A photo Russell Wilson posted on his Twitter account of him wearing a Sue Bird jersey Sunday night before his game against the Vikings.

A photo Russell Wilson posted on his Twitter account of him wearing a Sue Bird jersey Sunday night before his game against the Vikings.

SPORTS COLUMN: Russell Wilson understands his level of influence

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER, Most Valuable Person. With a pair of simple yet powerfully meaningful messages, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson delivered the goods once again.

Wilson channeled 1992 and the kids rap duo Kris Kross when he rolled into CenturyLink Field on Sunday night, wearing the jersey of Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird backward to make sure the Sunday Night Football camera and the audience at home captured his tribute to the four-time WNBA champion Bird.

And after another stunning late-game rally, the 34th time in 148 regular season or postseason games in which Wilson had led a game-winning drive in either the fourth quarter or overtime, Wilson came through once again.

Wilson ranks first in the NFL in late-game comebacks since he entered the league in 2012 — Detroit’s Matthew Stafford is next with 29.

“I felt like Sue Bird in the clutch,” Wilson said in his postgame meeting with the media, a deserved but rare shoutout to female sports superstardom by a male athlete at the peak of his game.

Wilson’s comment showed reverence and respect for Bird, a Storm and Team USA mainstay whose WNBA bubble season ended last Friday with a 3-0 sweep of Las Vegas in the WNBA Finals.

Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird smiles at Breanna Stewart after the team defeated the Las Vegas Aces to win basketball’s WNBA championship Oct. 6, 2020, in Bradenton, Fla. (Chris O’Meara/Associated Press)

Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird smiles at Breanna Stewart after the team defeated the Las Vegas Aces to win basketball’s WNBA championship Oct. 6, 2020, in Bradenton, Fla. (Chris O’Meara/Associated Press)

Bird, who will turn 40 on Friday, was cooking from the start in the championship series, posting 16 assists in a Game 1 rout that set the tone for the Storm.

Wilson is a strong supporter of women’s basketball having been spotted numerous times during more normal times at Storm games in Seattle with his wife Ciara. And he’s been a big brother in the crowd when his sister Anna and her Bellevue Wolverines won the 2016 Class 3A Girls Basketball State Tournament and for her first senior day at Stanford last February.

Anna Wilson will get a fifth season with the Cardinal women’s basketball team due to the pandemic cutting last season short, so if it’s at all possible, expect Russell to be there in person cheering her on once again.

There’s still too many unenlightened individuals out there in the sports spectrum that take some chauvinistic pride in tearing down the accomplishments of female athletes. They make their trolling comments and ooze away back into the dark, but I think the tide is turning.

As sad and shocking as it was, the helicopter crash death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the seven other passengers on board the flight, produced one of the greatest trending topics in social media history last January, #GirlDad.

Countless fathers recounted their love for their daughters and their never-wavering support of their girls athletic pursuits, a strong retort to all those nay-saying gremlins in the comments section. This generation of parents were raised with equity in sports as the law of the land under Title IX and saw the growth of the WNBA and witnessed the rise of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team to dizzying success in the last 25 years and a homegrown women’s league with teams in Tacoma and Portland. There’s much work to be done to support women in sports, particularly in coaching and administration, but forward progress is definitely being made.

Maybe Wilson can one day equal Bird’s lofty heights, four titles in a 17-year career, all with the same Seattle team that drafted them. As a lifelong Seahawks fan, I’m not sure my blood pressure can handle another 34 fourth-quarter comebacks, but I’ll be along for the ride.

And while Bird, who has battled injuries that saw her miss the 2019 season and 11 of 22 WNBA bubble games this go-around, has all the right in the world to go out on top. Let’s hope she decides to come back for one more ride with Finals MVP Breanna Stewart and a stacked Storm roster.

One for the thumb, this time.

________

Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or at [email protected].

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