Bird wasn’t quite in the first class of WNBA players, but she was close. She entered the WNBA ahead of the league’s sixth season of existence, fresh off a dominant run at UConn capped by a 39-0 record as a senior. She was the first overall pick in the 2002 draft—but quickly became one of the faces of the league for reasons having nothing to do with her skills. Almost immediately, Bird was typecast as the girl next door.

It wasn’t just that the media saw her a certain way—it was that her employer did, too. “I basically said it in a WNBA commercial: There was like a, ‘I’m not as sweet as you think I am’ line,” she remembers. “I don’t know that I understood what that was, like, dripping in during those years. Now that I know, yeah, it’s pretty disgusting.” To a degree, these were just the costs of being a female athlete in the early aughts—but they were compounded by the fact that Bird didn’t feel she could be open about her sexuality.

“I don’t know that I am getting mad that people are assuming I’m straight. I get it,” Bird says of her mindset during the 2000s. “But there came a point in time where it was like, ‘Well, she hasn’t had a boyfriend in a while.’ What?” She then tells a story of coming out to a childhood friend. “He goes, ‘Wow! I just thought you weren’t boning anybody for five years!’ I was just single! Not doing anything with anybody. Maybe making out with somebody, but a kiss is not a contract.”

The WNBA, still a fledgling league, seemed thrilled to have someone like Bird—white, conventionally attractive, personable—to help market itself. But the way she was presented to the public never lined up with the way she saw herself. Bird shares that, once, a league employee suggested that the best way for her to make money as a female athlete was to lean into sex appeal. “They told me, you have the look,” she remembers. “As a child of divorce, people-pleasing person? I was like, ‘Give me all the dresses!’ It’s kind of fucked up, but yeah, that’s basically what happened.”

But the documentary isn’t all heavy stuff. Lighter moments include a bit on her fondness for Wildrose, a legendary lesbian bar in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. There’s also fun footage from her college days, where domineering head coach Geno Auriemma challenged Bird relentlessly.

Then there’s the revelation that she was planning to retire after the 2020 Olympics. But the pandemic pushed them back a year, and so she stuck around all the way through the 2022 WNBA season before hanging it up, wanting to play in the Storm’s newly-renovated Climate Pledge Arena rather than going out in Everett, a city roughly 30 miles north of Seattle that was the team’s temporary home in 2021. To be clear, Bird still thinks she could get out there right now at age 43 and hold her own. “Honestly, if I wanted to, I could still go play. I just didn’t want to do it anymore,” she says. When viewers see the intense body maintenance required of a 20-year veteran—housing handfuls of collagen, anti-inflammatory meds, fish oil, and other supplements all in one gulp, plus the grueling sessions with her trainer, Susan Borchardt—they’ll understand what she means.

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