<
>

Seattle Storm to host 2017 WNBA All-Star Game

Storm veteran Sue Bird has been waiting years for this. And she's especially happy for the fans in Seattle, some of whom have been waiting even longer.

Seattle will host the WNBA All-Star Game for the first time on July 22 (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). Bird, the league's No. 1 draft pick in 2002, is pleased that the best players in the league will gather at her home, KeyArena.

"The fans here have seen a lot," Bird said. "They've see the early stages, when we got the top picks in 2001 and 2002, the climb to a championship, our down moments and bringing it back with another championship. And with the recent rebuild -- we're on the other side of that, hopefully -- they've seen almost everything. But what they haven't seen is an All-Star Game.

"This has always been one of the toughest places to play, and the reason for that is the fans: their energy, their excitement, the way they make opposing teams feel when they enter the building. It's really great that they'll get to participate in the All-Star Game as well and cheer everybody on."

Of course, the biggest cheers will be for the West All-Stars, which might include a few Storm players. Bird had a fantastic season last year, leading the league in assists. She also won her fourth gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team. Also taking gold was Storm teammate Breanna Stewart, who followed Seattle's Jewell Loyd as Rookie of the Year.

Bird said even though the Storm's playoff run was so brief -- under the new format, they played just one postseason game -- it still gave the younger players a taste of what that level of basketball needs to be.

"There's a lot to feel good about, but you don't want to get too ahead of yourself," Bird said, ever the pragmatic point guard. "We still have a long way to go and a lot to learn. We had two to three really good weeks, and we need to make that two to three really good months."

This will be just the fourth time the WNBA All-Star Game is held in a Western Conference city; it was in Phoenix twice (2000, 2014) and San Antonio once (2011). Bird is eager for Seattle fans to experience the open practices and kids' clinics as well as the game.

And she said it's still a major goal for players to make an All-Star team.

"It's not easy to do it," said Bird, who's been an All-Star nine times. "That's saying something about your play. This is the best league, and I think people do take it seriously. Then when you get there, you just really have fun and put on a good show."