Carmax Sue Bird
Sue Bird is looking back on the highlights of her 2020 — including the historic WNBA season and her championship win.
Speaking with PEOPLE about her new partnership with CarMax — the first automotive retailer to team up with the WNBA — Bird says that it was an adjustment moving into the "Wubble" at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where the professional athletes played amid the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
"I’m actually a big-time planner, so for me it was about being okay with the unknown and living in that space but finding ways to be okay there which was definitely an adjustment," Bird, 40, tells PEOPLE.
Once arriving in the bubble, Bird says, "it almost felt like real life," even though they couldn't leave the premises. While acknowledging that there were "definitely some challenges," Bird says that "in that moment we all knew where we were, what we were doing, what we were allowed to do etc., so the planner in me was actually okay."
Bird and the Seattle Storm beat the Las Vegas Aces in October to win the fourth championship in the franchise's history.
Stephen Gosling/NBAE Sue Bird during game three of the WNBA Finals against the Las Vegas Aces
"It definitely has a good asterisk next to it," Bird tells PEOPLE of the historic victory — adding that the win was a representation of the entire WNBA league.
"I think what it means was we were the team that was able to be standing on that podium at the end of all of this and receive our trophy, but as a league, there was a larger meaning to our season, and I think what we were able to stand for, and the impact we were able to have throughout the entire season is just going to make this championship stand out for years to come."
Julio Aguilar/Getty Sue Bird
"It will always be a special season, and of course more special for the Seattle Storm because we won, but I think for all of us [the league] it will be a standout season," she adds.
The WNBA players' union made it clear this summer that social justice issues would be at the forefront for the teams, and in July, players dedicated the season to Breonna Taylor and the "Say Her Name" campaign. It was also Bird's idea to wear "Vote Warnock" t-shirts to show support for Rev. Raphael Warnock in the Georgia Senate race. Warnock's opponent, Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler, denounced support for Black Lives Matter.
Julio Aguilar/Getty Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird
Amid the chaos of 2020, and personal milestones for Bird — including her recent engagement to Megan Rapinoe — the athlete says that "what we were able to accomplish this summer as a league, I think it showed us the strength in our voice individually and collectively."
"It’s one of those things where you might know it, but sometimes it’s good either to be reminded or good to have proof," she says, "and we have a platform where we can really ignite change and really have an impact and I think we all probably knew it before this summer, but this summer really put an exclamation point and now it’s just empowered us and given us a lot of confidence to continue on."
Bird says that empowerment is one of the reasons she has partnered with CarMax for its "Call Your Shot" campaign.
"I think when you think about 'calling your shot' and what CarMax is trying to do with this campaign, there are a couple words that jump out, like confidence and empowerment, and I just feel like as a female athlete, it really spoke to me in those ways and I just really loved that," she tells PEOPLE of the partnership.
Carmax Sue Bird
"I feel like anytime you can get a really great message out, but you’re doing it with a lot of humor, to me that always lands, so the combination of those two things is what I am most excited about."