bird didn’t know how his emotions would be before the game when all the festivities were taking place. She appeared surprised as she left the locker room to head onto the pitch for pre-game warm-ups and family members lined the hallway with fiancée Megan Rapinoe, last in the receiving line.
The overwhelming wave seemed to hit her during a video tribute just before the whistleblower that included messages from Rapinoe, LeBron James, Russell Wilson, Chloe Kim, Lauren Jackson and Bird University coach Geno Auriemma, and roaring cheers from the 18,100 in attendance, the largest crowd ever for a Storm home game.
“We all know you’re not leaving. I look forward to your next act,” Auriemma said.
For now, Bird’s next act is to try to make sure the Storm play at home again. Seattle is currently fourth in the standings and with the WNBA’s new playoff format, Seattle would end up hosting the first two games of its opening playoff series if it could keep that spot.
Seattle was without head coach Noelle Quinn after testing positive for COVID-19 and was within league health and safety protocols.