Saluting Sue Bird, Sylvia Fowles ahead of WNBA jersey retirements

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ESPNJun 9, 2023, 09:05 AM ET13 Minute Read

Sylvia Fowles, left, and Sue Bird, who made their final WNBA All-Star appearances last year, were also USA Basketball teammates who won four Olympic gold medals together.Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

More than nine months have passed since Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles played their final WNBA games. The legends retired after the 2022 season, Bird on Sept. 6 when her Seattle Storm were eliminated at home in the WNBA semifinals, and Fowles on Aug. 14 when her Minnesota Lynx lost their regular-season finale, which eliminated them from playoff contention.

On Sunday, the Storm and Lynx will retire Bird’s and Fowles’ jerseys in separate ceremonies.

Fowles played 15 seasons in the WNBA after being drafted second overall in 2008. The league’s all-time leading rebounder and the only player with more than 4,000 boards, Fowles also holds the WNBA record for career double-doubles (193). She was the 2017 WNBA MVP, helped lead Minnesota to the 2015 and 2017 league titles and was named the WNBA Finals MVP during both championship runs.

Bird, the No. 1 overall pick in 2002, played 19 WNBA seasons — all in Seattle — and retired as the league’s career leader in assists (3,234) and games (580). She helped guide the Storm to four titles and was chosen an All-Star a record 13 times.

But their impact extends far beyond statistics. Heading into Sunday’s celebrations, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, Alexa Philippou and M.A. Voepel examine each players’ legacy and share how Bird and Fowles impacted the game and, in some cases, their own careers.

‘The Sue Bird Effect’

Sue Bird’s heroic career has come to a close … Relive the highlights!

Revisit the most exciting highlights and moments from Sue Bird’s 19-year career with the Seattle Storm.

How do you sum up Bird’s 21 years in Seattle in a few hundred words? You can’t, which is why I needed several thousand about her not-as-direct-as-it-looked path from No. 1 pick in the 2002 draft for a fledgling team to an emotional sellout crowd after a Storm loss to the Las Vegas Aces in Bird’s final regular-season home game.

So instead let’s talk about the Sue Bird Effect. I’m part of it. You might be too. As luck would have it, my first WNBA game was Bird’s debut in 2002 against the New York Liberty. That was a coincidence. That I’m still covering the league two-plus decades later is not.

Bird drew me in, like so many Seattle fans over that span. The opener, a home loss just like Bird’s final game, was forgettable. Game two at home, a 78-68 win over the Lynx, was anything but. Bird scored eight of her 27 points in OT as the Storm came back to win — and I was hooked.

It took a little longer for the rest of Seattle to catch on to what was happening at KeyArena. During the middle of Bird’s rookie season, the Storm actually offered refunds to dissatisfied fans in an effort to get more in the stands.

By season’s end, when Seattle beat the rival Portland Fire (behind 33 points from Bird) to help clinch…

Read More: Saluting Sue Bird, Sylvia Fowles ahead of WNBA jersey retirements 2023-06-09 13:05:00

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