Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird were teammates, competitors and then teammates again.
The relationship between Bird and Taurasi is one that goes back more than two decades when they first became teammates at the University of Connecticut in 2000.
Bird and Taurasi won two NCAA titles in three years together before Bird went pro. The friendship that the duo share has made competing at the Olympics together a privilege, according to Taurasi.
As Taurasi and Bird report for their fifth Olympics training camp, playing at a high level gets easier when Bird is there, according to Taurasi.
“We get to these USA basketball camps, there’s a lot of pressure to play well,” Taurasi said. “Then you can look over and see one of your best friends who always has your back. … It means the world to me.”
Together, the 38-year-old Taurasi and 40-year-old Bird have helped the United States dominate international competition for the last 20 years. Since Taurasi began playing for Team USA, the women’s national team is 131-7.
On the Olympic stage, Taurasi and Bird have shined. The duo is a perfect 32-0 and has helped lead the United States to four straight gold medals.
Even though Taurasi is no stranger to the bright lights of the Olympics, having Bird by her side has made competing at the highest level less stressful.
“There’s that sense of being very familiar with someone,” Taurasi said. “Coming into situations that have been nerve-racking, no matter if you’ve been there 100 times or it’s your first time, you get that sense of calm when you have your best friend there.”
The duo has competed against one another for years, as Bird has led the Seattle Storm against Taurasi’s Phoenix Mercury. So sharing the court alongside Bird is more than just playing basketball.
“To put it into words would tell you the impact that Sue’s had on my life,” Taurasi said. “Not just thankful to be able to play basketball with her, but to be able to do it with pretty much family.”