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Sue Bird farewell tour comes to Mohegan Sun Thursday

When Sue Bird’s farewell tour as a WNBA and Team USA superstar soars into Connecticut on Thursday, a celebration will break out during a clash between two playoff-bound teams.

I have fond memories of taking my daughter and two of her friends in 2003 to the Pepsi Arena to see Bird — following her rookie season with Seattle — give a presentation to about 500 boys and girls as part of a Siena College program called Women Assisting Youth . Siena was hosting a late January tripleheader featuring both the men’s and women’s teams.

Former Times Union sports writer Maureen Kelly wrote this about Bird’s visit: As a young girl, soccer was Sue Bird’s first love. But by the time she turned 15, the athletic girl knew that basketball had become her enduring one of her.

“I love to tell kids my story,” said Bird, a 5-foot-9 guard who was the WNBA’s top draft pick in 2002. “It’s possible for anybody to get where I am today. I was just a regular kid.”

The articles from Siena and in local media promoting her appearance in Albany cited Bird’s college stats and that she will “most likely be best known for leading a UConn team that went 39-0 on its way to a national championship during her senior season.”

Two decades later, the Long Island native is known for so much more than that. She has led Seattle to four league championships and is a 12-time WNBA All-Star. She has spent her entire 21-year career with the Storm, having played in 19 seasons—the most of any player in WNBA history. She took off two seasons due to injuries but still holds the record for the most seasons played for a single player in the league.

The 41-year-old is the WNBA’s all-time assists leader and is the most decorated FIBA ​​athlete male or female with five Olympic gold medals (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2020).

During the 2003 appearance in Albany, Bird credited some of her success to a left knee injury and surgery she endured as a college freshman.

“It opened my eyes and made me take a step back,” Bird said. “It gave me a mental toughness that I hadn’t had. There were a lot of conversations with coaches and talks with trainers. It was self-motivating, and I learned to never take anything for granted.”

Bird played only eight games as a freshman because of that knee injury but that certainly didn’t slow her down. She went on to score 1,378 points in her career at UConn.

She continues to pile on her WNBA career stats. She will retire at No. 1 in games played (572 so far), second in career three-pointers (986), fourth in steals (713) and seventh in points (6,728), according to the Storm website with updates from basketball-

Bird is also engaged to Megan Rapinoe, the Team USA soccer star who appropriately earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, on July 7. Both women are at the forefront for pay equity, racial justice, and LGBTQI+ rights.

Both are dedicated to helping to ensure attention remains focused on the release of Brittany Griner, who is being wrongfully detained in Russia. The Olympic gold medalist and Phoenix Mercury All-Star pleaded guilty this month to drug possession charges on the second day of her trial in a Russian court in a case that could see her sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

“I think for all of us, we just want to always keep BG’s name at the forefront in everything we do,” Bird said at the All-Star game. “Yeah, every now and then we’ll answer questions about All-Star and talk about basketball, but you’re going to see her name de ella on the back of all of our shirts, and so like I said, it does n’t really shift. We want it to always be there.”

Tickets to the 7 pm game at the Mohegan Sun Arena aren’t sold out yet, with prices ranging from $39 to $79 still for sale online. Count on the Connecticut Sun organization to send her off in style with a proper celebration featuring former teammates, coaches and some surprises.

Chantel Jennings, senior women’s basketball writer at The Athletic, says to look for a “combination of tribute/thank you videos and ceremonies. For the more tongue-in-cheek folks, I’m certain there will be some face mask celebrations to honor the number of times she has broken her nose.”

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• This column is sponsored by Times Union Women@Work, the Capital Region’s network of business and professional women. Join today at: • @joyceb10bassett •

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