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    Vanessa Bryant Is Suing L.A. County Over Kobe Bryant Crash Photos: What to Know

    Bryant, whose husband and daughter died in a 2020 helicopter crash, said county employees shared photos of human remains from the crash, causing her emotional distress.Vanessa Bryant, the wife of the late basketball star Kobe Bryant, is expected to testify at a trial this week after she sued Los Angeles County and some of its agencies and employees for sharing photos of human remains from the helicopter crash that killed her husband and daughter.The January 2020 crash killed Mr. Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others as they traveled to a youth basketball tournament at Mr. Bryant’s academy in Thousand Oaks, Calif., northwest of Los Angeles.Mr. Bryant, 41, joined the N.B.A. out of high school, spending his entire 20-year professional career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He won five championships and retired in 2016 as one of the N.B.A.’s top career scorers and one of the world’s most popular sports figures.In her lawsuit, Mrs. Bryant accused Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and fire department employees of negligence and invading her privacy by sharing crash photos “without any legitimate purpose.”From left to right, Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, Vanessa Bryant and Natalia Bryant in November 2017. Kobe and Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash in 2020.Reed Saxon/Associated PressMrs. Bryant said she “has suffered (and continues to suffer) severe emotional distress” and that she feared that the photographs would appear online.“I do not want my little girls or I to ever have to see their remains in that matter,” Mrs. Bryant said during a deposition in October 2021. “Nor do I think it’s right that the photographs were taken in the first place because it’s already tough enough that I have to experience this heartache and this loss.”Mrs. Bryant has three other daughters with Mr. Bryant: Capri, 3; Bianka, 5; and Natalia, 19.Officials with Los Angeles County and the sheriff’s and fire departments have acknowledged that photos were shared, but said they were deleted.The trial began Aug. 10. Here is what else to know about Mrs. Bryant’s lawsuit.What caused the crash?More than a year after the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that the pilot’s “poor decision” to fly at excessive speeds in foggy weather was the probable cause of the accident. The pilot, Ara Zobayan, was among those killed in the crash.[Read the 86-page final investigation report from the N.T.S.B., which includes a six-page executive summary.]The safety board found that Mr. Zobayan had become so disoriented in the clouds that he thought he was ascending when he was turning left just before the helicopter crashed into a hill near Calabasas, Calif.The board also faulted the charter company, Island Express Helicopters, for “inadequate review and oversight of its safety management processes.”Read Vanessa Bryant’s LawsuitBryant accused Los Angeles County and some of its agencies and employees of negligence and invasion of privacy for sharing photos of human remains at the helicopter crash that killed her husband and daughter.Read Document 41 pagesWho saw the photos? Where are the photos now?In a January court filing, Mrs. Bryant’s lawyers said close-up pictures of Mr. Bryant’s and Gianna Bryant’s remains “were passed around on at least 28 Sheriff’s Department devices and by at least a dozen firefighters,” including at a bar and an awards gala. In her lawsuit, Mrs. Bryant claimed that social media users had said they had seen the photos.Mrs. Bryant named four sheriff’s deputies in her lawsuit and accused them of sharing the photos with each other, other deputies or family members. The Los Angeles Times reported in February 2020 that one of the deputies — identified as Joey Cruz in Mrs. Bryant’s lawsuit — showed the photos at a bar, prompting a bar patron to file a complaint with the sheriff’s department.Emily Tauscher, a captain at the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, testified at trial that after the crash Mr. Bryant was identified by his skin tone and arm tattoos.Los Angeles County and law enforcement officials have said that the photos were deleted and never “made it into the public arena.”What has been the county’s response to the lawsuit?Lawyers representing Los Angeles County said that taking photographs of fatal crime and accident scenes was a common practice for investigative and information-sharing purposes.“The County continues to express its deepest sympathies for the families that suffered this terrible loss,” Mira Hashmall, the lead outside counsel for the county, said in a statement. “The County has also worked tirelessly for two and half years to make sure its site photos of the crash were never publicly disseminated. The evidence shows they never were. And that is fact, not speculation.”The county has not called any witnesses yet, but in a court filing its lawyers are pushing to include some of Mrs. Bryant’s Instagram posts at trial to counter her claims of severe emotional distress caused by the shared photos. Mrs. Bryant’s lawyers have said her posts on Instagram, where she has 15.5 million followers, are not relevant to this case.The disputed posts include Mrs. Bryant and her family on vacations. Mrs. Bryant also shared images of herself dressed as the Disney character Cruella de Vil from the “101 Dalmatians” movie franchise.“Plaintiff’s emotional state is at the center of this case, and there is little more revealing of Plaintiff’s emotional state than her own words about her life, sadness, the targets of her anger, her activities, and other stressors that could contribute to any emotional distress,” the county said in a court filing this month about trial exhibits.The Bryant family at Kobe Bryant’s jersey retirement ceremony in December 2017. Kobe Bryant spent 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.Allen Berezovsky/Getty ImagesWhat has happened so far during the trial?The trial, as anticipated, has been emotional.Mrs. Bryant wept during the opening statements made by her lawyer, Luis Li.The accounts provided by emergency medical workers who took graphic photographs are conflicting. Brian Jordan, a retired fired captain who said he was ordered to take photos of the crash scene, left the witness stand three times because he needed breaks to finish his testimony.“I do not remember what I took pictures of,” Jordan testified. “The way the whole scene looked, it’s going to haunt me forever.”Deputy Rafael Mejia, who is named in the lawsuit, testified he received 15 to 20 photographs from another deputy the day of the crash. He said he sent about 10 of the pictures to two deputies, including Joey Cruz, who later would share them in public with a bartender. Mejia expressed regret over sharing the photos, saying, “Curiosity got the best of us.”Cruz testified that he made a “misjudgment” when he shared the photos.Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka, who was Gianna Bryant’s godfather and had been Mr. Bryant’s agent before becoming a team executive, detailed his relationship with Mrs. Bryant and testified about the anxiety she had experienced because of the shared photos.“She wants an air of love and joy and peace and she does everything she can do to preserve that,” Mr. Pelinka said. “You experience the grief from loss, but there’s also the anxiety from these deplorable actions.”What else did Mrs. Bryant say during her deposition?Mrs. Bryant said she learned of the accident when a family assistant knocked on her door in the late morning of Jan. 26, 2020. As she tried calling Mr. Bryant, notifications of people mourning Mr. Bryant popped up on her phone.Mrs. Bryant said she went to an airport in an attempt to secure a helicopter to take her to the crash site but was told the weather conditions were not safe. Mr. Pelinka drove Mrs. Bryant to the sheriff’s station in Malibu, near the crash site, she said.At the station, “no one would answer” questions about her husband and daughter, Mrs. Bryant said. She was escorted back and forth between rooms, and after a long wait, a pastor walked in and Sheriff Alex Villanueva entered with a publicist. Mrs. Bryant said she wanted privacy and asked the publicist to leave the room.Villanueva confirmed the deaths, Mrs. Bryant said, and asked if he could do anything for her.“And I said: ‘If you can’t bring my husband and baby back, please make sure that no one takes photographs of them. Please secure the area,’” Mrs. Bryant said during the deposition. “And he said, ‘I will.’ And I said, ‘No, I need you to get on the phone right now and I need you to make sure you secure the area.’”How much is Mrs. Bryant suing for?Mrs. Bryant is suing for compensatory and punitive damages.“That would be up to the jury,” Mrs. Bryant responded when asked during her deposition how much money she sought. “I don’t — I’m not asking for a dollar amount.”Are the families of other crash victims involved in Mrs. Bryant’s case?Christopher Chester, whose wife, Sarah, 45, and daughter, Payton, 13, died in the crash, is joining the lawsuit. Two other victims’ families settled for $1.25 million each last year.Has any other litigation involving the crash been settled?Mrs. Bryant and the family members of the other victims reached a settlement in June 2021 with Island Express Helicopters, its owner, Island Express Holding Corporation and the estate of Mr. Zobayan.Terms of the settlement were confidential.Vik Jolly and More

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    Liberty Guard Sabrina Ionescu’s Historic WNBA Season, By the Numbers

    Ionescu, the All-Star Liberty guard, had a historic season in her third year that helped propel her team to the playoffs.After a serious ankle injury in her rookie season and a somewhat tentative second year, Sabrina Ionescu has in her third year hit the kind of heights everyone expected of her, and her Liberty are back in the W.N.B.A. playoffs.The No. 7 Liberty will face the No. 2 Chicago Sky — the defending champions — on Wednesday for Game 1 of a best-of-three series in the opening round.When the Liberty drafted Ionescu No. 1 overall in 2020, hopes were high. The team had been terrible for two seasons, but Ionescu had been a transcendent star at Oregon, where she had an N.C.A.A. record 26 triple-doubles. She seemed like the kind of player who could turn a team around almost by herself.In just her second game in the W.N.B.A., she fired in 33 points, including six 3-pointers, added 7 rebounds and 7 assists and had fans thrilled about the future.That future turned sour quickly when, in her third game, she went down with a severe ankle injury that would keep her out for the rest of the season.Without her, and without their veteran star Tina Charles, who had been traded away, the team was abysmal, finishing 2-20.Ionescu drove the Liberty’s offense this season, leading the team in scoring and assists.Sean D. Elliot/The Day, via Associated PressThe team bounced back in 2021 and sneaked into the playoffs, but it was a group effort led by Betnijah Laney, Natasha Howard (after a return from injury), Sami Whitcomb and Michaela Onyenwere, who was named the rookie of the year, that pushed them there. Although Ionescu played a full season, her scoring game fell a bit short of what might have been expected.Not that she didn’t help the team, but it was in a more supporting role: Though she was among the league’s assist leaders, she averaged just 11.7 points a game and dealt with lingering ankle pain. She was often the third or fourth scoring option.But in her third season, Ionescu has stepped forward, and she was named to her first All-Star team. She has improved in almost every category, playing more minutes, shooting at a higher percentage and increasing her rebounding, assists and steals numbers while reducing her turnovers.Notably, she has taken a more prominent role in the offense, shooting about 14 times a game to lead the team, up from just under 10 times a game last season, leading her to score a team-high 17.4 points a game. Playing in all 36 games helped her make the league’s top 10 in total points, assists and rebounds, the only player to do so. And her rebounding numbers are especially impressive since she is the Liberty’s main ballhandler.Ionescu also made history in her third season, becoming the first player ever to record a triple-double in three quarters and, separately, the first player ever to score at least 30 points as part of a triple-double. Those two triple-doubles brought her into a tie with Chicago’s Candace Parker for the most career triple-doubles, with three.Ionescu’s step forward, as well as having Howard available the whole season, helped the Liberty return to the playoffs and weather the loss of Laney for much of the season with a knee injury.Last season, the Liberty lost their single-elimination playoff game, 83-82, to the Phoenix Mercury. Ionescu had 14 points and 11 assists, but she missed a 30-foot desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have won the game.Ionescu shot better from 3 this season than last season, good enough to be fifth in the league for 3-pointers made.Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesThe team has a chance to rectify that in the opening round of the playoffs this year, which will be best of three instead of single elimination. But even with Laney’s return, the odds are long. Eight of the 12 W.N.B.A. teams make the playoffs, leaving room for teams that finished under .500, including the Liberty (16-20).A matchup against the strong Sky (26-10) with All-Stars such as Parker, Kahleah Copper, Courtney Vandersloot and Emma Meesseman, and with the first two games in Chicago, will be tough for the Liberty.The Liberty are one of the eight founding W.N.B.A. franchises and the only one still in its original city that has never won the W.N.B.A. title. Its last decade has been especially fallow, with just one trip to the semifinals or conference finals.Like any team, the Liberty will need to acquire talent, draft shrewdly and catch some breaks to step up to championship quality. But more than anything else, they will have to rely on Ionescu to continue playing at the stellar level she did this year. Or preferably, given that she is still only 24, to get even better. More

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    Read Vanessa Bryant’s Lawsuit

    Case 2:20-cv-09582-JFW-E Document 54 Filed 03/17/21 Page 2 of 41 Page ID #:1137

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

