8 things you didn't know about Sue Bird, Megan Rapinoe's girlfriend
With Rapinoe's epic World Cup win this week, we're taking a look at the 'other half' of the sports power couple, who happens to be a wildly successful athlete in her own right.
When it comes to sports power couples, you don't get more powerful than Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe. We've been hearing a lot more about the latter half of the pair lately, as Rapinoe just led the U.S. women's soccer team to an epic fourth World Cup trophy in France.
So as we celebrate Team USA's well-earned victory, let's learn a little more about the "quieter" of the two – Sue Bird, a powerhouse athlete in her own right.
1. She's a highly decorated basketball player.
Bird's stats are mind-blowing. She's won four Olympic gold medals and three WNBA championships. She was Player of the Year in high school in her native New York, and she finished her college career at the University of Connecticut with a 114-4 record. She's also won two NCAA Championships and four FIBA World Cups.
Her former coach, Geno Auriemma, called her "the best point guard in the world."
2. But she's not much for publicity.
You won't find Bird talking much about herself or her accomplishments. The 38-year-old considers herself a pretty private person, and she's kept away from the limelight for most of her career. She and Rapinoe share a condo in Seattle, where Bird's been a member of the Seattle Storm since 2002. But it's only recently, in the wake of Rapinoe's World Cup win, that folks have become more familiar with Bird and her career. As a couple, the two have adopted certain roles as a reflection of their personalities: Rapinoe is the louder and outspoken one; Bird is more reserved. But in each other, they've found a home.
“It’s nice to be going through the same thing,” Bird told the Seattle Times in 2018. “It’s very similar, the things you go through: mindsets of things, team chemistry, dealing with a coach. So it’s nice to have a sounding board at home that just understands."
3. She was born in New York, but is an Israeli citizen.
Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm shoots a free throw in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Mercury during the 2010 WNBA Playoffs in Phoenix. The Storm won that game 91-88. (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Bird, a native of Syosset, N.Y., considers herself an American-Israeli woman. So what's her connection with Israel, exactly?
She obtained Israeli citizenship in 2006. Her Israeli passport made it easier for her to play in Europe during the WNBA’s offseason. Bird played in Russia for eight seasons, winning both the Russian Super League and the EuroLeague Women championships.
In 2012, she was the first Israeli to win an Olympic gold medal in those games – as a member of the U.S. team.
4. She remembers the first autograph she ever signed – because she was only 11.
Bird's middle school team was part of the halftime show for a St. John's University basketball game. After she played, she recalled, "this security guard came up and asked for my autograph." When she asked him why, he told her "he knew it was going to be worth something someday."
5. She was once rumored to be dating a Backstreet Boy.
In 2002, Bird showed up at the ESPY Awards arm-in-arm with Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys. Rumors started flying that the two were an item. But Bird, who'd just signed with the Seattle Storm as the No. 1 draft pick, denied it, saying, "We have the same agent, so it was kind of like arranged as a publicity stunt." She said the two were "just friends," even though Bird reportedly stayed at the Carter family's home around Christmas that year. She continued to dodge questions about her dating life for years – until she and Rapinoe announced that they were a couple in 2017.
6. She once attended the same high school as Natalie Portman.
Bird and fellow Israeli-American Portman went to Syosset High School together for two years before Bird transferred to a Catholic high school with a more competitive basketball program.
"I'm the fourth most famous person to attend Syosset High School behind Natalie, Judd Apatow and Idina Menzel," Bird told Us Magazine in 2016.
7. She didn't always want to play basketball.
Believe it or not, the powerhouse baller had a different sport in mind as a child: soccer. "Soccer was actually my first love but eventually basketball took that over," she explained.
8. She was able to go to France to watch her girlfriend win the World Cup, even though she was injured.
Bird suffered a serious knee injury and hasn't yet been able to play with the Storm this year. She had surgery in late May, but her return this season is questionable. She's naturally disappointed, but there was one upside: she didn't have to miss any playing time to travel to France to watch Rapinoe and Team USA win their fourth World Cup title.
"You just cannot shake that girl,” Bird wrote last week in an essay for The Player's Tribune in support of Rapinoe. “She’s going to do her thing, at her own damn speed, to her own damn rhythm, and she’s going to apologize to exactly NO ONE for it.”
MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE: