Storm star Sue Bird sits down with The Seattle Times for an exclusive Q&A.
Storm point guard Sue Bird talks with assistant sports editor Jon Fisch about her favorite restaurants, her role models and the lack of point guards in the WNBA.
Q. Apparently you’re a big foodie. What do you like to eat?
Bird: It goes beyond eating. I like going to restaurants. Trying new things. When you think “foodie,” you think about someone who can actually prepare all these things. I can get by, since I live overseas, I kind of have to. For the most part, if I were to describe myself, I’d say I like to go to restaurants. I’m always looking for new ones in Seattle.
Q. So you’re not so much of a maker of food as an eater.
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Bird: I can mess around in the kitchen and come up with some stuff now and then.
Q. Is there anything that you refuse to eat?
Bird: Not really. I’ll try anything. When you’re in another country, there’s a lot of stuff that you’re not necessarily used to. In Russia, in particular, I’ve tried cow tongue. They’re really big on caviar. Caviar, I’m not so much of a fan. I can do it when it’s on sushi now and then. So caviar is one thing. I can have it sometimes, but it’s not something I’m going to choose. And that’s definitely from my experience in Russia.
Q. What’s your favorite place you’ve been to?
Bird: I’ve always said Wasabi Bistro is my favorite. They just reopened and it’s super nice. When Wasabi had their one-year hiatus, I switched over to Umi. Now I just go in that area and whoever can get me in the quickest. But I still lean toward Wasabi.
I live near How to Cook a Wolf, so I’ve been there a ton and I love all of his (Ethan Stowell) restaurants. Anchovies and Olives I’ve been to as well.
Q. How did you choose to live in Queen Anne?
Bird: Deciding to live here was more of a business choice. Because it was the one place I knew I was going to live for at least five to six months (of the year) and actually sleep in the house. Some of my teammates never get to see (their houses). So it was a good investment.
I came up one day in the offseason. And my real estate agent took me to like 15 places. And at that point I wasn’t familiar with the neighborhoods. But the minute I walked up to my first home here, we actually couldn’t get in, there was something wrong with the lockbox. But I looked in the window and I was like, “This is the one.” I bought it and I hadn’t even seen it. I just knew.
It was a perfect neighborhood. I love that you’re 10-15 minutes, if that, from the city and all that it has to offer. I grew up in the suburbs, and I like that feel. I like the green and the trees.
Q. Growing up, the WNBA wasn’t around until you were in college, so who were your role models?
Bird: Both my parents are people I look up to. But really if I were to pick one role model, it would be my sister, hands down. Five years older, so she was old enough that she was doing things that I just got to watch. Whether it be sports, school, social life.
She was in college and I was still in eighth grade. So I was young and I got to idolize and look up to her. She played basketball, ran track and cross country. Tried soccer, that didn’t go over very well. She was very athletic, she didn’t play in college or anything, but she was good in high school.
And she’s super, super smart. Went to Brown. Went to Yale Law School. We joke that she got the brains and I got the brawn. She was the perfect older sister for anyone to look up to.
Now she gets “Oh, are you Sue Bird’s sister?” but believe me when I was growing up, every classroom I walked into it was, “Oh, are you Jen Bird’s sister?”
In terms of sports and basketball, there weren’t really any females. Of course I had favorite players, but I don’t know if I ever looked up to them like I do my sister.
Q. Did you have any male basketball players you looked up to?
Bird: Yeah, Larry Bird, obviously, because of the last name.
When I got to late high school, Mike Bibby was at Arizona, and that’s my favorite player. I really like his game. I think we have similarities. He wears No. 10. He’s kind of a perfect fit. His game really reminds me of mine. But he’s only a couple years older than me, so it wasn’t like I was looking up to him growing up.
Q. You’ve said in the past the point guard is a “dying breed.” Explain what you mean.
Bird: There’s just not a lot of point guards in the world. Each team will have a point guard on their team. But there might not be a backup point guard. There might be a two-guard who can dribble the ball that they make into a point guard. This is all over the world. You look at Russia’s national team, and that’s something they complain about, that they don’t have point guards. You kind of see it in the WNBA, also. It’s something that our national team deals with a little bit. I think with Courtney Vandersloot, you finally see another point guard coming through.
Q. Who are the best three point guards, other than you, in the WNBA?
Bird: If you were to say five, I’d name all the point guards there are (in the WNBA). Lindsay Whalen is a great one. Ticha Penicheiro, and people give her crap because she can’t shoot. But it doesn’t matter, she’s a great point guard. Courtney Vandersloot is probably one of the more pure point guards you have.
Then, after that, can you say Becky Hammon is really a point guard? Is Cappie Pondexter really a point guard? To me, the answer is no. They’re guards who can play the point guard, and they play it very well, don’t get me wrong. I know Becky has led the league in assists before, and Cappie is always in the top five. But it’s so much more than just that.
Q. If you were to switch to the NBA, what team would you want to play for?
Bird: The Knicks.
Q. You wouldn’t want to play for the Mavs or the Heat?
Bird: Maybe for Mark Cuban. But I associate NBA basketball with the Knicks. It’s a no-brainer.
Q. Would you ever want to play for the Liberty?
Bird: Ironically, it’s not something I’ve really thought about. I don’t know why. When the WNBA did start and I was in high school, I did go to Liberty games.
Q. What about playing for Connecticut?
Bird: I don’t know. It’s hard for me because I am super-connected to Seattle and to the fans and the organization. I’ve been here for 10 years and I own a home. And it’s hard to visualize past that. It really is. This is home. When people ask me, “Where are you from?” I do say New York, but when people ask me, “Where do you live?” I say Seattle. Without hesitation. Seattle’s my home, even though I’m from New York.
Q. Outside of Seattle, what’s the best city to play in? Best arena? Best atmosphere?
Bird: I really like Conseco Fieldhouse (in Indianapolis). It’s not brand new now, but it’s one of the newer arenas. It’s nice. The locker room is nice. You go to some places — unfortunately the (Madison Square) Garden, but now it’s being redone, so that’s good — but the Garden locker room is like, “Oh, gosh.” It’s gross back there. But the Garden is still No. 1 in reality to me just because of what it represents and where it is.
In terms of atmosphere, it used to be really hard to play at Arco Arena when the Monarchs were still in the league. Phoenix can be tough to play. Their fans can be really passionate. So is Washington. So maybe those two are two of the tougher places. But we’re definitely No. 1.