    Plaintiff Vanessa Bryant (“Plaintiff”), through her undersigned counsel, hereby brings this action against defendants County of Los Angeles (the “County”), the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (the “Sheriff’s Department”), the Los Angeles County Fire Department (the “Fire Department,” and, collectively with the County and the Sheriff’s Department, the “Entity Defendants”), Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejia, Michael Russell, and Raul Versales (collectively, the “Deputy Defendants,” and, collectively with the County, the Sheriff’s Department, and the Fire Department, the “Defendants”) seeking damages to remedy violations of rights under the United States Constitution and for negligence and invasion of privacy pursuant to California law. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. sections 1331 and 1343. Plaintiff alleges, on personal knowledge as to herself and information and belief as to others, as follows: INTRODUCTION 1. On the morning of Sunday, January 26, 2020, three eighth-grade girls, joined by parents and coaches, left their homes in Orange County to play in a youth basketball tournament in Thousand Oaks. Making their way by helicopter, they encountered dense fog. Rather than land or turn around, the pilot pushed into the fog and became disoriented. The helicopter descended rapidly and crashed into the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, killing everyone onboard. Vanessa Bryant’s thirteen year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, and husband of nearly twenty years, Kobe Bryant, were among those who died. 2. In the aftermath of the crash, several of the victims’ family members gathered at the L.A. County Sheriff’s station in Lost Hills, devastated and distraught. Sheriff Alex Villanueva met with them and assured Mrs. Bryant that his deputies were securing the crash site. Based on a leak by law enforcement, the gossip and celebrity news site TMZ had reported that Kobe, a singular figure in

    Case No. 2:20-cv-09582-JFW-E FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT More

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    What to Know About the WNBA Playoffs

    The Chicago Sky will try to defend their championship, but Las Vegas and Connecticut are threats. So is Seattle, with the retiring Sue Bird.The Chicago Sky are set to begin their bid to become the first back-to-back W.N.B.A. champions since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002. But the regular season was close at the top, and several teams could easily lift the trophy this year.Here’s how the W.N.B.A. playoffs shape up.When do the playoffs start?Wednesday at 8 p.m. Eastern time, when the second-seeded Sky host the seventh-seeded Liberty. At 10 p.m., the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces host the eighth-seeded Phoenix Mercury.The other two series — No. 3 Connecticut Sun vs. No. 6 Dallas Wings and No. 4 Seattle Storm vs. No. 5 Washington Mystics — start Thursday.How do the playoffs work?The first round is best of three, with the higher-seeded team hosting the first two games. If a third game is necessary, it will be played at the home of the lower-seeded team.The semifinals and finals are best of five, following a traditional 2-2-1 format for home games.Besides the joy of making it to the end, the finals will bring the players another perk. For that round only, the league will pay for teams to fly by chartered plane.Where can I watch the games?ABC and the various ESPN channels will show the playoffs. Games can also be streamed via ESPN.When are the finals?They are scheduled to begin on Sept. 11 and run through Sept. 20 if all five games are needed.Who’s going to win?The big three are Las Vegas, Chicago and Connecticut, who all finished within a game of each other at the top. Seattle and Washington, which finished with identical records of 22-14, are the next tier down.Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson is a leading candidate for the Most Valuable Player Award. She’s aiming to win her first championship.Rebecca Slezak/The Dallas Morning News, via Associated PressIt is very hard to see any of the bottom three teams winning. Dallas was .500, and the Liberty and Phoenix both lost more than they won in the regular season.For the statistically minded, Las Vegas had the league’s most potent offense, scoring 109.6 points per 100 possessions. Washington had the stingiest defense, allowing just 96 points per 100 possessions.But in net rating, combining offense and defense, it was Connecticut at the top, scoring 9.5 points more than the opposition per 100 possessions. That could make the third-seeded Sun a sneaky favorite.Who are the players to watch?The top-seeded Aces have a powerful one-two punch. Forward A’ja Wilson is a favorite for the Most Valuable Player Award after finishing in the top five in points per game (19.5) and rebounds per game (9.4), and