SUE BIRD OF THE WNBA AND KEVIN DURANT OF THE NBA AMAZE LEGIONS OF FANS ON ANY GIVEN NIGHT. THEY EXPERIENCE THE SAME FEELING WHENEVER THEY EXPLORE THE EMERALD CITY.
SUE BIRD AND KEVIN DURANT may be two of the brightest stars in the Seattle sports universe. They may enjoy the adulation of millions of fans worldwide and have fat Nike-endorsement contracts. But on this unusually crisp day, they are in danger of becoming roadkill.
For the last leg of their marathon photo session, the lensman, hoping to snare a faux-casual shot or three, has them walk together outside Seattle's Key Arena. "You're talking, talking, talking," he caws. As they move toward the camera, a white van inches toward them from behind, its driver and the photo-shoot party oblivious to each other's presence. As the potential peril dawns on nearby observers, the van stops in its tracks, and the driver barks something or other out the window, likely having no idea who these people are that he nearly steamrolled.
Bird and Durant barely notice, wrapped up as they are in conversation about Seattle and its hot spots. Durant, of course, is "the Chosen One," the phenom whose arrival as the second pick in the 2007 NBA draft has Sonics fans thinking Jordan-esque thoughts. Bird, meanwhile, is a veteran both on and off the court. The pure point guard relishes involving her teammates on the court, and she's happy to serve as an ambassador for the city when she's off the court - even now, she's willingly schooling her new rookie pal on everything that Seattle has to offer.
A few hours earlier, upon meeting the shy, almost pathologically polite Durant for the first time, Bird let fly a giggle. "Kevin, he's not going to know anything about all of this," she said. "But he'll figure it out." Don't peg Durant as a cocky rookie bent on blazing his own trail around town, though. When he's told that Bird hopes to pass along the wisdom she has accumulated during her six years in town, Durant smiles appreciatively. "Sue, she's been here. She's won here. I hope she can tell me where everything is."
Central to Bird's ongoing enjoyment of the city, and something she takes pains to impress upon Durant during their hours together, are the numerous options available - whether natural, cultural, or gastronomical. "The more you do, the more you come to love this place," she says to him. "Until you put yourself out there a little, you can't really get an appreciation for the weather, the shopping, the restaurants."
Judging by her comments during our time together, the former University of Connecticut star is most enthusiastic about the latter. Indeed, it's hard to imagine one of the city's appointed food critics giving a better quick-hit guide to local dining. "I could give you a restaurant for every kind of food you like," Bird says, mock-seriously.