Sue Bird Talks Storm's WNBA Title, 'Call Your Shot' and More in B/R Exclusive

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2020

Photo Credit: CarMax

If anyone knows what it's like to make history, it's Sue Bird

That's why she was such a natural choice when it came to CarMax becoming the first automotive retailer in history to partner with the WNBA. The Seattle Storm point guard will be featured in its "Call Your Shot" series that stresses the importance of shopping for cars on the buyer's terms as part of the partnership.

"First and foremost, it's super exciting," Bird told Bleacher Report when asked about working with CarMax. "The 'Call Your Shot' Campaign is something I'm looking forward to because I think you see everything. It's got humor in it, but it's also a great way to get the CarMax message out, which is really about empowerment. Empowering people to have the opportunity to shop and buy on their terms, allow flexible options—the experience is amazing. I think the word empowerment also goes hand in hand with the women of the WNBA so, like I said, for me it's really exciting."

Basketball fans will recognize the campaign from past commercials featuring NBA players such as Chris Bosh, Zach LaVine, Seth Curry and others.

Photo Credit: CarMax

While it is all about eliminating the pressures of car shopping with no-haggle prices and the ability to buy online or at one of CarMax's 225 stores nationwide, Bird was excited about the opportunity to make history.

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"It's always an honor to be the first for anything, and I think that this really shows how forward-thinking CarMax is," she said. "Being the first WNBA player and being that this is the first partnership with our league, there's nothing like making history. I'm all for it, and that's just how I look at it."

Making history is exactly what Bird did inside the WNBA bubble in Bradenton, Florida, when she and the Storm took home the championship by sweeping the Las Vegas Aces in October's WNBA Finals.

It was Bird's fourth title in her 17 seasons, and she dazzled with a record 16 assists in Game 1 and a double-double of 16 points and 10 dimes in Game 2. She was the general in charge of it all for the champions and connected on timely shots, played key perimeter defense, and consistently set up Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd in perfect scoring situations.

It was all the more impressive that she did so after missing the 2019 WNBA season because of knee surgery.

Still, Bird said winning the championship was not the most important or memorable thing of her bubble experience:

"The truth is, I think this championship will go down in history for me for so many reasons, and none of them have to do with actually winning. [Winning] was like the icing on the cake. What we were able to do and what we were able to accomplish as a league, the stances we were able to take in terms of social justice, keeping 'Say her name' at the forefront, Black Lives Matter ... we did some wonderful work in terms of the Georgia Senate race ... so there was just a lot that happened this summer that we can all be really proud of, and again, as a member of the Seattle Storm, we've got this little extra special cherry on top which comes in the form of a trophy. Which listen, I'll take anytime, but it was less about that this summer."

WNBA players wore messages such as Black Lives Matter on their jerseys and warm-ups, used their platforms in postgame press conferences to call for justice for George Floyd, Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor and so many more impacted by police brutality and systemic racism, and they kept the issues on the forefront by not playing games in the immediate aftermath of the police shooting of Blake.

Many were also vocal when it came to Georgia Sen. and Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler.

Loeffler criticized the WNBA for supporting Black Lives Matter, and many players called for the league to oust her from her role with the Dream. Many also wore shirts with the phrase "Vote Warnock" in reference to Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock, who ran against Loeffler for her seat as a Senator in November.

A January runoff will determine the race between Warnock and Loeffler, and Dream forward Elizabeth Williams told Ramona Shelburne of ESPN that it was Bird who initially thought of the idea to wear the shirts supporting the former.

There is no doubt Bird is a leader both on and off the court, which has earned her recognition from many of her peers.

The King himself, LeBron James, gave her a shoutout on Instagram after she dished out 16 assists in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson wore her jersey before an October win over the Minnesota Vikings and sat down with the WNBA star for an interview on ESPN's NFL Countdown.

"It means a lot," Bird said of the praise she has received from fellow athletes. "I think when you have any athlete of an elite level, they really can see the hard work you have put into it, and they have a different level of appreciation because they know and they have experienced it."

Recognition from athletes such as James and Wilson was also important in Bird's eyes because it helps elevate women's sports. 

"I think as it kind of pertains to being a female athlete and having our male counterparts give us that praise, that does have a little bit of an extra special meaning because it helps change the conversation," she said. "I think a lot of the time for female athletes, and athletes in general in the female world, a lot of the conversation surrounding us has been in this negative light, sadly. People like to tell us to 'get back in the kitchen' and all kinds of lovely jokes, so to have the Russell Wilsons and the LeBron Jameses just acknowledge us, it just helps change that conversation, which long term has major effects for us."

It is no wonder so many have appreciated her greatness.

After all, she is a four-time Olympic gold medalist, a two-time collegiate champion at Connecticut who won the Naismith Player of the Year before she was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2002 WNBA draft, an 11-time All-Star and a four-time champion.

The question now is what is next for someone who has accomplished it all on the court.

"That's the plan," she said when asked if she is coming back in 2021 to help the Storm defend their crown. "I've been joking for the last four years that I am on these one-year plans, so I think I am signed up for another. I don't know, call me crazy, but I'm going to try and do it."

She also said she wants to win another gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics but knows how much work maintaining excellence requires.

"I know that all of those goals fall on me taking care of myself, taking care of my body and trying to put myself in a position to play on an elite level, and that's where you have those lofty goals, but then you gotta bring it back to the day-to-day work," she said. "It's cliche, but I really am just trying to control what I can. But on top of that, continuing all the work we did this summer and not taking our foot off the gas either. A lot to look forward to in 2021."

It seems as if making history with CarMax will be part of a busy year for the legendary Bird.