guard Kelsey Plum scored 20.2 points a game while leading the league in 3-pointers made.Seattle has another M.V.P. candidate in forward Breanna Stewart, who led the league in scoring with 21.8 points per game, and few will take their eyes off the legendary Sue Bird, 41, the W.N.B.A. career assists leader, who will retire after the playoffs.And it will be worth watching Sabrina Ionescu of the Liberty, who at this point still has just one career playoff game.What’s the history?Seattle has four W.N.B.A. titles, all of them — yes, even the one back in 2004 — with Bird. Phoenix has won three times; once each for Washington and Chicago. The Dallas Wings won three times when they were known as the Detroit Shock. The other three teams are seeking their first titles. It’s an especially sore point for the Liberty, who have been in the league since its first season in 1997.What teams and players are missing?Seven of the eight teams are the same as in last year’s playoffs. With Washington returning after a year away, the odd team out is the Minnesota Lynx, who finished 14-22 and snapped an 11-season playoff streak.That means no playoff showcase for Sylvia Fowles, who is retiring after a season in which she led the league in rebounds per game.The absence of the Los Angeles Sparks will cost fans a chance to see more of Nneka Ogwumike and the steals leader, Brittney Sykes.The Mercury will be without both the injured Diana Taurasi, the W.N.B.A.’s career leader in scoring, and Skylar Diggins-Smith, who led Phoenix in scoring this season but will miss the playoffs for personal reasons. But the team’s grimmest absence of all is Brittney Griner, who is appealing her conviction on drug-smuggling charges in Russia, where she has been imprisoned since February. More

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    Pete Carril, Princeton’s Textbook Basketball Coach, Dies at 92

    Without athletic scholarships, he made outgunned teams winners by keeping them moving and unnerving opponents, leading to one of the biggest upsets in college basketball.Pete Carril, who coached men’s basketball at Princeton for 29 years and scared big-name opponents with his undersize, often underskilled scholars playing an old-fashioned textbook game, died on Monday. He was 92.His family announced the death in a statement posted on the Princeton Tigers’ website. It did not say where he died or give the cause of death.As the men’s head coach from 1967 to 1996, Carril (pronounced care-ILL) taught a thinking man’s basketball at Princeton. As an Ivy League member, Princeton could not offer athletic scholarships, and its academic demands were high, but Carril’s teams, almost invariably outmanned and overmatched, still won twice as often as they lost.His record at Princeton was 514-261, with 13 Ivy titles, 11 appearances in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s championship tournament, two in the National Invitation Tournament (his team won in 1975) and only one losing season. Fourteen of his Princeton teams led the nation in defense. In 1997, he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.He emphasized a deliberate off-the-ball offense that kept players passing the ball and setting screens until a shooter was open or someone broke free to the basket in a patented backdoor play. The scores were low, and no matter how much opponents prepared, they were frustrated and often lost their poise.“Playing Princeton is kind of like going to the dentist,” said Jim Valvano, the North Carolina State coach who died in 1993 at 47. “You know that down the road it can make you better, but while it’s happening it can be very, very painful.”The New York Times sportswriter Bill Pennington wrote: “The most unsophisticated basketball fan could admire and understand a Pete Carril team at first glance. The most devoted hoops junkie could be spellbound by a Pete Carril team in motion. It was basketball not of talent, but of team. It may not be the way everybody should play, but it was the way everybody used to try to play.”In the N.C.A.A.’s annual tournament, Carril’s teams might lose to national powers but not before unnerving them and threatening an upset. In the first round alone, Princeton lost to Georgetown by 50-49 in 1989, Arkansas by 68-64 in 1990 and Villanova by 50-48 in 1991.Carril’s final college victory came on March 14, 1996, in Indianapolis, in the first round of the N.C.A.A. tournament against U.C.L.A., the defending champion. Thirteenth-seeded Princeton, 7 points behind with six minutes left, scored on — what else? — a backdoor with 3.9 seconds left and won. The next day, The Daily Princetonian, the student newspaper, ran this headline across Page 1:“David 43, Goliath 41.”Carril said he was under no illusions: “If we played U.C.L.A. 100 times, they would win 99 times.” (The Tigers went on to defeat, 63-41, in the second round against Mississippi State.)Around the Princeton campus he was a revered, raspy-voiced figure in a well-worn sweater and baggy khakis (or, when he dressed formally, a bow tie). A colleague once described him as “a rumpled Lilliputian who would look as out of place in an Armani suit as he would in a Vera Wang gown.” And during games he was known for an animated coaching style.Every year at his first practice session, Carril made the same speech to his players.