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For Sue Bird’s first Olympics, in 2004 in Athens, the team stayed on the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship. Early WNBA stars like Dawn Staley, Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie led the squad, and a few of the younger players, including Bird, were quite fond of a nightclub on the ship, G32. “They partied every single night,” says Staley. “It should have been called the ‘Sue Bird Nightclub.’”

Once the quarterfinals hit, Staley told the players to cool it. “It would have been the easiest thing to say, ‘Oh, old lady, you don’t know what you’re talking about,’” says Staley. Instead, Bird took the request as a leadership lesson: speak up when it matters. After the U.S. won the gold, the players started chanting “G32” on the podium. The whole team partied hard that night.

Seventeen years later, Bird, 40, has assumed the role of wizened veteran, both on and off the court. Now the WNBA’s all-time assists leader, Bird will bring her extraordinary floor vision to the Tokyo Olympics, where she and teammate Diana Taurasi hope to become the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Former teammate Staley is now their coach.

Who just hasn't had the urge to go out and buy USOC merchandise this season but has plenty of rings t-shirts to get him through the games...

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