Sue Bird admittedly was nervous for years to speak about her sexuality in public.
It took some persuading from fiancée Megan Rapinoe to realize the importance of sharing that part of her life with more than just close family and friends.
"What Megan helped me understand was that, yes, what I was already doing was great, living authentically,” Bird told TIME magazine. “But it was important to say it, because the more people that come out, that’s where you get to the point where nobody has to come out. Where you can just live. And it’s not a story."
Bird publicly came out as gay in a 2017 ESPN story, revealing that Rapinoe was her girlfriend.
"It's happening when it's happening because that's what feels right," Bird told ESPN. "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."
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The WNBA star and soccer legend are one of the country's most high-profile LGBTQ couples, advocating for the LGBTQ community, sharing their personalities while hosting last year's ESPY Awards, and laughing over the story of their spontaneous engagement.
They also have shown their support for causes like Black Lives Matter, voting rights, women's rights, and pay equity for the U.S. women's national soccer team while educating themselves in the process.
"The biggest thing that (Bird) did was, she just took a backseat and learned a lot of stuff about African Americans and what we go through and our history and things she wasn’t necessarily educated in,” Bird's Seattle Storm teammate, Jewell Loyd, told TIME. “A lot of people don’t want to always do that. But she did.”
Bird, 40, and Rapinoe, 36, are now both gearing up for the Tokyo Olympics as part of the dominant U.S. women's basketball and soccer teams, respectively. Rapinoe is looking to lead the soccer team to its fifth Olympic gold medal and first since 2012, while Bird is aiming for history on the basketball court.
Bird and teammate Diana Taurasi are gunning to become the first players to win a fifth Olympic gold medal on a team that has won 49 straight games in the Olympics dating back to 1992.
"She’s a life point guard,” Olympic head coach Dawn Staley told TIME about Bird. “She gives assists to justice causes; she gives a voice to women who are underpaid and underappreciated. She’s unapologetic and unafraid. Once a point guard, always a point guard. That’s her legacy."