“I know about your academic load,” he said. “I know how tough it is to give up the time to play here, but let’s get one thing straight. In my book, there is no such thing as an Ivy League player. When you come out of that locker room and step across that white line, you are basketball players, period.”But he also told his players:“Princeton is a special place with some very special professors. It is something special to be taught by one of them. But you are not special just because you happen to go here.”Pedro José (later known as Peter Joseph) Carril was born on July 10, 1930, in Bethlehem, Pa. His father, an immigrant from Spain, worked for 40 years at the blast furnaces of Bethlehem Steel and, his son said, never missed a day of work.In high school in Bethlehem, Pete was an all-state basketball player, and at Lafayette, where he played for Butch van Breda Kolff, he was a Little All-American. Then, for 12 years, he coached high school basketball in Pennsylvania while earning a master’s degree in education from Lehigh University in 1959.In the 1966-67 season, he coached Lehigh to an 11-12 record. Then, van Breda Kolff, who was coaching Princeton, left to coach the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association. Princeton considered Bobby Knight and Larry Brown as successors. Instead, it took Carril.He left college coaching after the 1995-96 season.“I’ve been dodging bullets for 30 years,” Carril said. “I find I’m not seeing as much. I used to think the kids felt my coaching was worth five points a game to them. Maybe it was, but I get the sense they don’t feel that way now. I think I make less of a difference.”The next year, he became an assistant coach of the Sacramento Kings of the N.B.A. under Coach Rick Adelman, spending most of his time breaking down game tapes. He remained with the team for most of the next decade, retiring in 2006, but three years later, at 78, he rejoined the Kings as a consultant.“Being an assistant doesn’t bother me at all,” he said. “The aggravation and the pain in your stomach and the headaches that you get when you see things that are done wrong or when you lose, or all those problems you have as a head coach, I’d had enough.”With Dan White he wrote “The Smart Take From the Strong: The Basketball Philosophy of Pete Carril” (1997). His coaching methods were even the subject of an academic paper by a Fordham University marketing professor, Francis Petit, titled, “What Executives Can Learn From Pete Carril.”Information on his survivors was not immediately available.Carril at Princeton in 2007. “People ask me, ‘How do you want to be remembered?’” he once said. “I tell them I don’t.”Aaron Houston for The New York TimesCarril was ambivalent about his success. He once said: “People ask me, ‘How do you want to be remembered?’ I tell them I don’t.”But he will be remembered, even though none of his teams gained the ultimate honor. He brushed that off, too.“Winning a national championship is not something you’re going to see us do at Princeton,” he said in his final years there. “I resigned myself to that years ago. What does it mean, anyway? When I’m dead, maybe two guys will walk past my grave, and one will say to the other: ‘Poor guy. Never won a national championship.’ And I won’t hear a word they say.”Frank Litsky, a longtime sportswriter for The Times, died in 2018. William McDonald contributed reporting. More

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    Sue Bird Became the Legend She Needed: ‘There Was No Real Path’

    Sue Bird peeked upcourt as she caught the outlet pass. Her Seattle Storm teammate Natasha Howard had streaked ahead of her like a wide receiver, as she usually did whenever Bird was running the offense in transition. Howard realized that she was open beneath the basket and braced herself. Bird, she knew, would find her like always. She just didn’t know how.Bird slithered into the lane, drawing a defender. Then, without looking, she whipped the ball over her head and into Howard’s awaiting palms.“My hands were always ready for Sue when she passed me the ball,” said Howard, now with the Liberty. She added: “That right there, it’s like: ‘Wow, OK, Sue. You got eyes behind your head.’”Bird counts the pass among her favorite assists in her 19 seasons with the Storm. She has plenty of passes to choose from: Bird is the W.N.B.A.’s career leader in assists.