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Olympic Basketball Player Sue Bird in 11 Facts

LISTICLE | 07/19/2021
Author:
Antonia Wille

She could make heroine history in Tokyo, the kind we know and love from the United States: U.S. basketball player Sue Bird will be competing in her fifth Olympics at age 40. If the favorite USA team wins, it would be Bird's fifth gold medal. It would be the crowning achievement of a career that has significance far beyond sport - for the LGBT movement as well as for Black Live Matters campaigners. Who is Sue Bird? 11 facts about the native New Yorker.

1

Boorda Becomes Bird

Bird's family has Russian roots. Her father is from Russia. Her grandfather emigrated to the United States by ship. His last name was Boorda. When he came to Ellis Island, people asked him what his name was, the basketball player reported in a piece for the Washington Jewish Museum. When he answered Boorda, they would have said, "Boorda? Bird. Now go on." That's how the family came up with their animal last name, she said.

2

Only the Best of Every Faith

Her father's family is Jewish. But her mother is Protestant. Sue Bird herself didn't go to church or temple. She wasn't even baptized. But as a child, she said, she always got and took the best of both sides. With one half of her family, she celebrated Easter - with the other half, the Pasha festival. Today, Bird says she has never had to identify with either faith and carries the best of both.

3

You're....'s Little Sister

Sue Bird grew up in an academic household in New York. Her father was a doctor. And her sister Jennifer, five years older, was a model student, which little Sue got to hear. "Oh, are you Jen's little sister?" Sister Jen not only impressed her teachers, but to this day Sue refers to her older sister as her hero, whom she looked up to and emulated. The tables have since turned. Today, it is Jennifer Bird who is asked, "Oh, are you Sue's older sister?"

4

Lawyer, Doctor or Footballer - But Not Basketballer

In her fifth-grade yearbook, Bird, who was born on October 16, 1980, had completely different plans. Lawyer, doctor or professional football player were the dream jobs she had entered there. But she grew up during the time when women's basketball was taking off. When Sue was a teenager, it was advertised everywhere - eventually the WNBA, the equivalent of the men's basketball league NBA, started in 1997. Sue was one of those girls recruited out of high school to play women's basketball. "As a little kid, I didn't dream of playing professional basketball. But as a teenager, I definitely had the goal to make it."

5

Mike Bibby and Jennifer Azzi as Role Models

Mike Bibby was Bird's big role model on the men's side. Bibby was playing in Arizona when she first became interested in basketball. And at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Bird became enamored with Olympic champion Azzi - but for a very specific reason. "I thought, oh, she looks like me." That, she says, became her connection to Azzi. What Azzi can do, I've been able to do for a long time, Sue Bird thought - and became a professional athlete.

6

A Stack of Records and a One-Year Plan

Sue Bird is a winner through and through. She won the national championship in high school and was named player of the year in New York. At Connecticut, she won an unfathomable 136 of 145 games with her varsity team - Bird not only graduated with a degree in communications, but was also Player of the Year. She has now been playing in the WNBA for nearly 20 years - since 2002. She has played in the most games in the women's league by far and has now won four championships. In addition, there are the titles with the national team, with which she has already been world champion four times. And success in Europe. Because Bird played in Moscow as well as in Ekaterinburg during the WNBA season breaks and could win the Euroleague Women four times in a row from 2007 to 2010 alone. Wonder if she'll call it quits after Tokyo ? Not out of the question, but not necessarily said either. For a few years now, she has jokingly talked about following a one-year plan - at the end of each year, she decides anew whether to continue her career.

7

Suddenly Also an Israeli Citizen

Sue Bird also has an Israeli citizenship. But that has nothing to do with her Jewish faith or with any particularly close ties to Israel. It is simply practical to have European citizenship for her guest engagements in Europe. This makes it easier for associations to engage them.

8

Feasting at Home

For a long time, Bird has lived primarily in Seattle. Nowhere in the world is it more beautiful with warm weather and clear skies, she believes. But her favorite thing about her adopted hometown, in her own words, is the restaurant scene. "I love going out to eat" - either to old favorites or new restaurants.

9

Coming Outs Do Matter!

Sue Bird has been dating US professional soccer player Megan Rapinoe for quite some time. The two are engaged to be married. She herself never thought about coming out, says Bird. Her family knew she was a lesbian. Her friends knew, her entire environment knew - she simply saw no need to come out publicly. But then Megan showed her the other side, that visibility is important for homosexual couples. Heterosexual couples wouldn't need to mention they were together at all. As long as homosexual couples are not recognized in society, they have to come out - "it actually does matter". Sue Bird is also a role model here. Her coming out has given many people the self-confidence to be who they really are.

10

From Player to Coach?

If Sue Bird does end her playing career after Tokyo, she already knows what she wants to do next. She wants to become a coach. She's been trying to see the games through a coach's eyes for a few years now. But if, contrary to expectations, the coaching career doesn't work out, she could also imagine a career in television.

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Fighter for a Liberal America

Sue Bird bills herself as a fighter for a liberal, enlightened America. With her fiancée Rapinoe, she recently helped at the vaccination center. She criticized the former US President Donald Trump. But most of all, she and other players in the WNBA devoted themselves to fighting for more social justice and against discrimination. As vice-president of the WNBA's players' union, she negotiated for social justice messages to appear on the basketball players' jerseys. But it wasn't just the slogan "Black live matters" that was boldly written on the jerseys. The female players also put up a list of demands for revisions in the criminal justice system, for example. Unlike men, women are viewed very differently. Male athletes are only allowed to practice their sport. Women, on the other hand, are judged not only on their sport but also on how they look and who they love. But because women are also skilled at forming a united front in conversations about social justice, she and other players got the WNBA to be a role model in this regard.

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Author:
Antonia Wille
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