Getting Olympic spot never gets old for UConn legends
In 2004 Bird was just two years removed from her time as an All-American point guard at UConn when she made her first Olympic team. The announcement lacked the pomp and circumstance of Wednesday's festivities when the 12-member team was announced on NBC's Today Show and then there was the meet in greet in New York featuring athletes from nearly every sport, Olympic legends and First day Michelle Obama. However, the memories of Bird's first taste of life as an Olympian have never subsided.
"I remember my first time, what it felt like and being able to say the words for the first time that you are going to be an Olympian for the first time, the weight it carries," Bird said. "In your own little world, for us being an Olympian is huge but even when you talk to your friends at home or random people, being an Olympian has weight."
Bird laughs when asked if she ever thought she would be a four-time Olympian.
"I think when you are younger, ignorance is bliss in a way, you just don't know any better to think about that stuff," Bird said. "It is probably a good thing so it doesn't get all messy in your head, you are able to keep your eye on the prize, It is not until you are older that you have that awareness, you realize what it means and in some ways how lucky you are to get to a fourth."
So could Bird hang around long enough to join Teresa Edwards as the only U.S. women's basketball player to take part in five Olympics?
"I don't really think about it," Bird said. "It is not something that is on the forefront in my thoughts, it is not something I feel the need to announce or comment on. I am just taking it literally one day at a time, one season at a time and going from there."
Bird certainly was thrilled to be a part of Wednesday's extravaganza.
"It is a special day," Bird said. "As WNBA players, we don't really get to be involved in a lot of this stuff and it is a bummer sometimes. This is in my experience the only time we've been at an event like this, the combination of the event itself, the First lady being here, all these other athletes being here and they are announcing our team, it is a big deal. You put all of that together and it has made for a special day."
Tina Charles and Maya Moore combined to play for two national championship teams at UConn and then were teammates once again four years ago when they were among the new faces on the team that would win a fifth straight Olympic gold medal.
Both Charles and Moore admitted that having gone through the Olympic experience in 2012 will allow them to appreciate the process even more this time around.
"I was so excited to be there that I didn''t take in every little detail from Catch (Tamika Catchings), Sue (Bird) and Diana (Taurasi)," Charles said.
Here's what Moore had to say about now being a two-time Olympian,
"The first one, I am just trying to take everything in but now I kind of know what to expect and I can enjoy it at a different pace I think, in a different way and just help the players that it is their first time so just help them enjoy it,," Moore said. "Also, the ones who are on their way out to enjoy their last one. It is a cool spot to be in where I can enjoy the people I am around in a different way."
Moore also happens to be on the same Olympic team as Minnesota Lynx teammates Seimone Augustus, Sylvia Fowles and Lindsay Whalen as well as having formed bonds with the four other former Huskies on the team even if Charles was the only one she played with during her remarkable college career.
"It is super great because the relationships that are already established going in to be able to make it that much richer," Moore said. "I've had the opportunity of knowing most of my teammates on the Olympic team for five, six, seven years. Tina, we have been playing against each other since we were in middle school so some of these relationships go way back. This is my sixth season with the Lynx so with Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, I played with Diana, Tamika and Sue when I was in college on the Worlds team in 2010 so thee are just a lot of memories, a lot of tie we've been able to build the chemistry that we've had."
Having Wednesday's event in New York was extra special to Charles who not only rose to prominence as a star at New York powerhouse Christ the King but also now plays in the WNBA for the New York Liberty.
"It is definitely special to be able to represent New York, have the jersey so it is definitely special," Charles said.
Charles also made it clear that once the pomp and circumstance came to an end that the team she is focused on at the current time is not the Olympic squad.
"My focus right now is the New York Liberty and getting us a championship but I am enjoying this moment," Charles said. "When the time comes when we get to Rio and I am healthy, that is what my focus (will be on) then."