“I have a little bit of a Rain Man brain so hold on a second,” she had said as she tried to pick her favorite assist. After a second, she cited the no-look pass to Howard, in 2018, and a between-the-legs pass to a trailing Lauren Jackson in the 2003 All-Star Game. She wasn’t finished.“Oh, there’s also another one to Lauren,” Bird said. “It was in the playoffs against Minnesota. I think it was like 2012 and we were down 3. We needed a 3, and it wasn’t a fancy assist by any means, but we ran a play to perfection. I hit Lauren. She hits the shot.”Those are the kinds of assists that Bird built her reputation on. “The timing around a great pass is so the person you’re passing to doesn’t have to change anything that they’re doing,” Bird said.At 41 years old, Bird is within weeks of the end of her W.N.B.A. career. In June, she announced that she would retire at the end of the season, though most people had expected as much. At the end of the 2021 season, fans chanted “one more year!” at an emotional Bird and kept up the campaign with hashtags on social media for months through the off-season. In January, Bird nodded to the campaign in an Instagram post and wrote “OK.”Her résumé had room for one more season, but just barely. She is a 13-time All-Star and has won four championships. She toppled Ticha Penicheiro’s career assist record of 2,599 five years ago and now has 3,222 regular-season assists in a league-record 578 games.As the assists have piled up, Bird has evolved as a passer.“Every now and then, it can be fancy,” Bird said. “Every now and then, you do have to look the defense off, but for me, it’s just always about trying to read the defense and be one step ahead, so you can find that person.Bird broke the career assists record against the Washington Mystics in 2017. Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely used the no-look more, and when I do a no-look nowadays, I’m not trying to look like Magic Johnson did or something like that. I’m really just trying to look off the defense. I’m just trying to get them to think my eyes are looking somewhere else, so that I can make the play.”No other player is as synced with the league’s infancy and growth, its history and present, as Bird, the consummate floor general who excelled through consistency by delivering the ball to the right person at the right time in the right spot, year after year, decade after decade.“She is the W.N.B.A,” said Crystal Langhorne, who converted 161 of Bird’s passes into buckets, the fourth-most of any teammate behind Jackson (624), Breanna Stewart (345) and Jewell Loyd (217), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. “It’s going to be crazy with a league where she’s not there anymore. Sue is the prototype.”Hearing those types of compliments has been one of the pleasant and unexpected byproducts of announcing her retirement, Bird said.“You just always knew what to expect from me,” Bird said. “Everyone knew if they turned on a Storm game, what they were going to see. So, it’s kind of hard to imagine it not being there, because it’s been there for 20 years.”Bird entered the W.N.B.A. in its sixth season as the top overall pick in the 2002 draft, carrying heavy expectations into Seattle after two N.C.A.A. women’s basketball championships at Connecticut.She made her first pro assist to Adia Barnes, now the women’s basketball coach at Arizona. Barnes, 45, last played professionally 12 years ago and spent several years as a broadcaster before coaching, all while Bird continued stacking one assist after another.“I totally forgot that,” Barnes said of Bird’s first assist, laughing. “I made the shot, so that was a good thing. I don’t remember it, but you can act like I do. Make it sound good, please.”From the left: Bird, Lauren Jackson, Adia Barnes and Betty Lennox in 2004 at a game against the Charlotte Sting. Bird made her first pro assist to Barnes.Jeff Reinking/NBAE via Getty ImagesBarnes does recall Bird’s steadiness from the beginning. The pair often roomed on the road.“She was just a true point guard, and I think what separated Sue is, she’s a connector, so you wanted to play with her.”Barnes won a championship in 2004 with Bird and Jackson, who became a dynamic pick-and-roll pairing, and Bird and Jackson won another in 2010. They left defenses helpless. If a defender ducked under a Jackson screen, Bird could bury a 3. If they doubled Bird, Jackson could drive to the rim or pop out for an open jumper. The ball typically arrived on time.“There was really no way to help it,” Barnes said. “It was just very, very, very hard to guard and they made it look seamless.”Bird said her awareness of angles and spacing was always on, even when walking through a mall.