Longtime friends and rivals Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi will meet for the final time on Friday night when the Seattle Storm travel to the desert to take on the Phoenix Mercury. Their 46th game against each other will tie the WNBA record for the most matchups between two players.
Bird announced last month that this will be the final season of her historic career, which has lasted over two decades. Though still one of the league’s better point guards, the physical and mental grind has become too much for Bird, who was honored earlier this month at her final All-Star Game appearance.
Now 40, and with one of her few remaining contemporaries calling it a career, Taurasi admitted prior to Friday night’s matchup that retirement has also been on her mind. Via ESPN:
“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.
“Seeing how happy she is going through her retirement years made me really think about that long winter. 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 [wife] Penny [Taylor] and my close friends and people that I really respect and trust their opinion.”
Taurasi is still putting up solid counting stats at 16.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and four assists per game, but she’s shooting just 37.9 percent from the field and 32.9 percent from 3-point land. She also missed the All-Star Game for the first time in her career as a healthy player, and Mercury have also been markedly better when she’s off the floor, especially on the defensive end. Furthermore this has been an extremely trying season for everyone in Phoenix with Brittney Griner still detained in Russia, and the team is in danger of missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
That’s not to say she should retire, or change teams in free agency, but it does seem that this offseason will be much different than any that have come before for the league’s all-time leading scorer.