STORRS, Conn. -- After winning her third Olympic title in London in 2012, Sue Bird was asked if she would be able to hang around until 2016 to make another rush at gold.
Well, 2016 is here and Bird is still at it as the United States senior national team holds a training camp for 16 of its 25 Olympic finalists at the Werth Family Champions Center.
But how about beyond the Games in Rio de Janeiro? The 2002 consensus national Player of the Year at the University of Connecticut signed a multi-year contract to remain with the WNBA's Seattle Storm earlier this month. Perhaps she's not ready to hang up USA Basketball uniform No. 6 quite yet. The 35-year-old already owns the record for most medals won (three gold, one bronze) at the FIBA world championships. No player has won five Olympic gold medals.
"Four years from now? The world championships in 2018? Honestly, I just don't know," Bird said with a smile. "Retirement is a funny thing. There are different ways to look at it. I see what Tamika Catchings (who will retire at the end of the 2016 WNBA season) is going through and I joke about it with her -- announcing it and all the attention she's getting. At some level it's great to be able to applaud and thank them. In every WNBA arena this season, there's going to be something for her. I think that's great. But I don't know if that fits my personality. I don't know announcing anything is up my alley."
That's part of the reason why she says her deal with the Storm is "multi-year." She won't confirm whether it's for two, three, four, or more years.
"I didn't want a contract to dictate my retirement," Bird said. "A player at my stage, if you sign a one-year contract what does that say? If you sign a two-year contract, what does that say? If I could have signed a 100-year contract, I would have just to say the contract won't dictate it."
Bird averaged 10.3 points and was second in the WNBA to fellow Olympic finalist Courtney Vandersloot at 5.4 assists in 27 games for the Storm last summer. She became the 13th player in league history to reach the 5,000-point plateau and the first to have 5,000 points and 2,000 assists.
One thing that is prolonging her WNBA career is that she is no longer spending her winter and spring playing overseas. Instead, she's done some work as an analyst for ESPN.
"It allows you to rest. It allows you to get healthy and work on things you wouldn't have been able to otherwise," Bird said. "It's February so I still have a few more months to get on the top of my game. The only thing is you have to get into game shape. Otherwise, I feel real good."
The Syosset, New York, native was a starter at UConn for coach Geno Auriemma from day one when she arrived in 1998. She would miss much of her freshman year with a knee (ACL) injury, but would be a three-time winner of the Nancy Lieberman Award as the nation's top point guard, a two-time national champion, and the No. 1 pick of the Storm in the 2002 WNBA Draft after sweeping Player of the Year honors.
Auriemma trusts her now more than ever.
"Sue doesn't waste a lot of energy," Auriemma said. "There are some kids that come out and run up and down the court three times and they can't breathe because they expend a lot of energy unnecessarily. She goes up and down the floor and knows what we have to do. She knows when to go and when not to, how to conserve energy and when not to. That comes from experience and it comes from the fact that your body is not 23 years old anymore. Her experience has allowed her to stay at the level she is still at.
"There are a lot of really good young guards coming up, but when you look at Sue and Lindsay Whalen, the others may be young and talented and skilled, but they are not Sue and they are not Lindsay."
The training camp wraps up Tuesday here with a final two-hour session, so Bird will try to make one last impression with the people at USA Basketball.
Four years ago, she wasn't sure she would make it to Rio de Janeiro. Count on her being there in August.
"It goes fast," Bird said. "These four-year periods go so fast. It's incredible. To be here now with Rio ... I was going to say slowly approaching, but it's approaching fast. It's crazy. It's something that a lot of us have been through before and we're ready for it."