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Sue Bird's final flight draws record Seattle Storm crowd

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Photo by A.V. Eichenbaum
Photo by A.V. Eichenbaum

The air was electric Sunday, August 7, as the Seattle Storm thundered into Climate Pledge Arena for the last home game of the regular season.

The game was tight, but in the end, the visiting Las Vegas Aces won, with a final score of 89-81 over our hometown heroes. That didn't matter to the crowd of 18,000 Storm fans filling the arena. They were there for the team, win or no, and they were there to say goodbye — and thanks — to Sue Bird.

Sue Bird: A summary
Bird was drafted by the Storm in 2002 and was with them for all four of their WNBA championship wins. Five Olympic gold medals and twelve WNBA all-star games are just the tip of the iceberg for the longtime fan favorite's decorated career. It's safe to say that the point guard — once called "one of the best point guards to ever play the game" by CBS Sports— helped shape the Seattle Storm's fanbase and culture over the past two decades.

Aside from her historic career, her power-couple relationship with Megan Rapinoe of the Reign soccer team has long been a source of inspiration for LGBTQ+ sports fans nationwide. A favorite example of their love and support for one another is Bird's essay responding to Donald Trump's hateful tweets aimed at Rapinoe and the USWNT during the 2019 World Cup. So the President F*cking Hates My Girlfriend jumped to Rapinoe's defense and showcased the admiration Bird has for her girlfriend, now her fiancée.

For Seattleites, Bird's name is synonymous with basketball. The love and support fans showed her at her final regular season home game said it all.

The game
The largest crowd in Seattle Storm history. That's what the announcer said in between time-outs and highlight reels of Bird's career. Signs saying, "Thank you, Sue" and "GOAT" flooded the arena. The halftime show was Jessica K. Haas — America's first female speedpainter — live-painting a portrait of Sue Bird to thunderous applause. Mayor Bruce Harrell sat courtside.

To say this game was a big deal would be an understatement. It was a celebration — not only of Bird's career but of the things Storm fans love about the game itself.

It was loud. It was dynamic. The fans were asked to bring the thunder, and that's what they did.

Sue Bird — Photo by Neil Enns Seattle Storm  

After the game, Bird spoke to the crowd. A belovedly infamous trash talker, she joked, "I'm sure I'll be back to roast everyone I've ever played with," before thanking fans for 21 years of support and giving a shout-out to famed Lesbian bar The Wildrose.

"It took me a minute to figure out who I was," she told the packed stadium. "But once I did, I was all right. And you guys allowed me to do that... I love you, thank you so much, and I'll see you in the playoffs."

The Storm went on last week to beat the Chicago Sky on their home turf 111-100 in their final regular season game of the year.