Five-time Olympic gold medalists Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi were named “greatest teammates in sports history,” after they led Team USA to a gold medal victory in the WNBA Championship. Bird and Taurasi have been playing together in the WNBA for over a decade, winning five WNBA Championships, two Olympic gold medals and two FIBA World Championships.

For fans of the WNBA, a long-awaited matchup between the Seattle Storm and Indiana Fever was one of the most anticipated games of the season, not just because of the two teams’ legendary status, but because of the rivalry between the guard play of All-Stars Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi. The two guards were expected to put on a show, but the result ended up being rather underwhelming.

Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi are the greatest teammates in the history of sports. They have been teammates for almost 20 years, each winning an Olympic gold medal, and have even played some together on the WNBA’s Seattle Storm.

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      Mechelle Voepel is an espnW reporter that covers the WNBA, women’s college basketball, and other college sports. Voepel has been with ESPN since 1996 and has covered women’s basketball since 1984.

Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals, leading the United States women to a seventh consecutive gold on a historic final day at the Tokyo Games. They also solidified the title bestowed on them by the coach who brought them together two decades ago.

Geno Auriemma of UConn stated, “They are two of the best teammates in the history of sports.” “Even if all you used was UConn, the Olympics, or Europe.” When all three are together, no one comes close.

“Winning a gold medal [for US women’s basketball] suddenly became a lot tougher [if this is their final Olympics together].”

Given that Bird will be 41 in October and Taurasi will be 39, the qualification “if” may seem superfluous. While Bird has said that this will be her last Olympic appearance, the backcourt combination has been at the pinnacle of the sport for so long that it’s difficult to envision Team USA without them.

Taurasi remarked, “We constantly say we’re fortunate we get to do this together.” “You have a certain amount of self-assurance and faith.”

Perhaps they’ll have one more chance in the FIBA Women’s World Cup next year. It’s the sort of thing Bird and Taurasi would think about, since they see their devotion to the national team as a sacred pledge, as important to them as everything else in their illustrious careers. They spent two seasons at UConn and many years in Russia together. However, they are most known for donning the senior national team’s red, white, and blue in five Olympics and four World Cups.

Bird has 10 Olympic and World Cup medals, more than any other men’s or women’s basketball player, including Saturday’s 90-75 victory against Japan. With the exception of the 2006 World Cup bronze, all are gold. Taurasi is one medal behind her in the standings. Bird’s first occurred in the 2002 World Cup, when she was a rookie with the Seattle Storm and Taurasi was a sophomore with UConn.

“They’ve done so much for USA Basketball that the rest of us players are just trying to repay the favor and make sure they know how much we appreciate them,” said Breanna Stewart, a Storm forward who is also Bird’s teammate.

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A wealth of talent, including four-time Olympic gold medalist Lisa Leslie and Teresa Edwards, who competed in five Olympics, paved the way for the United States to win nine of the 11 Olympic women’s tournaments they’ve entered, matching the longest gold-medal streak any country has had in any Olympic team sport. Bird and Taurasi, on the other hand, have made the most contributions to the United States’ gold haul: 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020.

“They’re a significant component of the system’s glue,” Leslie said. “They used to be the infants who came in. They were receptive to feedback and courteous of the elder players. That is the way things are done in our country.

“I think they’ve done an excellent job of carrying the flame.”

Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen are two well-known pro sports duos. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice are two of the most well-known athletes in the world. Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky. Kerry Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig are two baseball legends.

In college, Russia, and the Olympics, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi were teammates — and closest friends. NBAE/Getty Images/Terrance Vaccaro

However, Bird and Taurasi, who will both be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame one day, are not the same. What are the chances of two players from different coasts, born 20 months apart, attending the same college and then being at the top of their sport for five Olympic cycles? Both are great complements to each other: Taurasi is the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer and a great passer, while Bird is the league’s all-time assist leader and renowned for her dagger-like shooting.

It’s been a great mix of athletic ability, drive, personality, and dedication. Bill Russell and KC Jones, who led the University of San Francisco to two NCAA championships, won gold with the United States in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, and then won eight NBA titles with the Boston Celtics, are one of the closest basketball parallels.

