25 August, 2023
10 September
Sur Bird Ambassador
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Women’s World Cup Global Ambassador Sue Bird excited to make a difference

MANILA (Philippines) - Sue Bird built an incredible legacy on the court for two decades. The United States legend has since retired and has now moved into a new role as Global Ambassador for the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2026 - a challenge she fully embraces and looks forward to using to make a difference.

Bird was introduced as the 2026 Women's World Cup Global Ambassador at a news conference at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 alongside Pau Gasol, who served as the ambassador for the 2022 Women's World Cup.

"I am very honored to be sitting here. Pau, thanks for holding it down in Sydney as the last ambassador. Nobody better to take that baton from. Women's basketball is at a really exciting moment. It’s pivotal and there is no better way than as an ambassador to help to continue to grow the game and ride that wave that is women’s basketball right now," Bird said.

The 42-year-old was simply one of the greatest in FIBA basketball, winning four Women's World Cups and five Olympic gold medals between 2002 and 2020.

"Sue is amazing. I couldn't think of anybody better to be an ambassador for the game. Even though I am passing the baton or the torch I hope I can be there as well, supporting Sue and FIBA in the tournament in 2026 in Berlin," said Gasol. "I'm excited that Sue cares and gets involved and she's going to make a big difference. And I'm sure that she will get others to join her and continue to team up because this is a team effort. This is a global game. This is us caring. This is bigger picture."

One of Bird's biggest elements in her new role will be to help promote the game, to help grow the game and help inspire the next generations of players.

"When you look at those three elements, it really leads to getting fan involvement, creating that connection with fan bases, to get people more into it. Looking back at the different places that I've played in, when you put it all together, it does kind of equal global. So I do have experience on all levels across the globe. I've kind of seen it all. I've done it all. And so hopefully I can, in this ambassador role, bring that perspective, from a player standpoint."

 Bird said she always wanted to leave her mark on the game.

"The beauty of playing a 20-year professional career is you know you did as much as you could. You left it all out there. There’s nothing left. I felt very compassionate as a player trying to leave my mark. Whether it was with wins or impacting a team, or my country. And now as a former player I feel just as passionate about continuing that."

Bird insisted the women's game is in a great spot, especially coming off the 2022 Women's World Cup, which broke records in attendance, broadcast reach and social media engagement.

"Women's basketball fans are there. They’re out there. They just haven't had a chance to have access to it," she said.

"Some people try to tell you that nobody goes to games. Well, in Sydney, they were there. It's a matter of access, telling stories, building campaigns - marketing, promotions - putting that kind of investment into the women's game. Because the fan already exists. You don't have to convince them."

There is no need to convince anyone of Bird's greatness. She helped USA to the Women's World Cup title in 2002, 2010, 2014 and 2018 and won Olympic golds in 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020 - a list of achievements that even amazed a great like Pau Gasol, who raised his eyebrows and then gave a silent wow when hearing her resume.


When asked about which game stands out most, Bird offered: "It's funny as athletes we're kind of crazy, right? There's a lot of wins that I could sit here and talk about. Essentially if you look at five World Cups and five Olympics, I won nine out of 10 and the one game that first comes to mind is the loss. The one in 2006 against Russia (in the World Cup Semi-Finals) It's the one that that stands out all right."

Bird also played with some of the best players during her time with USA Basketball, and she named Diana Taurasi as her most memorable teammate.

"Oh Diana Taurasi for sure. We were together for nine of the World Cups and Olympics. She's already one of my closest friends just in life... we went to college together so we already had a relationship. She's probably one of my favorite teammates to play with on the court," she said.

Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird at the 2016 Olympics

"We got along great off the court, but our chemistry on the court went even further. When I think back you, that's definitely the one that stands out. I feel lucky to get to travel the world with somebody I consider family. I get to have all these experiences so whether we were grinding it out in practice, competing, or going to get a coffee afterwards, I was really lucky to experience all that with her."

Bird, who won five championships with Seattle, two NCAA collegiate trophies with University of Connecticut and five EuroLeague Women crowns, also faced some of the best players from across the globe.  And she said France’s Celine Dumerc was her most memorable opponent from all those Women’s World Cup battles.

Sue Bird and Céline Dumerc in the 2012 Olympic Games Final

"I'm gonna obviously pick a point guard. I could sit here and rattle off names upon names upon names, but I think from a point guard standpoint, I would say Céline Dumerc. She was always tough to compete against,” Bird recalled. “We became friends later in both of our careers, but competing against her was always tough. So that's probably my number one."

Bird expressed excitement about the qualifying campaign for the 2026 Women’s World Cup and the two-year build-up provides a great opportunity for fans to get involved and really follow players or teams.

"What's really special about wanting to be a fan of the World Cup we have a two-year time frame to become fans of a player, a team to follow that player or team and watch that growth. Because what’s really special about women's basketball is that growth part. We're starting to get more investment. So you are starting to see more growth from across the board," Bird said.

With so much experience having played at major events, Bird gave advice to players who will be playing in their first World Cup in Berlin in three summers.

"They have to be themselves. I think it's cliche to say that. Sometimes it's a lot easier said than done. But I think it's really important if you're gonna play at an elite level. If there were five of me on the court at one time, that team wouldn't be very good. Right? But the point is, everybody has an important role," she said.

"In our world today, in our culture, we get caught up in comparing ourselves, whether it's through social media or listening to a talking head say things. I think it's just really important to always come back to who you are, who you are as a player, essentially devoting yourself to that and try not to get caught up in comparisons. But really focusing on the fact that whatever you're bringing is just as important.”

One of the biggest changes for the 2026 Women's World Cup is a 16-team field, up from 12 in 2022. And that expansion excites Bird.

"What I love about the expanded field is the ambition of it all. If you're a team that is vying for a spot in the World Cup and there are limited spots, it might take away your motivation especially if you are a country that has never been there," she said. "The expanded field gives more opportunity and that's really what it's all about. It's about providing opportunity to players, to clubs, to countries so they can have that dream, that ambition. That's what I really like about the expanded field."

FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Global Ambassadors Luis Scola, Pau Gasol and Carmelo Anthony with Sue Bird

Looking ahead to Berlin, Bird said her main expectation is to build on what happened in Sydney.

"That's really all you can do. Any time you have a breakthrough the way the Sydney World Cup was, you just want to learn from it - any mistakes and the things that worked. And you try to take that with you," she said.

"Berlin will be its own World Cup and with the expanded field it's going to bring a different type of excitement. I am looking to build on Sydney and let Berlin be its own star."

And if anyone knows about being a star, it's the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup 2026 Global Ambassador Sue Bird.