The 2018 WNBA playoffs are currently underway, and the Seattle Storm is flying high as the No. 1 seed for the first time since the 2010 season. That same year, the team brought home its second championship trophy and hopes to repeat that success this summer.
Since that storied 2010 season, the Storm has been busy rebuilding. Led by veteran all-star Sue Bird, the squad’s gotten back to championship-level play faster than anyone could have expected — thanks largely to the additions of Jewell Loyd in 2015 and this year’s MVP Breanna Stewart in 2016, both of whom joined Bird as all-stars this year in Minnesota.
While the team’s stars prepare for the grueling playoff road ahead, Billboard caught up with Bird, Loyd and Stewart to talk playoff expectations, bringing the NBA back to Seattle, and why Bird is the perfect pre-game DJ.
?Sue, you’re the team’s veteran. In what ways would you say you mentor the younger players?
Sue Bird: I just try to think about the things I’ve learned in my career and the things that I wish somebody would have told me when I was in my first, second, even third and fourth years. And when I put myself in their shoes and I think about that, I just try to instill it, just try to talk about it, give them little pointers, little tidbits. That’s generally how I think about it.
You’ve been on the team for nearly its entire life. In what ways have you seen the team and the fanbase grow in the past 15 seasons?
SB: I think just like pretty much every WNBA franchise. Because the league as a whole has just gotten better. With our team, the talent has increased, you know obviously in the last couple years we’ve been a little up and down compared to the first 12 or so. With that being said, the level of play in this league has gotten so much better and the same can be said for the Storm. I think overall, the name “The Storm” in Seattle has just continued to grow. It has now become not just an afterthought that we have a WNBA team here. It has become a part of the “fabric” of our sports society.
In addition to winning two WNBA titles, you’ve also won four Olympic gold medals. Did you ever think you’d achieve something like that?
SB: No, not at all. Yeah, I would have loved to start out and if someone told me that would happen I would think “yeah sounds like a pretty good career” but, never in a million years would I have dreamed of that, so it’s pretty cool. But I know throughout it I just try to put winning as number one, and it’s worked out.
Jewell, You were the number one pick overall in the 2015 draft and won rookie of the year that season. Do you ever feel any added pressure due to that?
Jewell Loyd: Not really. I mean the only amount of pressure I put on myself is just my daily goals and stuff like that. I’m in a good place right now, in Seattle, where this is no pressure. You’re playing with Sue [Bird], you’re in a good origination, you’re playing with great players, you just got to do what you’re supposed to do. You know do your role, and accept it, and I have fun doing it.
You were also an all-star for the first time this season. How did that feel?
JL: It was something I definitely wanted to make, that was my next goal after winning rookie of the year. Being an all-star was definitely something I wanted to do. Being able to do it in Minnesota where I had family that could come to watch, and going with Sue and Stewie (Breanna Stewart) to my first one was definitely something I won’t forget.
Breanna, You were the number one pick overall in the 2016 draft. How did it feel joining a team with Jewell, who went first overall the year before?
Breanna Stewart: To come here and to team up with Jewell, I was really excited about it because most of our career we played against each other, whether it was USA Basketball, high school or college. To be able to be out there on the court with someone with that amount of talent, I was excited to get here.
You won rookie of the year and are a two-time all-star. With so many accolades already, what’s the next step for you?
BS: Just continuing to elevate my game, becoming the best player in this league and getting this team back on track to win championship.
You led UCONN to four NCAA titles during your time there. How would it feel to help lead the Storm to its first championship since 2010?
BS: I think getting back into that mindset, that championship mindset, is exactly what I want to do. I took a little hiatus from winning the past two years but now being back on track, you get that feeling, when its playoff time especially. It’s ‘march madness’ playoff time here, you want to play your best basketball.?
What do you think are the chances of Seattle acquiring an NBA team again?
SB: I’d venture to say the next time an NBA team moves or they are talking about expansion I can’t imagine Seattle is not number one on the list.
JL: It should be high. This is a sports city, the remodeling of KeyArena I think helps a lot. If you ask anyone about the SuperSonics, they want them back. The NBA knows that this is a great market and people want to play and be here, so hopefully we can get one soon.
BS: I think the chances are really high. With the renovations at KeyArena, it’s going to make us a city that an NBA team wants to be at. Everybody loves Seattle, it’s a sports city, and we’re getting NHL so we would have everybody.
What is your music taste? Favorite artists/bands?
SB: I’m New York born and raised. So, I definitely lean towards hip-hop. Biggie [Notorious B.I.G.] for a lot of reasons will always be my favorite. Jay-Z for a lot of reasons will always be my favorite. But actually, in terms of what I listen to, it bends towards hip-hop, but I like everything. The only thing I don’t really love is country, but everything else I’m a huge fan of. Some of my favorite artists are Citizen Cope, I love Citizen Cope’s music. We just did a thing with Pearl Jam, I grew up with Pearl Jam in a lot of ways as well.
Even though they are all the way out in Seattle, it did get to New York. A lot of my friends loved Pearl Jam, so whenever I’d hang out with them that was usually what CD, not album — back then it was what CD, maybe even tape, but what CD was playing. But yeah, I have a wide range, those are some of the favorites.
JL: My favorite rapper is Logic. I’ve been listening to him since high school, I listen to a lot of him. I listen to pretty much anything. I listen to country, Justin Bieber, Drake, Migos, everything really.
BS: I listen to a few different things, pop, hip-hop and R&B. I’ve been listening to Travis Scott’s new album, Drake’s album, Nicki Minaj, and the singles that Chance [the Rapper] just put out.
What are your go to pre-game songs?
JL: Sue is really our DJ. She will put on a playlist, usually it’s hip-hop to get us warmed up. We don’t have like one certain song, but we just kind of listen to whatever is in the playlist. Sue does a good job being DJ.
BS: Sue does a great job being our DJ. Being a DJ, there is a lot of pressure on that if people don’t like the song or that type of thing. But she makes sure before the game we all have something we all like to listen to, even if it’s old school. Sometimes we play a little old school and it still gets people pumped up.
Sue, how did you get the pregame DJ role?
SB: I think it has always been my role my whole life. Speaking of tapes and CDs, in that era I was making tapes for my AAU team, and then the next era I was making CDs for my college team, and then in the next era I was making playlists for my WNBA teams. It’s always kind of been what I did.