“She’s the best point guard to every play this game.”
This quote, said by Seattle Storm head coach Noelle Quinn after Tuesday’s season-ending loss to the Las Vegas Aces, is about as accurate of a summary one can make about the greatness that is Sue Bird.
Bird, 41, made it official that this season would be her last a few months ago. So, with tears in her eyes and gratitude in her heart, she stepped off the floor on Tuesday for one final time, with the home crowd belting out “Thank you Sue” chants that reverberated off the walls of Climate Pledge Arena, a house practically built by Bird after her incredible 21-year run as Seattle’s starting point guard.
“I didn’t really want to leave the court but that’s where it felt like everybody was going, so I just followed at first,” Bird said. “But I also wanted to kind of have one last moment to say thank you, to soak it all in. Because in some ways, it is a happy thing. You know, proud of everything we’ve accomplished here.”
Bird’s legacy is impossible to capture in a single article, but a few basics: She was a two-time NCAA Champion at UConn, where she also won college Player of the Year and made an All-American team. She was a four-time WNBA Champion, a five-time EuroLeague Champion, and a five-time Olympic Gold Medalist while also making 13(!) All-Star Games.
All that to say this: there will never be another Sue Bird, and her legacy as perhaps the greatest point guard in history isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
However, her WNBA record for assists, well, that could get challenged in the not too distant future.
Gonzaga alumni Courtney Vandersloot moved into third place all-time in assists during this past season, now trailing just Bird and Ticha Penicheiro with a career total of 2,385.
That puts her a cool 849 assists behind Bird, which by itself would rank 52nd all-time in WNBA history, between Tully Bevilaqua (854) and Erica Wheeler (842).
However, Vandersloot averaged 246 assists per season over the past six years dating back to 2017, and at age 33 it is not impossible to imagine her playing for another 5-8 years, where she could easily surpass Bird’s lofty all-time record.
Bird herself totaled 1,166 assists from age 34 onward, averaging 5.6 per game from 2011 until 2022. Vandersloot’s career average is 6.6, and she has averaged an astonishing 8.4 assists per game dating back to 2017.
Of course, Vandersloot’s 207 assists this past season was her lowest total since 2016, in part because she played just 26.5 minutes per game (also her lowest since 2016) and she missed a few games in the middle of the season after suffering a concussion.
Continued health and a strong desire to keep playing for as long as she is able is probably enough for Vandersloot to move into first place in WNBA history in assists, although it’s not easy to maintain borderline elite levels of production into the mid-30’s.
Regardless, Bird and Vandersloot are two of the best to ever put on a WNBA uniform, and Sloot passing Bird on the leaderboards would not take anything away from the storybook career she had over the past two decades.
Andy hosts the Locked on Zags and Locked on College Basketball podcasts, and serves Locked On in a marketing/digital content creator role as well. He lives just outside Portland with his wife Jenna and dog, Tillie.