The first offseason domino for the Storm fell when Sue Bird announced she’s returning to Seattle next season.
In an Instagram post Friday morning, the 41-year-old veteran point guard put an end to months of speculation on whether she would retire or return for her 19th season with three short words: “Ok. Let’s gooooo.”
Following a second-round loss in the WNBA playoffs, Bird was unsure about her future.
After a postseason elimination 85-80 defeat to the Phoenix Mercury, Bird swapped jerseys with longtime friend Diana Taurasi at midcourt during an emotional exchange as the Angel of the Winds Arena fans chanted “one more year.”
“When you have the fans cheer ‘one more year,’ the minute I let myself think about it, it makes me want to cry,” said Bird, who has played 18 WNBA seasons over the past 20 years. “So I’ve really been pushing it off and just wanting to focus on this season. It’s a first time for me – I’ll be honest – this is the first offseason where I feel like I need to weigh it.
“Usually I’m like one more year if I feel good, I’ll be there. I think this is the first time when I’m really going to have to sit back and just kind of see how I feel and weigh some things. I know for sure that I want to let the emotion of the season die down. I don’t want to make an emotional decision. And I also feel very lucky that it’s not the physical part that’s ‘taking me down.’ It will be my own decision.”
Whether or not Bird could still be productive was never a question in 2021 when she averaged 10 points, 5.3 assists and 2.6 rebounds while shooting 43.1% from the field and 41.9% on three-pointers.
Last year, she made a record 12th WNBA All-Star appearance and captured a record-setting fifth Olympic gold medal with the U.S. women’s national team at the Tokyo Games.
Still, the four-time WNBA champion and league’s all-time assist leader considered calling it quits.
“Offseasons have some highs and lows in terms of motivation, and it can be difficult,” Bird said in September. “That is daunting for me now from a mental standpoint and getting my body to where it needs to be to be ready for a WNBA season. It’s always difficult. And so there is a part of me I have to ask myself these questions. Do I want to do that again? Do I want to go there again?”
At the time, Bird admitted she wanted to play in the new Climate Pledge Arena after the Storm spent the past three seasons relocated away from Seattle.
“I’m not going to lie, that would be nice,” Bird said. “But we’ll see. Who knows?”
Even though Bird and the Storm mutually renewed their basketball partnership via social media posts Friday, she’s technically an unrestricted free agent who can sign with any team.
However, Bird made it clear recently that she would only play for Seattle, the team that selected her No. 1 overall in the 2002 WNBA draft.
“No, no, no, if I play, it’s going to be here,” Bird said after guiding the Storm to a 2020 WNBA championship. “There was a time when I thought about going somewhere else, but that ship has sailed.”
WNBA teams and free agents cannot begin negotiating until Jan. 15, and new contracts can’t officially be signed until Feb. 1.
In 2021, Bird signed a one-year, supermax deal of $221,450 and figures to be one of the highest-paid free agents on the market.
It remains to be seen how the Storm fills out a roster that currently has just five players under contract.
Seattle, which finished 21-11 and won the inaugural Commissioner’s Cup last season, has five unrestricted free agents, including All-Stars Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd as well as backup guard Jordin Canada and reserve forward Cierra Burdick.
Meanwhile, center Mercedes Russell is a restricted free agent and the Storm have to extend her a qualifying offer by Jan. 14 or she’ll become unrestricted.