“You’re always moving in a way, seeing things in way that is similar to being on the court,” Bird said. “Obviously, you’re not in a game, so you’re not having to move fast or do things with urgency, but I think you just always move that way when you have that type of vision. That sounds insane. It’s actually not.”Teammates would spot Bird carrying binders and notebooks to study the game. “You don’t really need to ask how she does it,” Howard said. “She just does it.”Receiving a pass from Bird inspired confidence, Langhorne said. Here was one of the game’s greats, entrusting her with the ball and to make the right play.“Even when I was working on my 3s and I wasn’t as confident, if I knew Sue kicked it back to me, I was like: ‘Oh, yeah, shoot it. She’s giving it to you for a reason,’” Langhorne said. “Which I never even really said out loud before.”Injuries forced Jackson to leave the W.N.B.A. in 2012. Bird found her next post partner in Stewart, another Connecticut product who Seattle took with the first overall pick in 2016. The two won championships in 2018 and 2020.Bird won her fourth championship alongside Breanna Stewart, left, in 2020.Octavio Jones for The New York Times“She knows where everyone is supposed to be before sometimes we even do,” Stewart said. “She knows which block I would prefer to get the ball on or which pass is going to get through and which isn’t. Sometimes, when you’re on the basketball court, a player makes a cut and then the pass comes, and sometimes with Sue, the pass comes and then the player makes the cut because she’s seeing the defense sometimes quicker than us.”Bird said Penicheiro, who retired in 2012, and the Chicago Sky’s Courtney Vandersloot are among the point guards she has most enjoyed watching because “they’re really fun.” Vandersloot recently passed Lindsay Whalen to become third on the W.N.B.A.’s career assists list. She’s the active player closest to tying Bird — and she’s still more than 800 assists away.Bird broke Penicheiro’s record with her 2,600th assist to a cutting Carolyn Swords in 2017.“It was actually a pretty nice pass, and she deserves it. And records are meant to be broken, and if anybody breaks your record, you want it to be a player like Sue Bird,” Penicheiro said.“Everybody loves Sue,” she added. “If she was an ass, it’d be easier to go against her and try to stick it to her, but she’s too nice and I am, too.”Even one assist from Bird is a moment to remember. Thirteen players received one assist from Bird, according to Elias. The list includes Courtney Paris, who regarded Bird as one of her favorite players growing up and spent most of her W.N.B.A. career on alert as an opponent who had the unenviable task of trying to play team defense against her.“The second you go to help, she’s going to find the smallest piece of space to get the ball to whoever needs to get it,” Paris said.Bird said she accomplished everything she wanted to in the league.A.J. Olmscheid/Associated PressParis joined the Storm in 2018 and did not play often in her two seasons in Seattle as her playing career wound down. Paris did not remember the type of pass she received from Bird or how she scored, but she recalled being excited over the sequence.“It was a full circle moment from watching her when I was a younger player,” Paris said.Ashley Walker, another member of the one-assist from Bird club, who played with Seattle in 2009, was similarly appreciative.“She’s one of the pioneers,” Walker said. “She’s someone that people look up to, and she did it with such grace, such confidence. And it’s just amazing to know that I’m a part of that experience and I actually get a chance to say: ‘I caught a pass from Sue Bird. What did you do?’”Bird has also made her mark during the postseason with her assists. She set a playoff record with 14 assists in a 2004 Western Conference finals game against Sacramento, then broke it with 16 in Game 1 of the 2020 finals against Las Vegas. Vandersloot broke that postseason record last year, with 18 assists against Connecticut.The chapter is closing on one of the W.N.B.A.’s most memorable careers. Bird said she accomplished everything she wanted to in the league, establishing goals in the moment.“The easy analogy here is, who does everybody chase in the N.B.A.? Michael Jordan,” Bird said. “Because Michael Jordan played a full career. He won six rings. So, six rings became the standard. In our league, when I got into the league, that didn’t really exist.”She continued: “There was no real path to follow, because nobody had that 20-year career yet. So, I really didn’t know what to dream, and so to sit here now with all the championships I have, I just feel really satisfied.”Now a young player — Bird named Arike Ogunbowale of the Dallas Wings as an example — can model the milestones in the careers of players such as Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi.Many, of course, will look at Bird’s illustrious career.“I think there is something that motivates you in that way, but at the same time, forging your own path, I enjoyed that as well,” Bird said. “I’m not sure. Maybe having something to chase is better. Maybe there’s more pressure.”Lindsey Wasson for The New York Times More