On Oct. 30, WNBA fable Sue Bird and U.S. soccer brilliant Megan Rapinoe acquaint the aforementioned photo on their Instagram accounts to advertise their engagement. They were in Antigua on vacation, at an beyond basin overlooking the ocean, and Bird had continued her larboard duke to Rapinoe, who was bottomward on one knee on the basin ledge.
There is conceivably no bigger ability brace in all of sports appropriate now than Rapinoe and Bird. The 35-year-old Rapinoe has won seven alone all-around awards, including the 2019 Ballon d’Or Féminin for the world’s best changeable soccer player, and two Women’s Apple Cups; and she has ranked in the top 10 in the Civic Women’s Soccer Alliance in goals in two of her accomplished three seasons.1 Bird, who angry 40 aftermost month, is a four-time WNBA champion, eight-time All-WNBA alternative and 11-time All-Star in her 17 pro seasons. Combined, the two accept bristles Olympic gold medals and could win two added in Tokyo abutting summer.
Rapinoe and Bird met at a columnist accident afore the 2016 Olympics, and they hit it off in Rio de Janeiro back Rapinoe and some of her teammates abounding the basketball team’s affair to bless its gold medal. They affiliated over amusing media afterwards the Olympics and started dating in abatement 2016.
Despite actuality in their mid-to-late 30s for best of their relationship, the two accept produced some of the bigger accomplishments of their careers while they were dating, including two WNBA titles for Bird and Rapinoe’s absolute 2019 Apple Cup performance. They accept additionally formed to beforehand their corresponding sports and advance amusing justice. Bird helped accommodate a battleground new aggregate acceding acceding for the WNBA aftermost winter, and this summer, she had the abstraction for WNBA players to abandon Atlanta Dream co-owner and U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler by cutting T-shirts abetment her opponent, Rev. Raphael Warnock, in the 2020 election. Rapinoe has been one of the leaders in Aggregation USA’s action for according pay, and she hosted an HBO appropriate this summer alleged “Seeing America With Megan Rapinoe,” which additionally featured U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, announcer Nikole Hannah-Jones and television host Hasan Minhaj.
“Progress is absolutely hard, and accustomed the bake is absolutely hard,” Rapinoe told InStyle in 2019, “but you acquisition a way to administer it and do it.”
Team USA’s acknowledged action for according pay is ongoing, and the WNBA’s new aggregate acceding acceding and Rapinoe and Bird’s political activism will accept ripple furnishings for years to come. But in their sports, the actual appulse that both players are authoritative in the declared afterglow of their careers is already obvious. Let’s attending at some numbers that appearance how abundant both players accept animated their amateur in the aftermost four years.
From the moment Bird entered the WNBA at age 21, she was a difference-maker. In the 2002-15 approved seasons, she fabricated nine All-Star teams, won two championships and averaged 12.3 credibility and 5.4 assists in 32.4 account per game. Her able field-goal allotment was aloof arctic of 50 percent, and her amateur ability appraisement of 17.5 was able-bodied aloft the alliance boilerplate of 15.0.
Yet 15 years afterwards her debut, afterwards she met Rapinoe,2 Bird begin addition gear. From 2017 to this year, she averaged about bristles beneath account and 2 beneath credibility per game, but her able field-goal allotment added to 57.0 percent. Her 3-point cutting allotment additionally rose from 37.9 percent to 42.6 percent and became a bigger allotment of her game, apery 55 percent of her field-goal attempts back 2017 compared with 40 percent pre-Megan.
Bird additionally upped her assists by an boilerplate of 1.2 per bold while abbreviating turnovers by 0.7 and fouls by 0.2, while arena adjoin some opponents who had her affiche on their walls as children.
“It’s all about maximizing your strengths and ambuscade your weaknesses,” she told The New York Times this year. “Whether you’re a role amateur or the best amateur on the team, if you can do that, it’s a compound for a continued career.” She has additionally accustomed bigger nutrition, bargain deepening and bigger beddy-bye with accidental to her arresting longevity.
Of course, arena with 2018 WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart, whom the Storm drafted in 2016, is absurd to aching Bird’s stats. But teams charge assorted brilliant players to win a championship, and Bird has been a brilliant in the playoffs back she and Rapinoe started dating.
From 2017 to 2020, Bird averaged 7.7 assists adjoin aloof 1.8 turnovers in the playoffs, compared with 5.2 and 2.1 pre-Megan, and she set a new single-game playoff almanac with 16 assists beneath than a ages afore her 40th birthday. She additionally bolter her 3-point attempt with added vigor: 63 percent of Bird’s field-goal attempts in the 2017-20 playoffs were 3-pointers, up from 42 percent pre-Megan, yet her accurateness decreased by beneath than 2 allotment points. As a result, her able field-goal allotment added from 46.9 percent to an alike 50.0 percent.
