UConn Magazine: The Moments That Made Sue Bird

Husky royalty and WNBA icon Sue Bird reflects on some of the most fateful moments in her 30 years of trailblazing

Sue Bird during her 2022 WNBA farewell season

Sue Bird during her 2022 WNBA farewell season. (Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images for Crown Royal)

A superstar’s superstar, Sue Bird ’02 (CLAS) is undeniable Husky royalty, beloved for her prowess on the court and her candor, charm, and cheer off it. Connecticut WNBA fans root for her even when she’s on an opposing team, and the Seattle Storm faithful, including myriad little girls in Sue Bird tees, packed arenas throughout her final of 21 seasons there last year. She has stormed her own lanes in life and basketball — we asked her to share some of the most fateful moments in both.

The moment she knew she was good at basketball
I think I always knew. But there is a moment … I was in, like, fifth grade, and I played for a travel team in my town. The coach had a connection with St. John’s University, so we got to be the little kids at halftime that come onto the court and play another intramural team. It’s a total of 10, 15 minutes max, but it felt very big to a fifth grader. And the ironic part is that St. John’s was playing the University of Connecticut, so that’s probably the first time Coach Auriemma laid his eyes on me — joking!

As we were leaving the gym later that day, a security guard stopped us and he says to my dad, hey, can I get your daughter’s autograph? I have a feeling this is going to be worth something someday. He saw me play as this little kid and saw something. And I think what is so memorable about it is, yes, it’s the first time I was ever asked for my autograph, and I vividly remember it, but I think it speaks to the way I was playing, which was probably partly childlike joy, but I must have also shown a little skill, too. I remember shooting reverse layups, and back then you didn’t see a lot of fifth graders doing that.

The moment she knew she was really good at basketball
Um, I’m still waiting for that day. No, no, what’s the moment that I knew I was legit? I guess around the same time, I think fifth or sixth grade. I’m playing on this AAU team and we go to nationals, where teams from every state come together and play in this huge tournament. Two things happened: One, Sports Illustrated for Kids saw our team and followed us. I remember that article comes out and our team is in Sports Illustrated for Kids.

At the same time, if you can believe this, colleges start sending letters. Like — hello, we saw you play at this tournament and we think you’re pretty good. Can you fill out this questionnaire so we have your information — I remember one of my very first letters was from Duke, so that resonated. I was like, oh sh-t, Duke, this is pretty cool. I think that’s the earliest memory I have of thinking oh, I might be all right at this. I might be pretty good.

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