‘A total inspiration’: Storm fans reflect on Sue Bird’s impact before her last regular-season home game

After 21 years with the Storm, Sue Bird is a Seattle icon. Storm fans certainly feel that’s true. Seattle’s adornment for Bird was readily apparent on Wednesday when Climate Pledge Arena sold out for her penultimate regular-season home game.

Her coach, Noelle Quinn, called her a “pillar of the city [and] of the community” who deserves to be celebrated before she retires at the end of this season. Storm legend Lauren Jackson — wearing a “Sue Bird 4EVER” shirt — raised her arms in the air after Bird nailed a long jump shot in the first half. Golden State Warriors guard Jordan Poole donned a Bird jersey from his courtside seat. 

And the stadium jumbotron transitioned from a Bird three-pointer that swished through the net to a fan holding a sign that read, “We are witnessing greatness and her name is Sue Bird.” Sunday, Bird will play her final regular-season home game in front of another sold-out crowd.

“She just kind of embodies Seattle,” lifelong Storm fan Melissa White said before Wednesday’s game. 

“She’s not only just a great athlete, but she also stands up for things she believes in and I think that’s what a lot of people in Seattle are all about. We work hard, but we also like to advocate for ourselves and for the people around us.”

Half a dozen fans cited Bird’s positivity, community involvement and social-justice stances as reasons they look up to the Storm legend. She’s never been afraid to use her voice as a platform, White said, and her activism has ripple effects on her teammates, the Storm franchise and the entire WNBA. 

“She’s a total inspiration,” fan Christi Tremblay said. “It’s going to be sad without her here; it’s not going to be the same.”

For parents Wayne and Megan Storer, bringing their daughter to see Bird and the Storm in 2015 was both important and influential. They wanted to “show her something empowering that women were doing.” The enjoyable experience led them to purchase season tickets the following day.

“What she’s done to help put the sport on the map, as well as what she’s done for young women, showing them what’s possible, not just on the court, but off the court as well, I think is just so inspiring for so many people out there,” Megan Storer said.

Bird has been a primary figure in women’s empowerment, White added, as well as gender pay equity

“Especially now that she’s become more vocal about … what she believes and fighting for the cause, she’s gone — for me — from being one of the greatest basketball players ever to being one of the greatest leaders, role models,” Wayne Storer said.

Alongside the entire WNBA, Bird called for the arrests of police officers who killed Breonna Taylor and wore Taylor’s name on her jersey in 2020. Diane Edwell, a fan, applauded Bird’s outspokenness about social-justice issues.

In May 2021, the Storm star and her fiancé, OL Reign’s Megan Rapinoe, were greeters at a major Seattle COVID-19 vaccination clinic. Fan Reiny Cohen cited that as an example of how Bird seems to take her role of “being part of the public good” very seriously. 

“It’s more than just, ‘I’m a basketball player.’ She’s grounded in this community and has been here for so long,” Cohen said.

Bird came out as gay in July 2017. Friends and family already knew, Bird said at the time, but she felt it was important to publicly share her journey with others. Cohen said that coming out was a part of Bird’s decision to “step into a more public role.” She’s become a more visible community leader since then, Cohen added.

“Poise, class, consistency — there’s no reason to not like Sue Bird,” Wayne Storer said. “She doesn’t have any bad marks against her. It’s all quality, it’s all upstanding.”

The Storers say their favorite Bird memories on the court are from Game 5 of the 2018 WNBA semifinals against Phoenix. Bird, who broke her nose in the previous game, was playing with a mask. She scored 14 of her 22 points in the final quarter as Seattle went on to win the WNBA title.

“It was the Sue Bird show. It was the best sporting event I’ve ever been to,” Wayne Storer said. 

“The energy in the stadium, it was incredible,” Megan Storer added.

Cohen and Edwell said they typically check in on Bird and the Storm for two or three games per season. They weren’t there when fans chanted “One more year” as Bird walked off the court in 2021, a moment that Tremblay, another fan, called her favorite Bird memory. But Cohen said she teared up watching the video and hoped Bird would return so she didn’t feel like she’d squandered her final year. 

Bird did just that. Now, Cohen and Edwell have tried to make the most of Bird’s final season by coming to most home games. 

“I am just so excited that these last two games are completely sold out, and that Seattle came out to give her the send-off of a sold-out Climate Pledge Arena,” Cohen said. “She deserves that on her way out.”

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