In an emotional ceremony which reportedly lasted almost three hours, Bird addressed a packed crowd at the Climate Pledge Arena and was joined by a number of stars who paid tribute to her 20-year career in the league which ended last season.
The jersey retirement ceremony followed Seattle Storm’s 71-65 defeat to the Washington Mystics but the night was very much about one woman.
Bird was given a standing ovation as she took her seat court-side before the match but the official ceremony got underway shortly after the final buzzer.
“I didn’t anticipate it being that long but the truth is, I don’t know if I could have taken anything out,” she told reporters, joking about the length of her speech which reportedly lasted over an hour and a half itself.
“That’s what this has meant to me. It was just so important for me to say names, to point people out and to tell them what they meant. I’m already thinking about things I wish I would have said.”
Bird, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 WNBA draft, played her entire career with the Storm, where she won four championships, along with five selections to the All-WNBA first team and a record 12 All-Star Game appearances.
She won championships at every level, notably a record-tying five Olympic basketball golds with Team USA, and is the WNBA all-time leader in assists.
She was joined on stage by the likes of rapper Macklemore and her partner, USWNT great Megan Rapinoe, who were among many to share their memories of Bird’s career.
“There is no one like you. You’re everything on the court that everyone could ever wish to be. All of the dreams that little kids have, you’ve done it all,” a tearful Rapinoe said in her speech.
“You’re so much better off of it. You’ve given everybody this beacon for all of these years. How to be. How to carry yourself. How to treat people.”
Bird’s No.10 shirt was lifted to the rafters inside the stadium where it will continue to pay tribute to arguably the most impressive WNBA career to date.
“I will forever miss it, and that’s OK,” Bird said. “I think some people try to avoid missing it when they’re in my seat up here, and the reality is I’m always going to miss it.”