In September, Sue Bird was celebrating her third championship after a sweep of the Washington Mystics in the WNBA Finals. Now, she is traveling to arenas around the country as the Denver Nuggets’ newest basketball operations associate.
In her role with the Nuggets, the Seattle legend will work in the front office with a focus on player scouting, all while balancing her playing career with the Storm.
“It’s been good,” Bird said of the apprenticeship thus far. “I kind of knew coming in, like any new job or position, there’s a lot of learning to be had. The first couple of assignments have been learning jobs and meeting people, which is fun.”
“There’s this happy balance of learning what I can and, at the end of the day, giving my opinion on players and the game of basketball in general,” she added. “Luckily, I’m already accustomed to that part.”
Although her main responsibilities will concentrate on scouting, Bird sees the position as a chance to learn as much as possible about the industry.
“That’s what’s so great about this opportunity,” she said. “I’ve said it so many times, but I’m so thankful to the Nuggets, to [Nuggets’ President of Basketball Operations] Tim Connelly, for giving me this chance to get an understanding of what it means to be a part of an NBA front office and coaching staff, and what it takes. It’s great to see what it’s like firsthand.”
In her 17 years in the WNBA, Bird has earned three championships, 11 All-Star nods and five All-WNBA First Team selections — something she plans to use to her advantage with the Nuggets.
“I do think — because I’m a player, I’ve won before, I’ve played for many years — I have a lot of experience,” she said. “I’ve been on championship teams, teams that had championship potential, less talented teams that have overachieved, and talented teams that have underachieved. I’ve won, and I know what it takes to do that, and I’ve experienced the whole gamut in terms of teams. All of that lends to my outlook, so I’ll do my best to share that.”
“We’re thrilled that Sue has the opportunity to work with such a high-caliber NBA franchise,” added Seattle Storm GM and President Alisha Valavanis. “The Denver Nuggets have added a championship point guard and one of the best basketball minds to their staff. Sue is certain to add a unique value to their franchise.”
Bird isn’t the only WNBA player making moves in the NBA realm. The Mystics’ Kristi Toliver was named assistant coach for player development for the Washington Wizards this season. Former player Becky Hammon is in her fifth year on the San Antonio Spurs’ coaching staff, while another WNBA alumna, Allison Feaster, was recently promoted to lead the G League’s professional path initiative.
“We have a wealth of knowledge, and we’ve played for a long time,” Bird said of the women working in the NBA. “People think that just because we’re women it means we don’t know as much, but that’s not true at all. Experience is key to everything, and it helps you in every aspect of life.”
Even though the style of play in the WNBA may vary from the NBA, Bird is confident in her basketball expertise.
“Is the women’s game different?” she asked. “Yeah, of course, but with that being said, strategy and different qualities of players and teams is the same across the board, regardless of whether you’re male or female.”
Armed with that basketball savviness, Bird joins the Nuggets at an exciting time — the team has one of the best records in the NBA and, according to Bird, exemplifies similar qualities to her own team.
“It’s fun,” she said. “I’m still playing with the Storm, so a lot of my outlook has to do with my experiences there, and it feels similar. The team has been put together with really good draft picks, good free agent pickups, and it’s starting to become — instead of just a youthful, talented team — a legit contender. It’s fun to see them get to the other side and develop that winning culture, because that’s what we went through in Seattle.”
Though she is still in the midst of her career with the Storm, Bird looks forward to using this opportunity with the Nuggets as a way to get her foot in the door and gradually transition into her post-playing career.
“I mean, it’s legit the best-case scenario,” she said. “I couldn’t have written it any better.”