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USA's Bird reaching new milestones
SEATTLE (United States) - Thirty-two wins and zero defeats. That is the record of USA point guard Sue Bird in Olympic competition.
The unblemished mark is really all that needs to be said about the career of Bird. She always wins.
2004 🏆 2010 🏆 2018 🏆 2020— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 7, 2020
Sue Bird is now just the third player in WNBA or NBA history to win a title in three different decades
She joins Tim Duncan and John Salley.
(h/t @gabe_ibrahim) pic.twitter.com/x13OJa0Etq
Almost, anyway. With the USA there was a blip at the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2006 in Brazil, when Russia stunned the USA in the Semi-Finals, but other than that, Bird has done one thing and one thing only with the American team. She has won basketball games.
In addition to the 32 Olympic wins (she didn't enter the the Semi-Final or Final of 2004), at World Cups she has 38 wins and that single defeat in Brazil. In the FIBA Women's AmeriCup 2007, the only time she took part in that event, she had five wins in as many games.
While compiling all of those victories, Bird's USA teams have captured four Olympic Gold Medals, four World Cup crowns and one FIBA Women's AmeriCup championship.
What's perhaps most incredible of all is that Bird, who turns 40 on October 16, remains as good and impactful as ever. It's why she and Diana Taurasi are likely to be at the Tokyo Games and become, along with FIBA Hall of Famer Teresa Edwards, the only USA players to have played at five Olympics.
On Tuesday night, Bird had 16 points and dished out 10 assists to help her all-time WNBA team, the Seattle Storm, win the Finals over the Las Vegas Aces. It was the club's, and Bird's, fourth WNBA championship. Even in Europe, when Bird played for clubs like Spartak Moscow Region and UMMC Ekaterinburg, she won games and titles.
It was something she did in Game One of the WNBA Finals, a 93-80 Storm victory, that really turned heads. Bird set the record for assists in a game of the Finals by dishing out 16, beating the previous record of 11 that was shared by several players. The performance caught the eye of LeBron James, who congratulated Bird in an Instagram story.
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James and Bird have remained excellent players for a very long time.
Many marvel at Bird's longevity.
Puerto Rico national team guard Jennifer O'Neill, who is almost 10 years younger, remembers trying out for the Seattle Storm once and getting some good advice from the USA star.
"I was just sitting there watching, just to see how she worked out and after finishing a drill," O'Neill said, "Bird walked over and said: 'There's only so much you can control, but one thing you can control is taking care of your body. You can't control how old you get, but you can control taking care of your body', and I've taken that with me."
Canada's two-time Olympic point guard, Shona Thorburn, faced Bird at the London Games.
Thorburn had the big challenge of guarding Bird at the London Olympics in 2012
"She is a legend," said Thorburn, 38 and now an assistant coach at Landes in the French women's league. "One of the smartest and most fundamental point guards ever. I think what she is doing at her age is incredible."
Bird, after Tuesday's win, said her mental approach has helped her have a long career.
"My position and how I play it allows for longevity," she said. "I never really just relied on my quickness or speed or size, obviously. So as long as I continue to add to my game from a mental perspective, I was always going to be able to stay on the floor, assuming the physical part stayed with me as well."
"...IF I CAN GO THROUGH MY OFFSEASON AND CONTINUE TO BUILD ON THAT IN A GOOD WAY, I DON'T SEE WHY I WON'T BE PLAYING NEXT SUMMER."
One person that knows her well is Geno Auriemma, her former UConn and USA coach. She won two NCAA titles with UConn under Auriemma, as well as two world titles and two Olympic gold medals. He says the playmaker always seeks to make teammates better.
"She's an incredible leader on the basketball court of epic proportions because she understands this is what has to be done with this particular team in order to win," he said to the Associated Press.
When it comes to the USA, Bird has never led the team in scoring or spectacular plays. She has ranked number one, however, in toughness. She is rugged, robust, uncompromising.
Bird is forever stepping in front of opponents and drawing charges. She's always diving on the court or out of bounds for the ball.
Bird has broken her nose several times and had to wear a face guard
At last count, she had broken her nose five times in her career. It's not uncommon to see Bird bringing the ball up the court while wearing a face guard.
Last year, a knee injury kept Bird off the court in the WNBA while this year, a knock on the same knee kept her out of 11 of the 22 games in the regular season.
She looked great in the Finals but said after the title-clinching win that the season had not been easy. Her plans for Tokyo?
"The way I feel right now, if I can go through my offseason and continue to build on that in a good way, I don't see why I won't be playing next summer," Bird said. "I'm not trying to be elusive but as I've always said, things happen. That's what the last two years have taught me. Anything can happen. So I'm just like, you know, cautiously optimistic."