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Basketball legend Sue Bird is adjusting to life after basketball.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images

What is Sue Bird’s ‘next chapter’ after basketball? She tells us — and why she feels ‘prepared’

The WNBA legend opens up to TODAY.com about retirement, women's basketball, her engagement and her documentary, “Sue Bird: In The Clutch.”

/ Source: Today.com

Life after basketball is still life with basketball for Sue Bird.

The five-time Olympic gold medalist retired from the WNBA at the end of the 2022 season. Since then, she’s focused on “Sue Bird: In The Clutch” — a documentary about her final season; increased her involvement with the sports media company she co-founded with Alex Morgan, Simone Manuel and Chloe Kim — Togethxr; and launched production company A Touch More with her fiancée, soccer legend Megan Rapinoe.

These off-the-court opportunities have only cemented for the four-time WNBA champion how much her 30-plus year career in basketball at every level prepared her to evolve beyond it, she tells TODAY.com in a recent interview at 30 Rock in New York City.

"I feel really lucky right now that I had a basketball career, or more so that I had a career in sports, because I do think a lot of who I am and how I operate and how I view things comes from the lessons I learned as an athlete," she says.

"So I think back on all that. I feel really lucky, but I also feel prepared. It prepared me for this next chapter," she adds.

The two-time NCAA champion at UConn said even with basketball providing a foundation to evolve, she's still adjusting to retirement.

"There isn't one day that's the same as the next. I feel like my days are hot and cold. I'm either super busy or I'm traveling to something. It's like a lot, a lot, a lot — and then I'll have three or four days where I don't have much and I get to just chill," she describes of what an average day looks like for her.

The busier days have included working on “Sue Bird: In The Clutch,” which premieres digitally on Apple TV, Prime Video, VUDU and Wolfe On Demand March 29. It first debuted in January at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival.

Sue Bird
Sue Bird before her last regular season game in 2022.Steph Chambers / Getty Images

Sue Bird explains what viewers can expect from her documentary

"It's really, in a lot of ways, a story about having that adversity come and learning and understanding how to deal with it," she says. "Learning and understanding that with each bump that does come your way, it's really an opportunity to get better to improve and it might change you a little bit, but that's OK, too."

That journey includes the "hardest part" of retirement, which, according to Bird, encompasses adjusting to working out for health and fitness instead of training to compete. But Bird has learned to be "kind" to herself and to expand her definition of what she considers a workout, she says.

"You've got to be kind to yourself, and it used to be if you didn't kill yourself, the workout didn't matter," she says. "And now I'm like, 'No, if I do 20 minutes of fill-in-the-blank, that's what I have today. That's enough for today.' And it's good for your mental health. Good for all the things."

When she's not exercising or working on her current projects, the 43-year-old is vacationing with a good book, usually fiction or the memoirs of current players or retirees, she says.

Sue Bird shares her thoughts on March Madness and alma mater UConn

Bird is, of course, also keeping a pulse on the latest with women's college basketball and the WNBA.

On the college end, Bird is rooting for her alma mater, UConn, a No. 3 seed in the 2024 women's NCAA Tournament aka March Madness. UConn has been criticized by fans for its seed placement this year and for not having the powerhouse presence it once did now that the likes of South Carolina, LSU and Iowa have captivated the field.

"I'm like they're a three seed!" Bird shouts. "But, that speaks to UConn's dominance when they're a three seed and it's considered so low for them. So much pressure comes with playing there. So much."

Still, Bird says she sees UConn advancing to the Final Four, and then it will "get a little tricky" after that to get to the title game. UConn is currently in the Sweet 16 and faces Duke on Saturday, March 30.

I do think a lot of who I am and how I operate and how I view things comes from the lessons I learned as an athlete.

Sue Bird

The increased attention in women’s basketball is in part thanks to college name, image and likeness (NIL) deals that can heighten players’ exposure and grow their fan bases — so much so that those fans continue following the players after they graduate and join the WNBA, Bird says. The NCAA allowed athletes to start participating in NIL activity beginning in 2021. Iowa's Caitlin Clark has deals with Gatorade, State Farm and Nike. Stanford's Cameron Brink has deals with Bumble and Sprouts Farmers Market. Both players have declared for the 2024 WNBA draft, and Bird expects their fame to continue growing the league.

"They're just going to carry all that momentum, all that coverage, all those brand deals, all the fan base (into the WNBA)," she says. "I don't know why there was a disconnect before. I always say, 'Me, Nneka (Ogwumike), name it — we all were in college. We were the same ones you were cheering for in college. Why didn't you go over here with us?'

"A lot of it has to do with media coverage, and the WNBA just got lost in the sauce a little bit. NIL deals are going to help bridge that gap because people are going to follow these athletes."

Stacy Hansmeyer holds up Sue Bird
UConn's Sue Bird (middle) in 2000 during a UConn game against Penn State.Hartford Courant / Getty Images

Sue Bird on retired life with fiancée Megan Rapinoe

In the meantime, Bird says she is enjoying her personal life with her fiancée, Rapinoe, who also recently retired after a long and successful career in women's sports. Rapinoe is arguably one of the most famous and successful soccer players of all time and earned two FIFA Women's World Cup titles and two Olympic medals during her time with the U.S. women's national soccer team. She was also a huge advocate in the team's fight for equal pay.

Bird and Rapinoe revealed they were engaged in October 2020 when Bird shared a photo to her Instagram page showing Rapinoe down on one knee putting a ring on her finger poolside.

A few weeks later, Rapinoe explained in an interview that her proposal was actually a bit "spontaneous."

"Well, in true and typical Megan fashion, I really do plan things, and I do think about them," Rapinoe said. "I just don’t actually have a plan so I had been thinking about it for a while, thinking about it really every day for a number of months."

"It was really sweet and beautiful and spontaneous but planned at the same time," she added.

Now that they're both retired, the couple have more time to spend with each other, Bird says.

"We're around each other a lot, so quality time's actually not difficult," she says while laughing. "Sometimes we're like do we need to get away from each other? And then we're both like, no, we like this."

"We're kind of not boring, but we do the same things everybody else does," she says of their bonding activities.

She adds that like many couples, the two of them debate what to eat and what to watch every day.