In the WNBA we’ve had scores of superstar players. There have been some amazing combinations of players who have brought their teams great success. But in the 9 1/2 years of play, I can only think of one pair that you think of almost as a whole: Bird and Jackson.
The NBA has had many notable pairs that seem to be more than the sum of two talented players: Magic and Kareem, Stockton and Malone, Michael and Scottie; but amazingly
, these sorts of pairs haven’t really happened in the WNBA. Perhaps it stems from the early years of the league being populated by veteran players who would only grace the courts for a few seasons. Perhaps it’s because free agency and the salary cap makes it difficult for teams to hold on to their stars for long enough for a pair to be thought of as one. Whatever the case, I think we’re fortunate in that Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson have found that ineffable something in Seattle.
You see a pair like this on court, and you can tell that they are in-synch with each other all the time. They know each other so well, that instead of two players you get the equivalent of 2 1/2 players (or more). But even more than that, I think that LJ and Sue have the sort of bond that Shaq and Kobe could only dream of having. It’s clear that this pair are more than just teammates or friendly…they have become like siblings.
It’s a joy to watch when Seattle celebrates. There are Sue and Lauren, thick as thieves. Even sitting on the bench, they are often side-by-side talking and/or laughing. For the All-Decade Team, can anyone honestly say that you could have one on it without the other (in their mutual admiration over their selections, they said just as much)?
Maybe because they’re both twenty-five and have seen Seattle blossom from the tough times to the top of their league. Maybe they are the constant around which all of the other players and coaches revolve. Whatever, it’s clear that they have something that no other pair in the WNBA has had to this point (at least not on the same team): sisterhood.
What is troubling is that this pair might not see too many more seasons together. There is, of course, LJ’s stress fractures that stubbornly don’t want to heal, and which greatly limit her. Then there are the storm clouds rolling in from Oklahoma: with the NBA/WNBA teams sold to out-of-state investors, the future for the Storm in Seattle is very uncertain. Jackson has said that she’ll only play in Seattle…and I don’t think she meant the organization, I think that it was the Storm in Seattle, or no WNBA for her. Unless someone opts to build a new arena for the NBA’s Sonics, or some investor can coax a buy-out of the Storm from the deal to ensure their home in Seattle, it does look more likely than not that the last remaining WNBA team in the Northwest might be relocating in a couple of seasons. If that’s so, then I think that Lauren will be as good as her word.
It saddens me to think that this special pair of future Hall-of-Famers is doomed to separate simply because of the economics of the men’s basketball franchise. I hope that the future isn’t already writ on a stone tablet located in Oklahoma City, but is instead written in the hearts of Sue and LJ’s coffee-soaked fans in the Emerald City. I’d love to see this pair still playing in the WNBA together ten years from now. Think of how special that would be.