WNBA stats for Sue Bird afore her accord with Megan Rapinoe (2002-15) vs. during it (2017-20)
Bird and Rapinoe’s accord began during the 2016 WNBA season, so that division is excluded.
Rapinoe access into the civic alertness with a cantankerous to Abby Wambach in the 122nd minute of a 2011 Women’s Apple Cup bout adjoin Brazil.3 Rapinoe’s assembly was almost agnate for the civic aggregation and her NWSL team, OL Reign,4 afore she began dating Bird — an era that lasted through the 2016 Olympics with the civic team5 and spanned the 2013 through 2015 NWSL seasons. Excluding amends bang goals, Rapinoe averaged 0.71 goals additional assists per 90 account for Aggregation USA and 0.78 for OL Reign. On Aggregation USA, she produced goals and assists at about according ante (0.38 and 0.33, respectively, per 90 minutes), while with OL Reign, she was added of a scorer (0.52 goals against 0.26 assists per 90 minutes).
Despite several injuries, Rapinoe’s brilliant has risen on the civic aggregation back she and Bird started dating. She played in the Olympics and the NWSL beneath than a year afterwards disturbing her ACL in December 2015, and in the 2019 Apple Cup, she battled hamstring and Achilles bond issues. Yet she averaged 1.08 goals additional assists per 90 account (excluding amends kicks) for the civic aggregation from 2018 to 2020 — a 52 percent access in assembly at ages 32 through 34.
Rapinoe’s 2019 Apple Cup achievement anchored her bequest as an American sports hero. She led her aggregation to its additional afterwards championship and won the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top ambition scorer and the Golden Ball as the best player. And she did it all amidst criticism of the aggregation for acquisition Thailand 13-0 and added burden from President Trump, who reacted to Rapinoe adage that she would adios an allurement to the White House if the aggregation won by tweeting that she should “WIN aboriginal afore she TALKS!”
As Vanity Fair put it in a July 2019 headline, “Megan Rapinoe Won Every Possible Allotment of the Apple Cup.” (Subtitle: “She calm every trophy, answered every arbitrary question, and now allotment home as a civic icon.”)
Or, as Bird wrote in her Players’ Tribune commodity alleged “So the President F*cking Hates My Girlfriend”:
“You aloof cannot agitate that girl. She’s activity to do her thing, at her own abuse speed, to her own abuse rhythm, and she’s activity to apologize to absolutely NO ONE for it. … All the threats, all the criticism, all the fallout — advancing out on the added ancillary of that is what now makes her assume so unfazed by the assholes of the world.”
Rapinoe’s NWSL achievement hasn’t akin her added Aggregation USA production, with aloof 0.59 goals additional assists per 90 account (excluding amends kicks) in 44 matches. It has additionally decreased compared to her assembly in the pre-Sue era. In the 2016 through 2019 NWSL seasons, Rapinoe recorded beneath goals (excluding amends kicks) and beneath assists per 90 account than she did from 2013 through 2015. In 2019, she had aught goals and aught assists in bristles matches afterwards the Apple Cup, acceptable due to a aggregate of injury, fatigue and reacclimating herself to the alliance about 12 months afterwards her aftermost NWSL game.
Despite that allusive drop-off, Rapinoe still accomplished in the top bristles in the NWSL in goals per 90 account in 2017 and 2018. She is one of soccer’s bigger names both domestically and globally, and her ascent has abundantly appear while dating Bird.
International and NWSL stats for Megan Rapinoe afore her accord with Sue Bird (2011-16) vs. during it (2016-20)
Bird and Rapinoe’s accord began afterwards the 2016 Olympics. Rapinoe’s pre-Bird stats accommodate the 2016 Olympics but not the 2016 NWSL season.
Bird and Rapinoe accept anniversary relished in the other’s success. Bird absent the absolute 2019 WNBA division with a knee injury, which accustomed her to be in France for the Apple Cup final, and pictures of her kissing Rapinoe in the stands became symbols of the team’s triumph. A year later, Rapinoe alternate the favor, auspicious Bird all the way to a championship central the WNBA bubble, or “Wubble.”
“We are huge admirers of anniversary other. I accept become, like, a Seattle Storm cardinal one superfan, of course,” Rapinoe told People annual aftermost year. “I anticipate it is aloof the compassionate of what we accept to go through and the acknowledgment of, you know, anniversary other’s abilities and lives is absolutely special. … Neither of us are anxious or awe-inspiring about anniversary other’s careers. We are aloof affectionate of there to abutment anniversary other.”
In conceivably the adumbration of the century, she added, “I’m aloof a babe in a Wubble dating her bounded team’s point guard.”
That point bouncer and that babe in the Wubble accept about incomparable resumes and medals abounding in their corresponding sports. Yet, as acceptable as they were individually, they accept been alike bigger together.
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