MARK HARRISON/SEATTLE TIMES
Storm PG Sue Bird acknowledged the color of her new Nikes. Especially what a national viewing audience might feel, watching her dart around a basketball court Thursday in yellow kicks in HD-TV on ESPN2.
“Obviously it’s loud,” Bird said. “Fortunately it matches our uniforms, so I didn’t look too terrible.”
But the sneakers could have been a psychedelic swirl of 70 colors and Bird would have still worn them with pride. That’s because it’s part of an effort to raise global cancer awareness with famed cyclist Lance Armstrong.
Also, because cancer reached its ugly prongs into Bird’s inner circle. Last fall, soccer Olympian Michelle French of Kent was diagnosed with “Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma and Schelorsis of the Mediastinum”, a Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Training to be part of the new Women’s Professional Soccer league, she started to feel a shortness of breath and dizzy, learning of the cancer upon examination.
The Roughriders blog quotes French describing the tumor as, “a mass the size of a lemon, with the feeling of an eraser. . . The mass is wrapped around my Superior Vena Cava which pumps/drains blood from the upper part of my body… The doctor hasn’t seen this type of case for about 6 years….I told him “go big, or go home right!?”. It’s always nice to be a rare case study…..
“I’m totally, completely, absolutely ready to kill this bugger and get back to my amazing teams! As the saying goes: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!!!!”. And that’s just what I will do!!!!”
With the WNBA stretching into October due to the Beijing Olympics, Bird was in Seattle longer than usual. She also returned home during a winter break from play in Russia, making time to support French. Yet, the WNBA star was mainly overseas as French went through the various stages of chemotherapy to fight the cancer.
“Right now she’s cancer-free, her hair has grown back and everything” said Bird of French, 32, pictured right. “But this is the first time in my life that it has really hit so close. She’s one of my best friends. The Nike people knew about that situation and they came to me. Obviously there’s Lance Armstrong with his LIVESTRONG stuff and he’s trying to raise awareness always. Right now with his Tour de France comeback, I know it’s something they’re pushing. So, it’s something I want to be a part of.”
The shoes are called Nike Zoom Soldier III, but Bird said they are really the same LeBron James kicks she normally wears in green or white-and-yellow, depending on if she’s in her home or away Storm jersey. So, she was comfortable playing in them against Sacramento after having just shoot-around to break them in.
“My Dad lost his best friend to prostate cancer in October,” Storm forward Lauren Jackson said. “It’s definitely hit all of us in a very hard way.”
And the beaming yellow, which represents Armstrong’s campaign, is just fine.
“It’s for a great cause,” Jackson said, telling Bird that “if that was one of my friends, I would wear them all year.”