Sue Bird has made a career out of helping others score on the basketball court with her pinpoint passes. Now she’s on the verge of breaking the WNBA’s career record for assists, passing Ticha Penichero’s mark.
“I think for me assists is always something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” Bird said in a phone interview this week with The Associated Press.
“More so trying to make the right play at the right time for myself and teammates, and assists are one way to show it. That’s the one in the box score. The one you can look up. Of course, it takes two as it’s not just about me. It’s about the tremendously talented players I’ve played with in Seattle.”
Bird has 2,594 assists and sits five behind Penicheiro, who retired in 2012.
“I knew she could possibly be the one,” Penicheiro told the AP. “I’m a big Sue Bird fan. Not just the player she is, but the person she is, too. If you have someone breaking your record, taking your crown, you want someone who has respect for the game, not just in the WNBA but all over the world.”
Bird has a chance to break that mark Sunday night when the Seattle Storm host Diana Taurasi and the Phoenix Mercury. Earlier this season, Taurasi — who starred at UConn with Bird — broke the WNBA career scoring record. While the pair has never played together in the WNBA, except for All-Star Games, they have played on the same team overseas as well as for USA Basketball. They have a long friendship and mutual respect for each other.
“It is pretty special. We’re obviously two players that have been intertwined throughout the years playing with and against each other,” Bird said. “We’ve had great chemistry on the court. She’s the scorer and I’m the setup player. It’s pretty cool and special. At least for some period of time up there in the record books we’ll lead those categories.”
Despite the accolades, both Bird and Taurasi are more focused on trying to make the postseason. A win on Sunday would get the Mercury into the postseason while the Storm would move a step closer to the playoffs if they win. Still, it’s hard for Bird not to appreciate what she’s done.
“Obviously things like this are special,” Bird said. “They speak to a consistent level of play. It’s not about having one good game or season, but having success throughout a career.”
Ask Bird what her most memorable assist has been over her 15-year career and she’s quick to answer.
“We were playing Minnesota in 2012 in the first round of the playoffs and we were down 3,” she said. “Brian (Agler) drew up a play and there was nothing fancy about this assist, but it led to a 3 that tied game and sent it to OT. The minute it left my hands and I saw that (Lauren Jackson) was going to get a shot, I knew it was in. That one was definitely memorable.”
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