In their fifth Olympic appearance, Sue Bird and teammate Diana Taurasi made history: they won their fifth gold medals, the only basketball players — men’s or women’s — ever to achieve that feat.
Bird and Taurasi helped the US women’s basketball win their seventh consecutive gold medal, defeating Japan 90-75 on Sunday, the last day of the Tokyo Olympics.
Bird, who served as the Team USA flag bearer in the opening ceremony and also holds Israeli citizenship in a basketball-motivated decision, is one of the most decorated Jewish athletes of all time. In addition to the five Olympic golds, she has played on four championship WNBA teams and is a 12-time WNBA All-Star.
Bird, 40, became the oldest basketball player to win gold. She said in a post-game interview that this Olympics would be her last. (The 39-year-old Taurasi, on the other hand, said that she is looking forward to Paris 2024.)
“The best comparison is college since you know it’s the end,” Bird said. “Now I always have a wonderful feeling and a great taste in my mouth my senior year. That’s how it is with USA Basketball.”
Bird was born on Long Island. Her father is descended from Russian Jews and her mother is Protestant-Christian.
She gained Israeli citizenship in 2006, explaining in an undated interview on the Washington State Jewish Historical Society website that it was to enable her to play on European teams that have quotas on the number of US players allowed on each squad. Bird has played for various Russian teams during the WNBA off-season.
She has also spent time in Israel, where her father has family.
“I was able to learn a lot about a culture that I probably wouldn’t have tapped into otherwise,” she told the WSJHS. “Part of it was being just immersed and basically living there for a little bit, and it was one of the best experiences.”
Growing up, her family was not particularly religious: She didn’t go to church or temple, and was never baptized, Bird said.
“I didn’t have a bat mitzvah or anything like that, but I still had doses of both religions,” she said. “It was kind of cool, I got the best of both worlds. I got to celebrate Easter with one side of the family, and then we’d have Passover dinner on the other side. I don’t necessarily identify one way or the other, I have both inside of me.”