Diana Taurasi of Phoenix Mercury Talks Rivalry With Sue Bird – ‘It Was An Incredible Journey’

Phoenix — Nearly 25 minutes after Phoenix Mercury star Diana Taurasi sent her best friend, Seattle Storm star Sue Bird, into the sunset over their personal rivalry, they were traipsing through the footprint hub area downtown on Friday night trying to find out. Which way to go.

After sharing their post-match press conference—a first for both, which was a rare feat to find something neither of them had done after nearly two decades in the WNBA—they pulled out, left the stage and never left each other’s side. They walked the corridors surrounded by cameras, security guards and executives. They have turned. They have retreated. Then keep walking more. They laughed like old friends, the last bite of Beard’s loss and the pride of a recent victory over her best friend Torassy never found. They came up with their plans for dinner.

The people who remained after the match waved and took pictures. Others walked out of closed doors to point and stare, their phones up the whole time.

Torassi scored 28 points or made six three-pointers or that Bird only scored two points and only had five assists or that Mercury’s 94-78 win doesn’t seem to matter.

Today, the match, the atmosphere was all about Taurasi and Bird playing each other for the last time in the regular season before Bird retired at the end of the season.

“I’m kind of happy that it’s over,” Torassi said after the match.

This was the 46th time they had faced each other, tied for the WNBA record for the most number of matches between two players. But for Bird, publicly, the number 46 wasn’t all that different from the first 45.

“There wasn’t anything extra on that,” Baird said. “I think this is another game in the WNBA story like, quote, unquote, rivalry. And I think it’s just a celebration.

“I don’t think about it any further. This is probably one of those moments in a couple of years where I’ve talked about the last minute — even though I feel like I’m not going to talk about this in a couple of years.”

When Byrd went to the Turassi home Thursday night to see Turassi’s wife, Benny Taylor, and their two children, they talked. But not about basketball. It was a family night and memories.

“It’s exciting to start a new chapter on the field with our families and to make other memories in other ways,” Torassi said. “And the basketball part will always be there. That’s the one thing we’ve dedicated our lives to.

“So those memories stay close to my heart, whether we play against each other, with each other. It’s been a great journey, you know, in any career when you do something with your best friend of 20 years, life is good.”

Looking back is something Bird does, just not in public. She tries to leave him at home or in her hotel room. The stadium, the arena, the gym – they’re all for basketball.

But on Friday afternoon, while sitting in her Palomar hotel room across the street from the plaza, a show on ESPN and Torassy discussed her. It’s times like these that Bird has allowed herself, in private, to experience the emotion of facing her best friend for one last time in the regular season.

“So, it’s tough,” Baird said. “There are moments when I get the feelings, but you’re also trying to play basketball, right? You’re also trying to compete in a season, trying to peak in time and get to the playoffs and all that stuff. So, for me personally, I have to monitor and control that. A little more and I find the balance in enjoying these moments.

“They’re special, aren’t they? But also not letting her get over me in a way that’s going to take me out of the game.”

There’s a chance that Bird and Torassi will see each other again in the playoffs, especially after Phoenix jumped to eighth and final in the playoff with Friday’s win. But that could change in the next match. Nothing is guaranteed. Taurasi and Bird have learned that countless times in their careers.

Regardless of whether they meet in the post-season, Friday night was all about Taurasi and Bird.

During a pre-game party that included a video tribute, Torassie presented Bird with a pair of Jordan 1s dedicated to honoring Bird and her career.

Torassi, as she is known, also entered into a final rib.

“It’s time for you to go,” she said, tongue in cheek, at the big screen looming over the court.

It was hard to miss the true affection for each other throughout the evening. As always, it was on display whenever they were together on the field before a tip-off.

Their hug before the two sat down for a TV interview about an hour before the tip – there were more smiles and laughter than questions – was the kind of hug you see from two best friends who haven’t seen each other for a moment.

After Bird warmed up, she stopped to sign autographs on her way to the locker room. Within seconds, a crowd descended on her as she put her name on everything from mini basketballs to T-shirts as she scored in a full 360. It didn’t matter that she was a visitor or even a competitor in the West. Embraced and celebrated by a mix of Mercury and Storm fans.

Back in 2019, Torassi, speaking of fan-hating on the road, wondered why Bird didn’t receive the same reception she did.

“I know sometimes we are introduced and ‘Su Bird…’,” said Torassi, before mimicking the applause. “I’m like, ‘You guys, we’re in Phoenix. Can someone make fun of her please?’ S– “Why clap for Sue Bird, damn it?” And I went up there, and they were throwing toilet paper at me, holy water.

Bird’s greeting was no different on a Friday night. Only it was better. She was given a standing ovation when she received the Mercury gift and another cheer when it was presented—just as Torassi had complained. This one was justified, though.

For 17 years, Phoenix fans have watched the future Hall of Famer take on her best friend, another future Hall of Famer. They appreciated what was going on in front of them on Friday night.

The yellow-green bird shirts of Seattle’s signature stood out against the purple and black strands of Mercury. There were more than one Bird’s UConn shirt in the crowd and a handful of Bird’s Team USA shirts.

They complemented the plethora of Taurasi’s Mercury and Team USA jerseys that went viral among the crowd.

Taurasi and Bird were still in their own shirts, hidden under their shooting shirts, still tied up. They were guided through it and then gone. Far from continuing to be best friends more, night and noise, I wrote another memory for the two of them.

“Hopefully we’ve put in some good performances over the years,” Baird said. “I think we did everything right.”

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