- Sue Bird won her fourth WNBA championship with the Seattle Storm this year.
- The legendary point guard said this title was “not quite as fun” as her past three because she and her Storm teammates were in the Wubble and could not celebrate with Seattle fans.
- “It just shows the role that fans play,” Bird said on “The Old Man and the Three” podcast. “To me, fans make the game emotional and when you don’t have them, that emotion just doesn’t exist.”
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Sue Bird is something of an expert at winning WNBA championships, so she knows better than just about anyone on the planet what it feels like to take home a chip.
And according to the legendary point guard, winning the 2020 WNBA title in the league’s bubble was decidedly different.
In an interview with NBA sharpshooter JJ Redick and Tommy Alter on “The Old Man and the Three” podcast, Bird said her fourth career WNBA Finals victory with the Seattle Storm was “not quite as fun” as her past championships because fans weren’t there to witness the feat.
“It just shows the role that fans play,” Bird said. “To me, fans make the game emotional and when you don’t have them, that emotion just doesn’t exist.”
Bird said the lack of fans in the Wubble — as the WNBA bubble at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, was affectionately dubbed during the season — impacted the feel on the court significantly. Though she said she wasn’t hugely put off by the difference during the regular season, Bird acknowledged that it was huge during the postseason.
“People were trying to ask me about home court advantage during the regular season, and I was kind of like ‘Meh,'” Bird said. “But in the playoffs? I mean, to me, it was missing. The fans were missing. They play a role.”
Within games, “the swings aren’t as high and low,” she said, because the fan energy wasn’t there to help fuel the home team or hamper a run from the visitors.
“It goes both ways. When you’re away that’s an easy one when they’re all against you, so that could impact how you play,” Bird said. “But I think it goes the other way too. When you’re home and you rise up for a shot and you can feel your home fans be like ‘ahhhhhh’ because they’re getting ready to explode… you know ‘Oh, if I make this, this place is gonna erupt.'”
“And none of that existed. It just wasn’t there,” she added.
From Bird’s perspective, the lack of fans had a huge impact on this year’s NBA Finals, too. While she’s “a huge Jimmy Butler fan,” she and Redick agreed that not having to travel to TD Garden or Scotiabank Arena to face the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors, respectively, benefitted Butler’s Miami Heat greatly in their magical run to the Finals.
“I love Jimmy. What he did was unbelievably amazing,” Bird said. “But I do think the no fan thing allowed them to have — was part of the reason they had the run they had.”
The absence of fans also changed the nature of her and her teammates’ celebrations once they completed their three-game sweep of the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces. Bird said “there’s nothing like that night” and that “you can’t recreate that feeling,” so not being able to celebrate their second championship in three years with the Seattle faithful felt off.
“In a normal world, when it’s not COVID, which, by the way, is what’s making this championship not quite as fun, you would usually go back to your city and there’s like parties and parades and all this stuff,” Bird said. “You get to relive it, but nothing is ever like that night, the night you win.”
Fortunately for Bird, she’ll undoubtedly enjoy plenty of fanfare once it’s safe to properly celebrate the victory. She’s made history as the first WNBA player and one of just three individuals to win WNBA or NBA championships in three different decades.
She’s a bona fide Seattle legend, and the city will almost certainly commemorate her legacy accordingly in the coming years.
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