Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 17 August 2012 00:00
The 86-50 win over France in the championship game gave Bird her third consecutive gold medal as she was also on the winning U.S. squads at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2008 games in Beijing. Published reports hold out the possibility that Bird may compete, Michael Phelps-style, in her fourth Olympics in the 2016 games in Rio de Janerio. During the London games, Bird provided steady leadership for the talent-laden U.S. squad, combining her talents as passer, scorer and floor leader. Bird’s finest moment in this year’s games may have come in a semifinal game against perennial powerhouse, Australia, one where the U.S. squad faced an uncustomary deficit at halftime. In her role as team captain, Bird took charge, giving a halftime pep talk to her teammates, which helped to inspire them to an 86-73 win over the talented Australian team.
After the gold medal game, Bird praised her teammates and also the competiveness that comes from the intense practices the U.S. team conducted.
“I think it speaks directly to what we’ve got going on in our country in women’s basketball and in women’s sports in general,” Bird told the international media. “We wear teams down. We come at them in waves and when they sub and we sub, it’s a huge difference. The practices are definitely harder. Just look at the competition that we face. The best players in the WNBA going at each other every day. You can’t get better than that. I’m not saying the game is easy. But if I’ve got to face Diana Taurasi,” she added, referring to one of her star teammates. “I’m not going to see another Diana Taurasi in Europe or France or Spain. It’s pretty tough.”
From the playgrounds of Syosset, Bird attended Syosset High School for two years before transferring to Christ The King Regional High School in Queens where, in 1998, she led the Royals to both state and national titles. In that same year, Bird was named the New York State Player of the Year, while also receiving All-American status.
From there, it was onto the University of Connecticut, home to one of the nation’s finest women’s basketball programs. Bird added to UConn’s luster by leading the Huskies to national titles in both 2000 and 2002. In her junior year, a UConn victory over archrival Notre Dame, one where Bird won the game with a buzzer-beating shot was so legendary that it became the subject of a book, Bird At The Buzzer, one authored by Jeff Goldberg.
After college, Bird joined the fledging WNBA as a member of the Seattle Storm. A decade later, she was named as one of the top players of that league’s first 15 years. The Storm have won WNBA titles in 2004 and 2010. If that hasn’t been enough, Bird also plays professionally for the UMMC Ekaterinburg of the Russian Premier League, a team that includes Bird’s fellow Olympiads, Diane Taurasi and Candace Parker.
In addition to three gold medals, Bird’s other accomplishments include winning the Naismith Award as the top collegiate women’s basketball player for the 2002 season. That year, Bird also received the Wade Trophy as the best woman’s player in Division I competition. That golden year was topped off with a Sportswoman of the Year Award.
With a career that includes national titles on the high school, collegiate and professional level and three gold medals, Sue Bird, at age 31, still looks to have plenty of accomplishment in front of her. Bird has already compiled a career that should get her into the Basketball Hall of Fame. She ranks with Jim Brown, Carl Yastremski, Julius Erving, Boomer Esiason and Vinny Testaverde as one of the great professional athletes from Long Island.