WNBA Star Sue Bird Thanks Fans After Her Last Home Game: 'You Guys Have Cared for Me'

·4 min read
Sue Bird
Sue Bird

Steph Chambers/Getty Sue Bird

After over two decades playing for the Seattle Storm, Sue Bird took to her home court Sunday for her last regular season game ahead of her retirement from the WNBA.

Climate Pledge Arena was filled with a franchise record-crowd of 18,100 for Sunday's matchup against the Las Vegas Aces, according to ESPN.

Though the Aces came out on top with a 89-81 victory, Bird, 41, said the loss brought her back to her first game on a Seattle court.

"I'm not going to lie, it kinda sucks to lose my last game here," the WNBA star said as she addressed the crowd after the game. "But you know what? I lost my first game here too, so, it's okay."

The five-time Olympic gold medalist and her team ran out for their pregame warmup through a tunnel of Bird's family and friends, including her fiancée Megan Rapinoe.

Fans also got involved in the celebration, including a young girl who handed Bird a flower from the sidelines as she was about to inbound the ball. In the sweet moment, Bird asked the girl to hold on to the flower for her as she finished out the game.

Sue Bird
Sue Bird

Steph Chambers/Getty Sue Bird receives flower from young fan

After the game, Bird addressed the crowd of fans and reflected on her 21 years playing for the franchise.

She joked that in response to hearing the crowd's chant of "Thank you Sue," she was grateful they were not saying "One more year."

"I just want to say from the bottom of my heart, how thankful I am, not only for today and all of you showing up and supporting us, but for 21 years," she said.

The Syosset, New York, native recalled starting on the team as a "21-year-old kid" and feeling the city's support from the start.

She shared a time early in her career when she and some teammates visited the Wildrose — a lesbian bar in Seattle.

"I saw a season ticket holder there, she came over to me, put her arm around me, she's like, 'Hey, I don't know if this is the place you want to be.' And, you know, on the outside I said, 'Oh, okay, thanks, you know, good looking out,' [but] on the inside I was like, 'Oh, I know where I am,' " she remembered.

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She continued, "And I say that to say, she was protecting me, she was looking out for me… that right there is the epitome for how you guys have cared for me."

Bird then acknowledged her decision to stay with the franchise for so many years.

"Through a player's career there's always opportunities to leave and this place is not only where I've played, it's where I call home," she said.

After beginning to list off names of people to thank, she noted that after more than two decades in the league, there are so many people to acknowledge.

Sue Bird
Sue Bird

Lindsey Wasson/NBAE/Getty

To conclude, she said, "I love you, thank you so much, and I'll see you in the playoffs."

Bird announced her retirement just last month with an Instagram post.

"I've decided this will be my final year," Bird said on Instagram in June. "I have loved every single minute, and still do, so gonna play my last year just like this little girl played her first #TheFinalYear."

In her post, she shared a video of fans chanting "one more year" in January, when she decided she would play during the 2022 season. She also included a throwback image of herself on the court as a teenager.

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In March, she spoke with PEOPLE about what she's most looking forward to this season.

"When it's all said and done, I will be really proud that I've played my whole career in one franchise in one city," she said.

"Just the relationship that you develop with this city itself, with the fans, it's really special," she added. "To have the ending possibly be in this brand new arena, Climate Pledge, it's a gorgeous arena. I think our franchise is really deserving of getting to play in it. I'm glad I'm going to be able to play in it. All of those things kind of tied in makes this last year … I just know it's going to be really special."