SEATTLE — Everyone already knows the player who will get the loudest cheers at Saturday’s WNBA All-Star Game (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET): Storm guard Sue Bird.
Bird is an All-Star for the 10th time and has been in Seattle for 15 seasons. No one with the Storm organization has been around the franchise longer than Bird.
And there are plenty of fans who’ve been there with her pretty much all the way. Take brothers Jake and Duncan Gallagher, 14 and 12, respectively, whose parents, Bill and Jill, are longtime Storm season-ticket holders who have photos of Bird cradling both boys as infants.
“She’s played a really big part in my life as a sports fan,” Jake said, “and she’s a cool person, too.”
Duncan, his hair tinged Storm-green at a recent meet-and-greet with the team, said, “Sue inspired me to join a league.”
Bill Gallagher said he was a fan of the short-lived ABL when it was in Seattle, and then bought Storm tickets as soon as the WNBA came to the city in 2000. He was dating his soon-to-be wife at the time, and wanted her to go to a Storm game.
“And I was like, ‘How am I going to get out of this?'” Jill said. “But I thought I should go with him to one game and be able to say, ‘OK, I tried it, I don’t like it.’ Then I was absolutely blown away by the energy and the personality and the athleticism and the joy that the players had.
“That was it; I’ve probably not missed a regular-season game since 2002. Now we have four seats, right behind the players. My boys see women as strong and athletic; that’s a really good influence on their lives. And they’ve always been Sue Bird fans.”
Another season-ticket holder, Melissa Anderson, said she’s gone to Storm games since the franchise began, and there’s one player that everyone has the most faith in.
“Sue came into the league as a leader,” Anderson said. “And every time we have a conversation about, ‘OK, we need one shot. Who do you want to have the ball?’ My answer is always: Sue Bird. She could have missed the last 10, and I still want her to have the ball.”
Anderson’s wife, Annie Moore, is also a season-ticket holder who reveres Bird.
“I think we’re incredibly lucky to have her,” Moore said. “She’s such a role model. … I can’t imagine the Storm without her. I really don’t like to think about that.”
Two of Bird’s biggest “little” fans might not be at the All-Star Game, but they’ll be watching on TV and cheering for “Aunt Sue.” Bird’s nieces, Zoe and Alex, recently visited Seattle with their mom, Sue’s sister Jen Bird.
“My girls just love her,” Jen Bird said. “They’re 2 and 4. The 2-year-old now associates all sports with Sue. She’ll see any game on TV and start cheering ‘Go Aunt Sue!’ They’re definitely her biggest cheerleaders.”
Saturday, though, there will be plenty of people at KeyArena who would say they are Bird’s most ardent fan. That’s just the way they feel about her here.
“Every time our fans have a chance to connect to Sue, they do it,” Storm general manager Alisha Valavanis said. “She’s really approachable, so whether its kids or older fans, she’s got a great personality with them. They see her as a superstar, but they feel connected to her because she makes time for them.”