Sue Bird’s retirement has Diana Taurasi pondering her own future

(Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi will face off Friday for what is likely to be the final time when the Seattle Storm travel to Phoenix.

The matchup will be the 46th meeting between the two friends, which ties the WNBA record for most regular-season meetings between two players.

With Bird set to retire at the end of the season, the Mercury will honor the Seattle star with a pregame video and celebration.

“I’m starting to feel closure,” Taurasi told reporters Thursday. “It’s a bit sad knowing that it’s going to be Sue’s last regular-season game in Phoenix. We don’t know if playoffs or whatever might happen, but you know it’s gonna be a moment where all those memories kind of go in your head and take you back to the first time we played against each other in 2004 and all those things, when we played each other in the playoffs and had a great series.”

The two have been friends since their days playing for coach Geno Auriemma at UConn, and their bond grew as they played abroad as teammates and in the WNBA as rivals.

“Looking back on it, it’s been incredible to be in a job with your best friend for 20 years,” Taurasi said. “You don’t get to do that, most people don’t get to do that in any job, let alone basketball. So, it’s been an incredible journey.”

Mercury teammate Reshanda Gray crashed Taurasi’s press conference Thursday, eliciting a moving response from Taurasi about her favorite memory from sharing the court with Bird.

“There was one game — it was against Oklahoma, [the 2002] national championship game in San Antonio,” Taurasi started. “And I was just having the worst game of my life and it was very subtle. Sue just came over, gave me a pat on the back, goes, ‘You got this for us.’ And I think a minute late, I scored the basket that kind of sealed the game. That’s the thing that Sue does that doesn’t show up in the box score that makes teams great. The ability for her to say one thing and get everyone on track and that’s the one thing that I have learned from her more than anything.”

As Taurasi reflects on her journey with Bird, the Phoenix star also has started to think about her own future in the WNBA.

“Seeing how happy she is going through her retirement years made me really think about that long winter,” Taurasi said. “When the season ends, I’ll be a free agent and I’ll see what’s best for me. I don’t know what that is right now.

“It’s always something that as you get older as an athlete, you start thinking about and you start really kind of bouncing off ideas on Penny [Taylor] and my close friends and people that I really respect and trust their opinion,” she continued.

For now, however, Taurasi is content to celebrate her close friend Bird, looking forward to what’s to come.

“It’ll be an end of an era on the court, but it’ll be the beginning of an era off the court,” she said. “And we’re excited for that, too.”