Bird came to UConn after a spectacular high school career at Christ the King in New York but her freshman season was cut short by a knee injury sustained in practice eight games into the season. But she rebounded quite well, becoming one of the most decorated players in program history. Bird completed her career with 1,378 points and 585 assists, shooting 45.9 percent from behind the three-point arc (207 for 451) and 89.2 percent from the foul line.
But her breakout season was 2001-02 when along with fellow seniors Asjha Jones, Swin Cash and Tamika Williams she led UConn to an undefeated (39-0) national championship. Bird was the consensus national player of the year and UConn's first Associated Press Player of the Year since Kara Wolters in 1997. She made perhaps the most famous shot in UConn women's history by driving the length of the floor to score at the buzzer to beat Notre Dame in the 2001 Big East tournament championship game.
WNBA highlights: Bird was the first overall pick of the 2002 WNBA Draft by the Seattle Storm, the first Husky so honored by the league. She helped lead the Storm to the 2004 WNBA championship, thereby becoming just the sixth player to win an NCAA championship, WNBA championship and Olympic gold medal.
She is a three-time WNBA first-team pick and six-time all-star and will likely be the point guard this September on the US national team coached by Geno Auriemma at the World Championships in the Czech Republic. She has also had a long and successful career playing overseas in Russia with Moscow Spartak, one of the premier teams in Europe.
This season, Bird entered July leading the WNBA in assists, but she sustained a hyper-flexed left knee in the third quarter of a 21-point win over San Antonio in June. Since her knee injury in college, she's had procedures to clean up loose particles in it in 2003 and 2007.
Remembering her roots:
On the UConn campus in the autumn of 1998, an alert pedestrian would have noticed five teenagers seemingly always together.
Everywhere we went, it was always the five of us," Bird said.
These girls were basketball players, members of one of the fabled recruiting classes in women's basketball history Bird, Keirsten Walters, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones and Tamika Williams.
So it was a special moment last summer when four of them reunited to play in the WNBA All-Star Game at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Bird, Cash and Jones returned as WNBA All-Stars.
Bird and Cash, teammates on the Seattle Storm, started for the West. Jones, the only representative from the host Connecticut Sun last season, was an East reserve.
Bird's mother still lives in New York so she returns home frequently during breaks from her busy schedule. And when she does, he often stops at UConn to see Auriemma and practice with his team.
The Fab Five, as that freshman class was known, led the Huskies to two national championships in 2000 and 2002.
In 2002, UConn became the first school to have four players taken in the top 10 of the draft. Cash was second, Jones fourth and Williams sixth. And they've remained friends since.
"It's about the age we were at, 17 into 21," Bird said. "You're still a kid, having fun, trying to enjoy yourself. But at the same time, at UConn you're trying to win championships and you are in it together. So you develop a bond. It's similar to sisterhood, a bond that will never break. Even now, when we get back together, it's like we're back in our dorm room."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times