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The evolution and revolution of Seattle’s point guard



How did a girl from Syosset, New York, who once claimed soccer as her first love become one of the most successful basketball players in the world?

Sue Bird has won at every level, and the Seattle Storm point guard just added to an already overflowing trophy case 10 days ago with her fourth WNBA championship.

But today, Bird reaches another milestone: It’s her 40th birthday.

From winning state titles at Christ The King and two NCAA crowns at UConn to capturing four WNBA titles and four Olympic gold medals, Bird has celebrated championships around the globe.

And while the WNBA’s all-time assists leader got shout-outs from LeBron James as he also closed in on a fourth title in his 17th season, her legacy extends off the court. Bird helped shepherd a historic collective bargaining agreement last January and spearheaded social justice issues in the WNBA bubble this past season.

We look back at the legend of Sue Bird.

How it started

Little did Suzanne Brigit Bird from Long Island know just how far she’d go on a basketball court. Baby Bird played AAU ball — shown here at a girls 11-and-under national championship in 1992, just three years before the UConn women would win their first national championship.

Bird has always been a steady, consistent player on the court, but like Seattle teammate Breanna Stewart, tends to come up big when the game is on the line.

Just days before Bird and the Storm completed a sweep of the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA Finals on Oct. 6, UConn coach Geno Auriemma said no one was better prepared.

“Sue’s been training for these moments every single day since her rookie year,” Auriemma said during a Zoom media call. “Some people don’t have the stamina to be able to do that. They don’t have the discipline to do that.”

Helping the Huskies return to the top

Bird’s freshman season at UConn was cut short by an ACL tear, suffered just eight games into 1998-99. But she quickly made an impact when she returned to the court. Bird averaged 10.9 points and 4.3 assists as a sophomore, helping the Huskies go 36-1 and win the NCAA title. Nowadays the Huskies are synonymous with perfect seasons and three-peats, but at this point it was only the second national championship for UConn.

Related: Ageless Seattle star Sue Bird is the consummate champion

At the time, nothing was bigger in women’s college basketball than the UConn-Tennessee rivalry, and they met three times that season. In her first game in the series, Bird scored 25 points on 8-for-10 shooting as the Huskies won a January 2000 meeting in Knoxville, Tennessee. A month later, the Lady Vols repaid the favor, ruining what had been a perfect season to that point with a one-point win in Storrs, Connecticut. But UConn got the last laugh that season, easily beating Tennessee in the final in Philadelphia, Auriemma’s hometown.

“I think the series helped establish my identity as a player,” Bird told ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel last year. “As someone who, hopefully, makes their teammates better and when needed can come up with big plays and big shots.”

The best NCAA championship team ever?

Now we’re starting to see the beginnings of the next dynasty in women’s college basketball. The 2001-02 UConn team, which had Bird and three other seniors (Swin Cash, Asjha Jones and Tamika Williams) in the starting lineup, is largely regarded as the best in women’s college basketball history. The Huskies went 39-0 and steamrolled opponents by a 35.4 average margin of victory, with just one single-digit win.

Bird, with then-sophomore Diana Taurasi beside her in the UConn backcourt, averaged 14.4 points and 5.9 assists, and was the consensus National Player of the Year, winning the Wade Trophy and Naismith Award. Bird, shown below celebrating with Auriemma during a victory parade through Hartford, Connecticut, went 114-4 at UConn.

Less than three weeks later, Bird was the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft — and Cash, Jones and Williams also were selected within the first six picks of the first round.

Led by Taurasi, the Huskies would go on to win three consecutive titles (2002-04) for just the second three-peat in women’s college basketball history.

Prestigious pack of point guards

It didn’t take the rest of the country long to put Bird on par with point guard royalty in the professional ranks. During the 2003 NBA All-Star Weekend, Bird lined up alongside the Seattle Sonics’ Gary Payton, the New Jersey Nets’ Jason Kidd, the Phoenix Sun’s Stephon Marbury and the San Antonio Spurs’ Tony Parker before the Skills Challenge.

Bird is a lock — and likely first-ballot choice — to join The Glove and J-Kidd in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame when she retires.

