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Sue Bird

Sue Bird Honored as the 2021 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year

  • Date:
    Dec 16, 2021

Sue Bird (Seattle Storm/Connecticut/Syosset, N.Y.), who captured a record-tying fifth-straight Olympic gold medal and served as one of two U.S. flag bearers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, was named the 2021 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year.

Bird started in all six wins for the U.S. women at the Tokyo Olympic Games and averaged a team-leading 5.8 assists to go with 5.5 points and 2.5 rebounds per game as the USA finished 6-0 and captured an incredible seventh-straight Olympic gold medal for the U.S. women.

USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year Award Winners
2021 Sue Bird 1999 Natalie Williams
2019 Paige Bueckers 1998 Lisa Leslie
2018 Breanna Stewart 1997 Chamique Holdsclaw
2017 Janelle Bailey 1996 Teresa Edwards
2016 Diana Taurasi 1995 Sylvia Crawley
2015 A’ja Wilson 1994 Dawn Staley
2014 Maya Moore 1993 Lisa Leslie
2013 Breanna Stewart 1992 Katrina McClain
2012 Diana Taurasi 1991 Ruthie Bolton
2011 Breanna Stewart 1990 Teresa Edwards
2010 Diana Taurasi 1989 Venus Lacy
2009 Tina Charles 1988 Katrina McClain
2008 Katie Smith 1987 Teresa Edwards
2007 Candice Wiggins 1986 Cheryl Miller
2006 Diana Taurasi 1985 Jennifer Gillom
2005 Crystal Langhorne 1984 Cheryl Miller
2004 Dawn Staley 1983 Lynette Woodard
2003 Seimone Augustus 1982 Cindy Noble & LaTaunya Pollard
2002 Lisa Leslie 1981 Denise Curry
2001 Ayana Walker 1980 Carol Blazejowski
2000 Teresa Edwards  

USA Basketball has presented its Female Athlete of the Year award annually since 1980.

“I’ve been so lucky to be a part of the USA Basketball program and to play alongside our country’s best,” Bird said. “This award is a reflection of that, and I couldn’t be more honored to be named the USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year.

“Winning gold medals is never about one player, and so I’d be remiss if I didn’t give the bulk of the credit to my teammates and coaches. Again, I’ve been so lucky to put this uniform on as long as I have, and winning gold in Tokyo couldn’t have been more of a team effort.”

Bird is the most decorated FIBA athlete in history, and in addition to her five Olympic gold medals, she has earned five FIBA World Cup medals (four gold, one bronze).

In capturing a fifth-straight Olympic gold medal, Bird and U.S. teammate Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury/Connecticut/Chino, Calif.) became the only Olympic basketball athletes, regardless of gender or country, to win five Olympic basketball gold medals.

“What Sue has accomplished in her USA Basketball career is unprecedented, and USA Basketball is proud to celebrate Sue as the Female Athlete of the Year, specifically for her leadership and helping guide the team to success in 2021,” said Jim Tooley, USA Basketball CEO. “From training camps through to standing on top of the Olympic podium, Sue was a leader on the court and a tremendous representative of the USA in all that she did, including serving as one of the flag bearers for the U.S. delegation.”

In the U.S. Olympic women’s career record book, Bird ranks second for Olympic games (36) and assists (124).

Her 5.8 assist per game, which ranked fourth best in the tournament, lists second in the U.S. Olympic women’s single-competition record book for assists averaged and third for total assists.

"Simply being Sue Bird is what makes her great,” said USA head coach Dawn Staley, who was named a co-recipient of the 2021 USA Basketball National Coach of the Year award. “When you say that name, you know you're going to get efficient basketball. You know you're going to get an organized point guard, someone that makes an impact on both sides of the ball. Yes, I know people think Sue isn't a good defender, but she's a pretty darn smart good defender. And we don't win as many gold medals consecutively without her being at the helm.”

Bird dished out a game-high 13 assists against Nigeria on July 27; had six assists and four rebounds versus host Japan on July 30; had six points and four assists against France on Aug. 2; scored nine points and recorded five assists versus Australia in the quarterfinals on Aug. 4; had eight points, four assists, three steals and three rebounds against Serbia in the semifinals on Aug. 6; and in a rematch against host Japan in the gold medal game on Aug. 8, had seven points three assists and three rebounds.

Bird started in all three of the USA National Team exhibition games in 2021, and she averaged 5.0 ppg., a team-high 6.3 apg. and 1.7 rpg. during the friendlies. She dished out a team-high eight assists against the WNBA All-Stars on July 14; had six assists versus Australia on July 16; and nine points and five assists against Nigeria on July 18.

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