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|This fan let his love for Sue Bird go to his head, and got a bonus autograph from Diana Taurasi as well.|
Greetings from Seattle!
One of the most unique relationships you have as a professional athlete is with the fans. I wanted to talk today about that relationship, and hopefully share some fun stories.
As a WNBA player, the fans are so important to what we do. They support us and cheer for us, but beyond that, they are the reason we are able to play the sport we love on this level. Without them, our league wouldn't exist. We don’t get many opportunities to say thank you, so I'm definitely going to take mine right now: Thank you!
Before I go and get all mushy on everyone, though, I want to share some of my favorite fan moments. There’s no better place to start than the very first time I was asked for an autograph. I know it may sound weird that I remember this day, but what can I say? It was memorable! When I was 11 years old, my CYO coach took our team to a St. John’s University women's basketball game. We went to watch a college game, but also to be the halftime show. When the time came, we took to the court and competed against another CYO team for a few minutes. I couldn't tell you the score or any other detail, but the best part happened after we finished and I headed to the concession stand. A security guard stopped me and my parents and asked me for my autograph. He said he knew it would be valuable one day, and wanted to be the first to have it. At the time I thought this man was nuts, but I also was smiling ear to ear and have never forgotten that day.
Since then I've signed my fair share of autographs, and while some stories stay with you because they are special, others do so because they are just flat-out funny. Recently, I had one of the latter occur. I was at dinner in Seattle with a few of my fellow UConn Huskies when a man's girlfriend approached our table. She went to Diana Taurasi and gushed about how much her boyfriend loved her and how he had a weird request for her: He wanted her to sign his forehead. Believe it or not, this isn't the weirdest request we've heard, so Diana happily obliged and the boyfriend headed to our table, Sharpie in hand. As he got closer he had a look of worry on his face, but no one thought twice about it as Diana put her John Hancock on his head. Just as she was dotting her i's, though, the girlfriend yelled out, "Oh, thank you, Sue! You are his favorite!" Umm, what was that? Did she say Sue? I'm sure you can all guess what happened here. The girlfriend mixed the two of us up and the boyfriend, seeing what had happened, didn't have the heart to stop it. So after Diana was finished, he asked me for my autograph, too. He left covered in black marker, but he was also wearing a big smile … as were we! Ha!
I'm very lucky to have had such memorable experiences with all the WNBA fans, whether it was a request from an autograph seeker, having a bobblehead made in my likeness, or even having a little girl approach me and say, "Hi! I'm your idol!" When my basketball career is over, I know I'll look back on these amazing memories and have the fans to thank for them.
There is nothing better than having someone tell you that you have helped change their life and are a positive role model for them. The truth is, the feeling is mutual. Fans don't realize the role they have played in all of our lives as well.