The Greek squad

The 2004 WNBA regular season went on hiatus in August that year as the Athens Olympics were held. Lisa Leslie, Dawn Staley and Sheryl Swoopes headlined Team USA as youngsters like Bird, Taurasi, Cash and Tamika Catchings made their Olympic debuts. Bird was an understudy as Staley capped her USA Basketball career, coming off the bench in seven of eight games as the Americans won their third consecutive gold medal.

But it laid the foundation for the future. The torch was passed, and by 2008, Bird was a regular starter for the Olympic team, adding gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Games, 2012 London Games and 2016 Rio Games.

Bird is 142-6 all-time when competing for Team USA.

Make it a double

A month-and-a-half after winning gold, Bird and the Storm brought a title back to Seattle for the first time since the Sonics’ 1979 championship.

The Storm’s first title was a few years in the making. In 2001, Seattle drafted Australian post Lauren Jackson (holding trophy with Bird, below) with the No. 1 pick. Bird arrived in 2002. And coach Anne Donovan took the reins in 2003.

The Storm went 18-16 in Donovan’s first season. In 2004, Seattle added shooting guard Betty Lennox with the sixth pick in the dispersal draft after the Cleveland Rockers franchise disbanded, and everything slowly fell into place as the season unfolded.

Seattle actually finished second in the Western Conference behind the Los Angeles Sparks, and limped into the playoffs having lost six of its final nine games of the regular season when the league resumed after the Olympic break. The Storm swept Minnesota in the best-of-three Western Conference semifinals, but things got harder from there. Despite losing the opening game in overtime of the Western Conference finals against Sacramento, Seattle rallied to reach the WNBA Finals, where it again lost the opening game but then won two straight to beat the Connecticut Sun.

Donovan became the first female coach to win a WNBA title. Bird averaged 12.9 points and 5.4 assists.

A world away

Bird began playing overseas in Russia during the WNBA offseason in 2004. After two seasons with Dynamo Moscow, she signed with Spartak Moscow. Owned by one-time Soviet Union spy Shabtai von Kalmanovic, the players lived a life of luxury with salaries that far exceeded what they were paid to play in the WNBA. The rosters were equally lavish, even Dream Team-esque, as players such as Lauren Jackson, Taurasi, Tina Thompson and Bird (below, from left, with von Kalmanovic middle) teamed up to sweep Russian Super League and EuroLeague titles.

In 2011, Bird made the move to UMMC Ekaterinburg, where she added three more consecutive titles in the Russian League.


Seattle lost in the Western Conference semifinals for five consecutive years following its 2004 title. But when the 2010 postseason arrived, the Storm didn’t lose a game.

First came a 2-0 sweep of the Los Angeles Sparks in the semis, followed by a 2-0 sweep of the Phoenix Mercury in the conference finals. Seattle added three more straight victories over Atlanta in the WNBA Finals to return to the top of the WNBA.

Seattle’s Lauren Jackson also swept regular-season and WNBA Finals MVP honors that season, but Bird had her big moments, too, en route to Seattle’s second championship.

In Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, Seattle overcame a 19-point deficit, and Bird had an assist, a block, a rebound and then hit a 24-foot jumper with 2.8 seconds left for the win. And in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, Bird’s 18-footer was the game-winner with 2.6 seconds to play.

In one of the most iconic images in Storm history, Bird leaped into Jackson’s arms on Atlanta’s home court to celebrate the title.

Taking stock

Bird credits a strict diet and workout regimen for her longevity. And though she sat out the 2013 and 2019 seasons after knee surgeries, she holds several career marks.

On Sept. 1, 2017, Bird became the WNBA’s all-time assists leader, breaking Ticha Penicheiro’s mark. Through this past season, Bird has 2,888 assists.

Bird ranks eighth in the WNBA in career points (6,262), and is the WNBA leader in career starts (519; she has never come off the bench) and career minutes (16,430).

She has appeared in a WNBA-record 11 All-Star games, and ranks first in playoff appearances (14).

‘Career-defining moment’

In Game 5 of the 2018 WNBA semifinals, the top-seeded Storm were trailing the Phoenix Mercury entering the fourth quarter. Bird wasn’t shooting well, missing eight straight shots at one point and was 1-for-6 on 3-pointers through three periods.

Enter Breanna Stewart. The regular-season MVP reminded Bird, “Sue, use your legs.” Bird — who was wearing a mask to protect the broken nose she had suffered in a game just two days earlier — knew Stewie was right.

