Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Fast Forward

Jewish basketball legend Sue Bird will retire after this season

The four-time WNBA champion said she’ll wrap up her remarkable career at the conclusion of the 2022 season.

(JTA) — This season will officially be WNBA superstar Sue Bird’s last. 

The Jewish four-time league champion and five-time Olympic gold medalist announced Thursday that she would retire following the 2022 season.

“I’ve decided this will be my final year,” Bird shared on social media, accompanied by a picture of her playing basketball as a child. “I have loved every single minute, and still do, so gonna play my last year, just like this little girl played her first.”

The 41-year-old point guard has won everywhere she’s played.

At the University of Connecticut, Bird won two NCAA championships while earning multiple awards as the best player in college basketball. Bird was the first overall pick in the 2002 WNBA draft and has played her entire career with the Seattle Storm. This year’s season began in early May and will conclude this fall. 

In the WNBA, the 12-time All-Star is the only player in league history to win titles in three different decades. She is the all-time WNBA leader in assists.

Abroad, Bird played for three different Russian teams and won five Russian National League championships and five EuroLeague titles. She also won five Olympic gold medals playing for the U.S., spanning from Athens in 2004 to Tokyo last year

Bird has spoken highly of her time playing in Russia — including the fact that it helped make her a millionaire. But as her fellow WNBA star Brittney Griner remains detained by the country in the midst of its ongoing war with Ukraine, Bird has been vocally advocating for her release.

Bird — whose grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from what is now Ukraine in the early 1900s and changed their surname from “Boorda” to “Bird” — became an Israeli citizen in 2006. The decision to apply for citizenship was “basketball motivated,” she said, as it allowed her to play for European teams. 

“With my father being Jewish and still having relatives in Israel, it was an easy connection,” Bird told the Washington Jewish Museum. “It was cool, because what I found was in this effort to create an opportunity in my basketball career, I was able to learn a lot about a culture that I probably wouldn’t have tapped into otherwise.”

Off the court, Bird has been a leader in the movement for equal pay in women’s sports.

Prior to the 2020 Olympics, Bird led a successful effort to secure more pay for players who wanted to train for the Games — without having to go abroad to make money.

She also helped WNBA players negotiate a new contract that allowed stars like herself more than triple their salaries. 

“If we’re not going to fight for ourselves, no one’s fighting for us, historically speaking,” Bird told MSNBC. “It’s uncomfortable to have to walk into a room and speak of your own value and tell people you’re valuable, [but] it’s incredibly important because you can’t wait for somebody else to advocate for you.”

This article originally appeared on JTA.org.

Engage

  • Events

    Haart to Haart

    Virtual

    Dec 7, 2022

    7 pm ET · 

    A conversation with Julia Haart and her son Shlomo, stars of Netflix's 'My Unorthodox Life,' about the new season and much more.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.