Before she played a minute in the WNBA, Courtney Vandersloot was drawing comparisons to Storm star and three-time WNBA champion Sue Bird.
In Vandersloot’s rookie season, Bird said the comparisons were legitimate because of the Sky point guard’s court vision, passing and shooting. Since being drafted third overall in 2011, Vandersloot has proved to be in a lane all her own.
“Anytime they put my name and Sue’s in the same conversation, it’s an honor,” Vandersloot said. “She’s one of the best to ever do it. She’s a winner, a true point guard. She’s been able to do it for so many years and is the epitome of what a point guard should look like.”
Bird leads the league in career assists with 3,073, but Vandersloot has broken some of her records recently — most postseason games with double-digit assists (10), most assists in a playoff game (18) and becoming the first player in WNBA history to average double-digit assists in a season.
She also entered the Sky’s game Wednesday in Seattle in fourth on the league’s career assist list, 870 behind Bird. Vandersloot had 12 assists (and Bird seven) in the Sky’s 74-71 loss.
“I’m always a little bit honored,” Vandersloot said. “I have so much respect for Sue and what she did, especially being from around here. I’ve watched her since she got drafted here.”
Before Bird announced she’d be coming back for a run at what would be the Storm’s fifth title, speculation swirled that Vandersloot, who’s from Kent, Washington, could be headed home. Bird is expected to retire after the season.
Vandersloot’s free-agency motives always have been clear. She wanted to win a championship with the organization that drafted her and was always motivated by that goal to re-sign. After the Sky won the title in 2021, Vandersloot said she was intrigued by the idea of playing in her home market, but she would entertain all that free agency had to offer.
She met with the Lynx, the Storm and, of course, the Sky.
When Bird re-signed with the Storm for the league’s veteran minimum of $72,141, all signs pointed to Vandersloot’s re-signing to a one-year, $195,000 contract with the Sky.
At this point, the Sky are just beginning their title defense, and the Storm are looking to turn around a poor start to what was expected to be a title-contending season with Bird, Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd back in the fold.
What awaits in the not-too-distant future is the end of Bird’s career, as well as what could be the end of two other Hall of Fame careers in Candace Parker and Allie Quigley.
Neither Quigley nor Parker have discussed in any conclusive way whether 2022 will be their last season, but speculation is swirling. If the Sky and the league say goodbye to them, Vandersloot’s departure for Seattle could become all the more probable.
Before the 2016 Olympics, reports circulated about Bird passing the torch to Vandersloot as the next leader of the WNBA’s greatest basketball dynasty, and they never materialized.
Time will tell if Bird’s torch will go to Vandersloot in 2023.
“It feels like a whole new arena,” Vandersloot said about playing in Climate Pledge Arena, which received a makeover from its days as KeyArena. “It’s Seattle, and it feels like home. It’s always fun to come back home and play.”