Down six with 20 seconds remaining, the New York Liberty still had a chance to come back against the Seattle Storm on Sunday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
But that's when Sue Bird when back rim, front rim, out and back down on a 3-point dagger as the shot clock expired. The friendly bounce was all too fitting as Bird had recently announced that this will be her final season and was playing her last regular-season game in New York, where she grew up.
Bird received a standing ovation shortly after the three and Seattle won the game 81-72 to improve to 10-6.
“You know, it’s no Kobe Bryant dropping 60, but it feels pretty good,” Bird, 41, said afterwards, referring to the Black Mamba’s 60-point performance in the final game of his GOAT-like career at age 37. “I think, to be honest, it wasn't about the game, it wasn't about how I played. It was just really about soaking it all in, enjoying the moment. Knowing there are people here that have been so instrumental in my journey to get to where I'm sitting right now. It was really about that.
“And then of course, once the ball gets tipped, you play to win. I would have taken the win, even if I had 0 points, 0 assists, 10 turnovers. I would have been thrilled, it wouldn’t have mattered. The fact that I hit that last shot, it just can put a smile on, I know on my face, and I think it can put a smile on everybody’s face, knowing I hit my last shot here in New York.
“I joked about Kobe Bryant, yeah, a fairytale ending would have been 30 points and 20 assists! But this felt pretty much like a fairy tale, so I’m gonna take it.”
Highlight: Sue Bird’s dagger three
“There was a moment where I wanted to start clapping, when the fans started clapping at the end,” said Storm head coach Noelle Quinn. “I think Sue means the world to our game, obviously to this city. And to have the fans come out and support her, even though it’s an away game, that’s just a testament to who she is and what she stands for and how impactful that she’s been in our game.
“She should get her roses, her flowers, she should get celebrated every second of the rest of this season in particular and we should feel honored to be a part of this journey with her. And I think being in the Mecca of basketball, New York, and having this stage and being on TV today, ESPN, I think all of those things allowed for her to be celebrated in a positive way. And what an amazing day to be a part of honestly.”
Bird also made a three in transition that made it 71-67 with 4:08 remaining and finished with 11 points and four assists. She was 3-of-7 from downtown. She has now played her final games in Dallas and New York unless the Storm are the away team against one of those teams in the playoffs. When she played at Dallas she had not yet officially announced that 2022 will be her final year so Sunday was her first taste of the farewell tour.
“I don’t think anything will be like it was today, just given that I'm from here, given that I know so many people in the stands who are so close to me,” she said. “So this always was gonna be a little bit different. But yeah, I guess it is a taste of what’s to come. I keep joking like, ‘I don't really know what I signed up for,’ so we’re all just gonna be winging it up here. But I do want to give a special thank you to the New York Liberty. They were amazing just in helping me secure tickets, helping my family feel important today, the way I feel important today.”
The Storm have now won five of their last six games. This was a bounce-back win after the team lost to the Connecticut Sun on Friday. Gabby Williams led them in scoring on Sunday with 23 points — her first double-digit performance this year after what had been a disappointing start to the season for her. She also had a team-high-tying nine rebounds and three assists and was 10-of-15 from the field (2-of-3 from distance).
“Of course these things don't come overnight,” Williams said. “I missed training camp, I arrived late. I’m in a new position than I’ve played in the WNBA. So I knew it was gonna take time, although mentally that can be frustrating.
“I actually had like breakfast with Sue yesterday and she just goes, ‘What do you like to do?’ You know, cuz they don’t know me as well. And I felt like the way we were flowing and moving today, it just helped me a lot. And I’m really thankful that my teammates have been very supportive and very positive with me, have been patient and understanding even when I’m not so much with myself. And I really just give it to my teammates kind of holding my hand and letting me get here.”
Williams’ French National Team teammate and close friend Marine Johannès matched her with 23 points to lead the Liberty. Johannès was 9-of-12 from the field and 5-of-8 from three. Williams said it was hard to not root for her.
Bird grew up in Syosset, which is on Long Island, before spending her last two years of high school at Christ the King in Queens.