“A lot of the shots I had been taking in that third quarter, I was really short,” said Bird, who was 37 at the time. “I’m happy Stewie reminded me of that.”

Related: Sue Bird’s top five clutch moments: Masked heroics, game winners and monster quarters

Over the final six minutes of the game, Bird hit 5-of-6 shots and scored 14 of her 22 points in the fourth quarter, helping Seattle clinch a spot in the WNBA Finals. Bird later called it a “career-defining moment.”

Seattle went on to sweep the Washington Mystics in the WNBA Finals and Bird — who averaged a career-best 7.1 assists per game in the regular season — was a champion again. Stewart, the Finals MVP, wore the shirt above during the Storm’s championship parade.

The definition of a power couple

Quick, name a cooler couple in sports. Didn’t think so.

Bird revealed she was gay and dating U.S. Soccer and Seattle Reign star Megan Rapinoe in an ESPN story in 2017. Days later, Rapinoe sat courtside when the Seattle Storm hosted the WNBA All-Star Game. Since, they became the first gay couple to pose in ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue (2018) and set the bar both for their sports dominance and commitment to social justice issues.

In 2019, Bird cheered on Rapinoe in France as she won top player honors and captained the U.S. women’s national team to the Women’s World Cup title. And this summer, Rapinoe lived with Bird in the WNBA bubble in Bradenton, Florida.

But whether they’re calling for unity against racial injustice as hosts of the 2020 ESPYs with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, or merely hanging courtside at the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend (below), they are a world-class athlete power couple whose popularity has spawned “Rapinoe-Bird 2020” T-shirts.

Let Russ … pay homage to Bird

Female athletes never need male athletes to justify them. But when one of the leading NFL MVP candidates arrives to his Sunday Night Football game — and his postgame news conference — wearing Bird’s Storm jersey, it’s worth taking notice.

And listening. Because Russell Wilson not only wore Bird’s jersey backward so her name and number were easily seen, the Seattle QB likened himself to Bird, who had voiced a minute-long segment that NBC aired prior to the game calling for “Russ for MVP.”

The Seahawks trailed the Minnesota Vikings by five points when Wilson orchestrated a 94-yard drive in the final 1 minute, 57 seconds, including a 39-yard completion on fourth-and-10. Seattle won on Wilson’s 6-yard touchdown pass to DK Metcalf with 15 seconds to play.

When asked about the game-winning drive, Wilson responded: “I feel like Sue Bird in the clutch.”

How it’s going

In 2015, the Storm selected Notre Dame star Jewell Loyd with the No. 1 draft pick. The following year, fresh off of four consecutive NCAA titles, Stewart became the next No. 1 overall pick to come to Seattle.

But something else important happened around that time: Though free agency loomed, Bird decided to stay put and re-signed a multiyear deal with the Storm in February 2016.

Now Seattle has won two titles in three seasons, and likely will be the preseason favorite in 2021.

Will there be more locker room champagne celebrations in Bird’s future? Bird, who was limited to 11 regular-season games this season due to knee issues but also averaged a career-best 9.2 assists per game in the playoffs, has said she hopes to play through the 2021 calendar year, which would include her 18th WNBA season and her fifth Olympics.

“The way I feel right now, if I can go through my offseason and continue to build on that in a good way,” Bird said following Seattle’s title, “I don’t see why I won’t be playing next summer.”

Now that would be a gift for us all.


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Cowboys QB Dalton out for game after hard hit



A Dallas Cowboys season that has been bad has gotten worse.

Andy Dalton, starting his second game for an injured Dak Prescott, was forced to the locker room in the third quarter against the Washington Football Team after taking a big hit from linebacker Jon Bostic on a third-down scramble.

Dalton went straight to the locker room for further examination; Bostic was ejected from the game.

Dalton was replaced by rookie Ben DiNucci, a seventh-round pick, who saw one series of action in last week’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Before the injury, Dalton completed 9 of 19 passes for 75 yards. He was sacked three times and lost a fumble on the Cowboys’ first possession that led to a safety. He had one pass intercepted on a throw that was behind Ezekiel Elliott and tipped into Cole Holcomb’s hands for the turnover.

The Cowboys’ third quarterback, Garrett Gilbert, who joined the team last week, is inactive. Tight end Blake Bell was a quarterback at Oklahoma, so he could be the team’s backup.

