WNBA All-Star Breanna Stewart Reflects on Playing Final Postseason with Sue Bird: 'We All Look to Sue'

Breanna Stewart spoke to PEOPLE about the impact four-time champion Sue Bird has had on the league ahead of Sunday's WNBA semi-finals start

Breanna Stewart #30 of the Seattle Storm poses for a portrait during Media Day on August 5, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Breanna Stewart. Photo: Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty

Breanna Stewart and the Seattle Storm are getting ready to meet the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA semi-finals on Sunday. But for Stewart, this year's postseason is bittersweet.

The athlete, 27, who is a favorite for the league's MVP title this season, exclusively tells PEOPLE the semi-final matchup is "going to be an amazing series for fans." For players however, "it's going to be a very competitive series for [us]," says Stewart. "I'm excited. Obviously it was great to get past Washington and now be in the semis."

In the first round, the Storm eliminated the Washington Mystics with a 97-84 win. Seattle's next series will be more of a challenge, however.

The highly-anticipated series between the Seattle Storm and Las Vegas Aces, which kicks off Sunday at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN, will make history for the women's league. The 2022 semi-final series It will be the first in WNBA history to have seven #1 overall picks competing, which "is kind of crazy," says Stewart, who was the top draft pick of her 2016 class.

"I think speaking from a number one pick standpoint, we're just trying to continue to be our best and compete," Stewart adds. "And we want to compete against the best and that's each other. So I think it's going to be amazing. It's going to bring a lot of attention to our series. And with attention, our viewership media, things like that. That's how we continue to grow the WNBA."

Breanna Stewart #30 of the Seattle Storm dribbles the ball during the game against the Washington Mystics during Round 1 Game 2 of the 2022 WNBA Playoffs on August 21, 2022 at the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, Washington.
Breanna Stewart. Jane Gershovich/NBAE via Getty

The Seattle basketball team will begin the semi-final series on the road, giving Las Vegas home court advantage and a chance to get ahead of Stewart's team early in the series. "We don't have home court advantage, so we're going to try and have to get one on the road," she says.

"I'm excited to be playing and have the opportunity to continue to fight for a championship," says Stewart. Her championship aspirations with Seattle will be a challenge against the top-seeded Aces, but Seattle has an upper hand on their side with four-time WNBA champion, Sue Bird.

Bird, 41, is set to retire from basketball following the 2022 season. "I don't want to think about it," says her teammate, Stewart. "We all look to Sue I think when you're fortunate enough to have a legend like Sue Bird on your team, someone who has gone through basically every instance possible on and off the court, when she talks, you listen. And we look to her."

The beloved veteran offers her teammates "a calming presence" in the locker room according to Stewart, "because she doesn't get rattled." She adds, "Sue doesn't get too high, too low, and we know she's going to give it to us straight."

Breanna Stewart #30 and Sue Bird #10 of the Seattle Storm react after a basket during the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Aces at Climate Pledge Arena on June 29, 2022 in Seattle, Washington.
Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart compete for Seattle Storm. Steph Chambers/Getty

Playing alongside a legendary athlete like Bird has given Stewart and her teammates the chance to learn from her greatness, both on and off the court. "Aside from everything on the court that I've learned from Sue, I think that the thing that I've learned from her most is just her ability to really be herself and be genuine and use her voice, She uses her platform to advocate for the things that she believes in," Stewart explains, despite feedback she hears from naysayers.

Above all, Stewart admires Bird for her "understanding that not everyone is going to like what you say, but the impact you're going to make is going to go way beyond that. Without her being able to be herself, I wouldn't be able to be myself."

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The WNBA semi-finals begin on Sunday for Stewart's team, and according to her, they're ready. "To be honest, not much will be different between the last series and this series," when it comes to her approach. "Obviously, it's a different opponent, but same mindset, really trying to watch film, be locked in, make sure our team has an understanding of what we're trying to do."

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