Geno Auriemma, Sue Bird liken Diana Taurasi to Michael Jordan

9:21 PM ET


CloseGraham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

While watching Michael Jordan’s exploits in “The Last Dance” each week, Geno Auriemma and Sue Bird can’t help but feel like they’ve seen this all before. Not just because the Connecticut women’s basketball coach and one of his most famous players lived through the Jordan years, but because they know Diana Taurasi.

Auriemma hosted Bird in a live chat on Instagram on Tuesday, and talk of how they are passing time at home during the coronavirus pandemic quickly turned to Jordan and Taurasi.

“Do you think Diana Taurasi was the female version of Michael Jordan?” Auriemma asked. “I don’t mean the game up in the air, I don’t mean that. I’m talking about mindset.”

Bird, who appearing in a recent episode of the documentary to share her memory of being a 12-year-old Knicks fan gleefully watching John Starks dunk on Jordan, concurred that it was a Jordan-like, competitive mindset that propelled Taurasi to three NCAA titles, three WNBA titles and four Olympic gold medals.

“I think game-wise, she’s more Magic,” Bird said in reference to Magic Johnson’s playmaking abilities. “I think mindset, very similar [to Jordan]. She’s funnier. She’s wittier. But very similar. And we talked about the all-or-nothing-type mentality for a lot of athletes — that’s [her], too. When she’s in, she’s in. When she’s out, she’s out. She doesn’t gamble like that, though.”

Both Bird, 39, and Taurasi, 37, were expected to play prominent roles for the United States in this summer’s Olympics, and might do so in next summer’s rescheduled Games. Bird attributes Taurasi’s staying power to her iconic status in the women’s game.

“You’re talking about the greatest of all time,” Bird said. “I think [Taurasi] is the greatest of all time.”

Answering a question from her former coach about her own career potentially nearing its conclusion, Bird said she hopes to remain an advocate for a range of social issues. She pointed to how Kobe Bryant became an advocate for women’s basketball before his death this year.

“The way he was starting to get involved in women’s basketball, that mattered,” Bird said. “And it was going to matter. It matters when people that don’t look like you, aren’t interested in the same things as you, don’t do what you do — whatever it is — when they support you, it matters. And I feel like I want to be that if I can, where it makes sense for me.”

Bird also said she does not believe the 2020 WNBA season can begin without access to rapid COVID-19 testing that does not limit availability of testing for other sectors of the population.

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