Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart were chosen as WNBA All-Star co-captains, but in a bit of a twist the Storm stars are assigned to opposing teams.
“I love the fact that I got picked to be an All-Star starter, but not playing with Sue? C’mon, that’s not fair,” Stewart said, smiling. “We need to find out who’s idea was that.”
By virtue of garnering the most fan votes, Stewart and Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson, who had the most votes, will serve as the official co-captains for the July 10 WNBA All-Star Game held at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago.
The league elected Bird and Minnesota center Sylvia Fowles as co-captains. Bird will be paired with Wilson and Fowles will join Stewart.
Bird and Fowles, the WNBA’s all-time assists and rebounds leaders, respectively, announced they’re retiring after the season and are sure to be dominate headlines at the All-Star Game.
However, Fowles is out indefinitely due to a right knee injury and hasn’t played since June 7.
“It’s very sweet of them to give me and Syl the co-captain nod,” said Bird, the league’s oldest player at 41 who will make a 13th WNBA All-Star Game appearance and 11th start — both league records. “I don’t know why me and Stewie won’t be on the same team. Maybe they thought we play too much together as it is. People make choices sometimes, and that was the choice.”
The other WNBA All-Star starters include: Chicago forward Candace Parker, Las Vegas guards Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young, Minnesota center Sylvia Fowles, Los Angeles forward Nneka Ogwumike and New York guard Sabrina Ionescu.
Fans accounted for 50 percent of the vote to determine the 10 starters, while current players and media each comprised 25 percent.
WNBA head coaches will vote for three guards, five frontcourt players and four players at either position regardless of conference. They may not vote for their own players, and the 12 reserves will be announced June 28.
Stewart/Fowles and Wilson/Bird will draft their respective teams by selecting first from the remaining eight starters and then the 12 reserves.
ESPN will broadcast the WNBA All-Star Team Selection Show on July 2.
“I’m trying to pick Jewell (Loyd) so I can least get one of my teammates on my team,” Stewart said when asked about Loyd, who is vying for her fourth All-Star nod. “Syl and I need to get our mock drafts right.”
The two WNBA head coaches with the best record — regardless of conference — following games on June 24 will coach the All-Star Game. The head coach with the best record will coach the team with the captain who received the most fan votes.
“For icons like Sylvia and Sue to be voted into the AT&T WNBA All-Star Game as starters in their 19th and 15th seasons, respectively, is extraordinary,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. “And when you see the starting lineups dotted with first-time All-Stars like Sabrina Ionescu, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young, it just seems right that Sylvia and Sue — who have said this will be their final season — join A’ja and Breanna as co-captains for an All-Star event that will in some ways symbolize the passing of the torch to a new generation of WNBA stars.”
Stewart has garnered four WNBA All-Star invitations.
“To be honest, the All-Star Game is so complicated because the WNBA hasn’t always had an All-Star Game in the Olympic years,” said Stewart, who is leading the league with a 21.8 scoring average. “So, the numbers are so skewed.”
The WNBA did not conduct an All-Star Game in 2004, 2008, 2010, 2012 or 2016 to accommodate condensed schedules impacted by Summer Olympic Games or FIBA World Championships.
And the 2020 WNBA All-Star Game was canceled because the league played its entire 22-game shortened season at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Stewart believes the league and players will use this year’s All-Star Game to spotlight Phoenix Mercury standout Brittney Griner, a six-time WNBA All-Star, who has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17 on allegations of drug charges.
“The opportunity of being an All-Star is an honor, especially with all the amazing players in this league, but I can’t talk about the All-Star Game without talking about BG,” Stewart said. “It’s been 124 days since she’s been wrongfully detained. Just reading the stuff recently about the miscommunication with the U.S. embassy on trying to get a phone call to her. I don’t know what to think. But I hope President Biden and the White House really gets her home soon.”
The WNBA selected Griner an honorary All-Star starter, and Stewart wants to switch her All-Star Game jersey number to honor the Mercury star.
“I want to wear No. 42 for BG,” she said. “I just do. Just to let her know, I’m thinking about her. … And I’m probably not the only one who feels that way. So, we’ll see what happens.”
Bird added: “The one thing we learned about our league is at some point in time, different people come up with different ideas and they put it into the universe and we all see it, and we go that’s not a bad idea.
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Whatever is going to amplify at this point to bring attention, I think we’re down to do and that’s a very easy way to do that. People will turn on the game and be like, why are they wearing 42?”
- Storm center Mercedes Russell will miss her fourth consecutive game because of a recurrent, atypical headache syndrome when the Storm (10-6) host Washington (11-8) at Climate Pledge Arena 7 p.m. Thursday.