Legendary basketball player Sue Bird bid farewell to the sport Tuesday night when her Seattle Storm lost to the Las Vegas Aces, who advanced to the WNBA Finals.
“It’s sad,” she said in an interview with ESPN after the game. “Obviously, so thankful for 20 years here. I’m going to miss it so much. I’m not going anywhere. But I’m going to miss it.”
As she spoke, fans were chanting “Thank you Sue!” in the Seattle arena.
Bird, 41, announced in June this season would be her last. In her final game, she finished with 8 points and 8 assists.
The Aces held off the Storm 97-92 in Game 4 in the best-of-five semifinal series with Chelsea Gray shooting a team-high 31 points along with 10 assists. Breanna Stewart led Seattle with 42 points, tying Angel McCoughtry for the most in a WNBA playoff game.
The Aces will play either the Chicago Sky – the defending WNBA champion – or the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA Finals. The Sun beat the Sky on Tuesday night to force a winner-take-all Game 5.
Bird, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 WNBA draft, is the league’s all-time assists leader and a 13-time All-Star.
She played her entire career with the Storm, where she has won four championships along with five selections to the All-WNBA first team and a record 12 All-Star Game appearances.
Bird has won championships at every level, notably a record-tying five Olympic basketball golds with Team USA. She also was on four World Cup-winning teams and multiple title-winning teams in Russia’s professional league and the EuroLeague. In college, she won two NCAA championships at the University of Connecticut. According to the WNBA website, she also won a national title at Christ The King High School in New York.
When she announced her retirement in June, Bird said she was looking forward to things that basketball seasons keep a player from, pointing out she won’t have to set an alarm for early morning workouts and she can take real vacations without an eye on the next year. But she will miss the “grind” moments – hard practices and a difficult travel schedule – because “you’re still doing it with a team,” she added.
Her hope, Bird said, is to find something that fulfills her in that way but she knows it will be hard to replace things that are part of life as a pro athlete. She alluded to an ESPN show she did with Diana Taurasi during the Final Four, saying cheekily, “Maybe that becomes a thing.”
When asked whether the announcement made for a happy or sad day, she said it was a combination.
“Not a lot of people do something for their entire lives the way that athletes do,” she said, pointing out it was the end of a sporting life that began when she was 5 or 6. She looks forward to retirement, saying she was excited and, “I get to start this new life.”
CNN’s Jill Martin and Steve Almasy contributed to this report.