The last time the Cowboys had to use three quarterbacks in a season because of injury came in 2015. Tony Romo started and finished just two games as he suffered a twice-broken right collarbone. The Cowboys also had Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore, their current offensive coordinator, start games in that 4-12 season.


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Lewis Hamilton overtakes Schumacher with record 92nd F1 win



Lewis Hamilton powers to victory in the Portuguese Grand Prix to become Formula One’s record all-time race winner.

Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has become Formula One’s record all-time race winner with a dominant 92nd career victory at the Portuguese Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver took the chequered flag a huge 25.592 seconds ahead of second-place team-mate Valtteri Bottas on Sunday, and 34.5 seconds clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen for his eighth win of the season.

Hamilton had equalled Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s record 91 wins at the previous race at the Nuerburgring.

He also took an extra point on Sunday for the fastest lap to extend his huge championship lead to 77 points over Bottas with just five races left in the coronavirus-affected season.

Hamilton is within reach of equalling Schumacher’s record of winning seven championships.

He took a record-extending 97th career pole position, starting ahead of Bottas and Verstappen on a track being used for the first time in F1.

“I only ever dreamed of being where I am today,” he said after the race and a long hug with his father Anthony, who managed his early career.

“I didn’t have a magic (crystal) ball when I chose to come here (Mercedes) – and all we have ever tried to do is make the most of it every single day. We are all rowing in the same direction.

“I have got my dad here which is amazing and my step-mum Linda – and Roscoe (his dog) – so it’s a very special day. It’s going to take time to sink in, but I was still pushing coming across the line.”

On the team radio, he emotionally told Mercedes that it was “such an honour to work with you” and his race engineer Peter ‘Bono’ Bonnington replied, saying: “It’s the same here, an honour, genuinely.”

After the race, Hamilton added: “I really owe it all to these guys for their teamwork, continually innovating and pushing the barrier ever higher every year.”

Lewis Hamilton in action during the race [Rudy Carezzevoli/Reuters]

He had cramp, he said, in his right calf in the closing stages of the race.

“Lifting my foot down the straight, it was pretty painful. I could feel it pull, but I had to get through it. It is what it is.”

His Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff, who has helped guide Hamilton to five of his world titles and the team to an unprecedented six in a row, said: “Who would’ve thought when we started this project in 2013? It’s almost a surreal number of wins.

“From Lewis, it’s his absolute passion and energy and its everything he puts into the sport – and the talent and the ability. He’s just standing out.”

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished fourth with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly fifth at the Algarve circuit near Portimao that was hosting Portugal’s first Grand Prix in 24 years.

Sainz was sixth with Renault’s Esteban Ocon and Daniel Ricciardo eighth and ninth.

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel took the final point for Ferrari.

Lance Stroll, who missed the last race and then tested positive for COVID-19, was the only retirement of the afternoon with the team reporting floor damage.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the race on the podium [Rudy Carezzevoli/Reuters]


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NFL Week 7 fantasy football inactives watch: Who’s in and who’s out?



To help you set your fantasy football lineups and to avoid starting a player who won’t be in the lineup, we’ll post fantasy-relevant updates and analysis here as NFL teams release their inactives, typically about 90 minutes before kickoff. Any rankings cited in this column come from our ESPN Fantasy staff ranks.

Refresh often for the latest information.

Note: The Tampa Bay-Las Vegas game originally scheduled for Sunday night has been moved and is currently scheduled in the 4 p.m. window. In a corresponding move, the Seattle-Arizona game has been moved to Sunday night.

4 p.m. ET games


Tyler Eifert, TE, JAX: Neck — OUT
Impact: James O’Shaughnessy didn’t do much when he filled in after Eifert’s injury last week.

Chris Thompson, RB, JAX: Illness — OUT/IR
Impact: He has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. His limited fantasy value may be usurped by Devine Ozigbo, just off the IR.

Sammy Watkins, WR, KC: Hamstring — OUT
Impact: Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman both see increased fantasy value.

Tyrod Taylor, QB, LAC: Chest — Questionable
Impact: Justin Herbert has been strong since taking over for Taylor, who might not start again this season, even when 100% healthy.

Justin Jackson, RB, LAC: Knee — Questionable
Impact: Expected to play and should see more work than Joshua Kelley.

KJ Hill Jr., WR, LAC: Hip — Questionable
Impact: Just as well if he sits, as Keenan Allen appears to be at full strength.