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In the autumn of 2000, Bird, a junior from Long Island who had won a national championship with the Huskies earlier that year, and Taurasi, a highly anticipated recruit from California, met at UConn. They were defeated in the Final Four in 2001, but nothing could stop them the following season. In the 2002 national semifinals, they beat Tennessee so convincingly that Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt walked to the UConn locker room and told them they were one of the greatest teams she had ever seen.

Bird was the No. 1 selection in the WNBA draft in 2002, and at the FIBA World Cup later that year, he was the backup point guard to current US coach Dawn Staley. Taurasi went on to win two more NCAA championships, was a No. 1 draft choice by Phoenix, and was a member of the 2004 Olympic squad with Bird and Staley. In the 2006 World Cup semifinals, they lost to Russia, which was their lone defeat in a major tournament with USA Basketball.

Each has been the face of her WNBA team for a long period. In 18 seasons in Seattle, Bird has four WNBA championships, while Taurasi had three in 17 seasons in Phoenix. Bird missed two seasons due to knee problems, while Taurasi took a year off following years of nonstop play in the WNBA and abroad.

In the icy Russian winters, the abroad portion of their employment was distant from the spotlight. They regretted missing out on milestones with family and friends back home, but the pay was so good that they decided to stick with it. They won five EuroLeague titles while playing for three different Russian clubs.

The few quarrels they’ve had didn’t happen when they were at UConn or with USA Basketball, according to Bird.

“It happened when we were in Russia,” she said. “You grow tired of people at some time, or a disagreement arises that goes a little too far. Perhaps a smidgeon too much wine. You claim your territory, then return the following day to play. But this isn’t the first time we’ve had to apologize to one other.”

Taurasi said she could count the number of times they were really angry with each other on one hand.

She added, “And it’s probably about the stupidest s—- ever.” “We may have differing viewpoints but always come to an understanding on how to work things out. We take that mentality and apply it to any team we’ve ever been a part of.”

Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird, together with Swin Cash, Tamika Williams, and Asjha Jones of UConn, led the Huskies to a 39-0 record in 2001-02. They are widely regarded as the greatest women’s college basketball team in history. Getty Images/Max Becherer/NCAA Photos

Auriemma coached Bird and Taurasi in two Olympics and two World Cups, and he is especially pleased of their perseverance and mental fortitude in pushing themselves year after year.

“They’ve played everywhere,” Staley says of their maturity and reliability. They’ve gone through it all before. Nothing has escaped their notice.

“They want to perform flawlessly. Even at this level, when their intelligence is off the charts, they still want to be taught, which is amazing.”

Bird stated that no matter how many medals she has, wearing the Team USA uniform means the same thing to her. In 1995, while training for the Atlanta Olympics, she went to watch the national team play an exhibition with her AAU colleagues. Bird was inspired by U.S. point guard Jennifer Azzi, who she described as her first “see it, be it” moment.

“I was like, ‘Here’s this player who’s about the same size as me, with the same build, and she can do this,’” Bird said. “Remember, there was no WNBA back then. So you were really looking to the Olympics as the ultimate objective for us in that generation.”

Bird had no idea that she would be celebrating her fifth Olympic gold medal with one of her closest friends 26 years later. For many children, both Bird and Taurasi have been “see it, be it” role models.

Taurasi quips that she manages the weight of history, her position in the game, and all she and Bird have shared by joking about “I’m not doing much thinking. I’m laser-focused on the tasks that need to be completed.”

It’s amazing what they’ve accomplished.

Over the past two decades, a lot has happened in the globe and in women’s basketball. The connection between Bird and Taurasi, on the other hand, has remained constant, instilling in the national team a feeling of confidence and purpose that those who have played with them have enjoyed.

“There are some individuals in life with whom you simply get along very well and with whom you have so many common experiences that you can connect a bit more,” Taurasi said of her relationship with Bird. “That’s how the past two decades have gone.”

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