Very veteran WNBA veterans still getting it done
So what do NFL quarterback Tom Brady, NBA forward LeBron James and WNBA guards Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi have in common?
Bird, in the wake of winning the fourth championship of her illustrious WNBA career on Tuesday, pointed out that all four very veteran veterans are still A-listers in their sports despite being at the twilight of their careers.
And lucky for us sports fans, all four have graced our TVs in recent weeks and months. Who knows how much longer that will be true.
Brady is 43 years old and currently in his 21st NFL season. James is only 35 years old but is in his 17th NBA season because he started right out of high school.
Bird turns 40 on Friday and just completed her 17th WNBA season while Taurasi is 38 and just completed her 16th WNBA season.
"Us four are kind of in this elite company of people who are closer to the end than the beginning but still able to have a huge impact on the game," Bird said after her Seattle Storm swept the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA Finals at the WNBA Bubble in Bradenton, Florida.
Brady, now with the Tampa Bay Bucs after 20 years and six Super Bowl championships with the New England Patriots, is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. James is playing for an NBA championship right now (it would be his fourth) and is averaging 25.3 points, 10.2 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bird averaged 14.3 points and 9.2 assists per game throughout the playoffs, and Taurasi, commonly referred to as the best of all time in WNBA history, was the fifth-leading scorer in the WNBA this season at 18.7 points per game for the Phoenix Mercury.
One common denominator among the four is durability. Very few games have been missed over their combined 71 years of professional competition.
James has been an Iron Man, never missing a full season to injury. Brady has had only two seasons that were compromised by injury while Bird has missed two full seasons. Taurasi took one season off for rest and had two seasons cut short by injury.
Otherwise, that's it. Remarkable health and good fortune for these veteran A-listers.
"Through my career, I'm lucky in a way," Bird said, explaining her durability. "My position and how I play it allows for longevity. I never really just relied on my quickness or speed or size, obviously. So as long as I continue to add to my game from a mental perspective, I was always going to be able to stay on the floor, assuming the physical part stayed with me as well."
Bird, who became the second-oldest player to win a WNBA championship (Taj McWilliams-Franklin was 13 days from turning 41 when she helped the Minnesota Lynx win in 2011), isn't done yet. She would like to play next summer in the WNBA, and in the Olympics. It would be her fifth Olympics, which would tie Teresa Edwards.
"The way I feel right now, if I can go through my offseason and continue to build on that in a good way, I don't see why I won't be playing next summer," Bird said.
I predict Taurasi will be back in 2021 and LeBron James, too. Brady is a bit more of a wildcard, but he seems to be in great shape too. So I could see him coming back in the fall of 2021.
It's amazing when you really think about it. In professional sports, Brady, James, Bird and Taurasi are amazing testaments to aging gracefully, even on the biggest, most challenging of stages.
Sign me up for whatever these four are doing.