Bryan Edwards, WR, LV: Ankle — OUT
Impact: Hasn’t been ready for a month now, which means job security for the trio of Henry Ruggs III, Nelson Agholor and Hunter Renfrow.

Julian Edelman, WR, NE: Knee — Questionable
Impact: What else is new? Edelman is questionable. Edelman will almost certainly play.

Raheem Mostert, RB, SF: Ankle — OUT/IR
Impact: JaMycal Hasty and Jerick McKinnon will split RB duties …

Jeff Wilson Jr., RB, SF: Calf — Questionable
Impact: … with Tevin Coleman possibly rejoining the team next week.


Jeremiah Attaochu, DE, DEN: Quad — OUT

Myles Jack, LB, JAX: Ankle — OUT

Maliek Collins, DT, LV: Shoulder — Active

Adam Butler, DT, NE: Elbow — Questionable

Kwon Alexander, LB, SF: Ankle — OUT

Jimmie Ward, S, SF: Quad — OUT

Jaquiski Tartt, S, SF: Groin — OUT

Sunday night game

Seattle Seahawks

Jamal Adams, S: Groin — OUT

Arizona Cardinals

DeAndre Hopkins, WR: Ankle — Questionable
Impact: Late-week practice, albeit of a limited nature, does point to Hopkins being able to go on Sunday night.

Jordan Phillips, DE: Foot — Questionable

Kylie Fitts, LB: Hamstring — Questionable

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB: Foot — Questionable

Official Sunday inactives should begin coming in at approximately 11:30 a.m. ET for the early games and 2:30 p.m. ET for the late games.

1 p.m. ET games


John Brown, WR, BUF: Knee — OUT
Impact: Gabriel Davis will fill in for Brown and could deliver some value.

Dawson Knox, TE, BUF: Calf — OUT/IR
Impact: Tyler Kroft can play, but Lee Smith must also sit as a result of Knox’s positive COVID-19 test.

Curtis Samuel, WR, CAR: Knee — Active
Impact: Keith Kirkwood could still see some action.

Joe Mixon, RB, CIN: Foot — OUT
Impact: Giovani Bernard could return huge value as he takes over the majority of Mixon’s workload.

John Ross III, WR, CIN: Illness — Inactive
Impact: There’s just no value here, as Tee Higgins has stepped up big time.

Austin Hooper, TE, CLE: Appendix — OUT
Impact: David Njoku and Harrison Bryant will split time in an effort to replace the ill tight end.

Aaron Jones, RB, GB: Calf — Inactive
Impact: Jamaal Williams is ready to have a huge day.

Robert Tonyan, TE, GB: Ankle — Active
Impact: Marcedes Lewis/Jace Sternberger fade into the background.

Michael Thomas, WR, NO: Hamstring — OUT
Impact: Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway and Deonte Harris are all the WRs that Drew Brees has to throw to this week.

Sam Darnold, QB, NYJ: Shoulder — Active
Impact: Still a lot to be desired in the WR department, though.

Jamison Crowder, WR, NYJ: Groin — Inactive
Impact: Denzel Mims was activated from IR and could see some extra targets.

Sam Ficken, K, NYJ: Groin — Inactive
Impact: Sergio Castillo, recently signed to the practice squad, is the team’s emergency option.

Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, WSH: Hamstring — OUT/IR
Impact: Dontrelle Inman should see a significant bump in value.

Isaiah Wright, WR, WSH: Shoulder — OUT
Impact: Cam Sims and Robert Foster might enter the WR mix.


Takkarist McKinley, DE, ATL: Groin — Active

Matt Milano, LB, BUF: Pectoral — Active

Josh Norman, CB, BUF: Hamstring — OUT

Tre’Davious White, CB, BUF: Back — Active

Eli Apple, CB, CAR: Hamstring — Active

Donte Jackson, CB, CAR: Toe — Active

William Jackson III, CB, CIN: Concussion — OUT

Karl Joseph, S, CLE: Hamstring — Active

Tyler Lancaster, DE, GB: Shoulder — OUT

Preston Smith, LB, GB: Shoulder — Active

Kevin King, CB, GB: Quad — Inactive

Darnell Savage, S, GB: Quad — Inactive

Mike Hilton, CB, PIT: Shoulder — OUT


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