Sue Bird with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after she won gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

It’s easy to get jaded and think that a professional athlete publicly announcing their sexual identity isn’t heterosexual is no longer a big deal. But the truth is that it still hasn’t happened that often, and it remains extremely rare for an athlete to do so while still playing. So credit due to WNBA legend Sue Bird, who had the courage to announce officially that she is gay in a recent espnW article.

The 36-year-old Bird, who is currently in her 15th season, is about as high-profile as a women’s basketball player can get. She won two NCAA titles at UConn, two WNBA Championships with the Seattle Storm, four Olympic gold medals (she’s seen above with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after winning one in Rio last summer), and four EuroLeague titles. She’s also a WNBA All-Star for a record-tying 10th time. And she’s dating U.S. women’s soccer star Megan Rapinoe.

Through it all, Bird has been a very private person. As she puts it, anyone who knows her already knew her orientation. Now, she’s simply speaking up for the first time.

“I’m gay. Megan’s my girlfriend. … These aren’t secrets to people who know me,” Bird says. “I don’t feel like I’ve not lived my life. I think people have this assumption that if you’re not talking about it, you must be hiding it, like it’s this secret. That was never the case for me.”

So why talk about it now? “It’s happening when it’s happening because that’s what feels right,” Bird says. “So even though I understand there are people who think I should have done it sooner, it wasn’t right for me at the time. I have to be true to that. It’s my journey.”

Rapinoe made headlines last year when she knelt during the playing of the National Anthem before games.

Despite the fact that both have been playing professionally in Seattle for years, they only first met last year and started dating in the fall. While Bird says Rapinoe felt it was important to declare your sexuality in order to positively affect others, Bird felt like she always needed to move at her own speed.

“Megan feels really passionately about things,” Bird says. “I just never felt that calling, if that’s the right word. I was living my life, just not necessarily leading the charge. But I never felt that made me any less real.”

Whatever speed she moved at, Bird got there in the end, and with time left during her playing career to impact others.

[espnW]

About Sean Keeley

Sean Keeley is the creator of the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and author of 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and many other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.