Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart are featured in this year’s Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue, which was officially revealed on Monday.
The two former UConn stars share the spotlight with fellow WNBA players Nneka Ogwumike, Didi Richards and Te’a Cooper.
“This is who we are; this is the makeup of our league,” Bird said in the article accompanying the cover shoot. “We represent a variety of things: of course women, women of color, members of the LGBTQIA2+ community and much more. … The [Swimsuit] issue for so many years has been iconic and has represented a lot for women. Now you are seeing an evolution in what that can mean and what that can look like, and I think the WNBA players being a part of that is what makes it special. There is no better group of women to showcase that evolution.”
In addition to showcasing a wide spectrum of women, the WNBA, less than a week into its 26th season, has been at the forefront of advocating for social issues behind player-led movements. Stewart said in the article that she wants to be a role model for her daughter Ruby, born in August 2021, by showing the impact women can have in society. All of those factors are part of why the SI swimsuit feature is so important.
“We continue to be leaders in this space because we always have fought for more — and we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon,” said Stewart, who is teammates with Bird on the Seattle Storm.
WNBA All-Star and Connecticut Sun guard Courtney Williams appreciated that Sports Illustrated chose to highlight women in the WNBA, but also raised issue with the lack of range in swimsuits modeled.
Bird echoed the point made by Williams on Tuesday.
“I actually saw Courtney Williams’ tweet and I think she’s absolutely right,” Bird said. “There’s a way to show sexiness in all different ways and hopefully this is a start to showcasing that, because it does come in different styles.”
Bird said that her favorite part of the shoot experience was getting to spend time with the other WNBA players. While she knows Stewart well and sees her on a daily basis during the season, she doesn’t get to spend as much time with Ogwumike and didn’t know Richards or Cooper that well previously.
“To go through that experience together, we kind of have that shared moment,” Bird said. “And I think we we tried to enjoy it as much as we could, because it is gonna put you out of your comfort zone a little bit.
“They definitely did a great job, Sports Illustrated and the crew for the swimsuit edition, MJ [Day], they did a wonderful job of making us comfortable, of hyping us up, they were like the best type women the entire trip in allowing us to have say in what what bathing suits we wore and the different positions we were in, poses and whatnot. But you’re still out of your comfort zone a little bit, you know, like I’m definitely not a swimsuit model. So you’re just kind of trying to figure it out as you go. And I think everyone, including the photographer, like everybody made it really comfortable and enjoyable.”
The 2022 Swimsuit Issue launches online on May 16 and will be available to purchase in stores starting on May 19.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to have such a badass group of women come together for this specific issue,” SI Swimsuit editor in chief MJ Day said.