This time there were tears, on the court and in the stands, with the finality of the situation finally hitting Sue Bird and the thousands that showed up on Tuesday hoping to see her career continue for at least 40 more minutes.
Chelsea Gray was simply too good, sending the Las Vegas Aces to the WNBA Finals after beating the Seattle Storm 97-92 in Game 4 of their semi-final series.
It brought an end to Bird’s illustrious career. With it came thanks from fans, tears and one last walk off the court in the same spot where Bird’s career began more than two decades ago.
“Kinda weird. Definitely surreal. I think initially ... I felt sad about the season and the game, and I then think as the emotions started to come to the surface that was also what I know deep down in that was my last game,” Bird said.
Gray scored 15 of her 31 points in the fourth quarter and the Aces won the best-of-five series 3-1, all the games tense, pressure-packed and filled with spectacular shot-making. The Aces ended up making more, most notably by Gray, who sank five of six shots down the stretch and scored 12 of the final 20 points for the Aces.
“I don’t think anyone on planet Earth can guard her,” Seattle coach Noelle Quinn said. “She was unconscious.”
It will be the third Finals appearance in franchise history for Las Vegas. The Aces lost to Seattle in 2020 in the WNBA bubble played in Florida, and the franchise reached the Finals in 2008 while still in San Antonio, losing to Detroit.
“It’s kind of like the girl that beat Serena [Williams]. It’s bittersweet,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said. “I know myself and our staff and team and organization have so much respect for Sue. She’s had a fairy-tale career, one that kids dream of. She got to live it.”
Bird, who at 41 is the oldest player in the league, stayed on the court after the final buzzer, receiving hugs from the entire Aces roster. She wiped away tears while the crowd cheered and cried along with her, and chanted: “Thank you, Sue.”
“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,” Bird said. “I’m proud of everything we’ve accomplished here.”
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