FIBA World Cup

Sue Bird: More growth ahead in FIBA Women’s World Cup 2026

Beatrice Go

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Sue Bird: More growth ahead in FIBA Women’s World Cup 2026

STAR POWER. Women's basketball legend Sue Bird is a four-time World Cup champion.


‘What's really special about women's basketball is the growth part,’ says former WNBA superstar Sue Bird, who’s in Manila as the newly named FIBA Women's World Cup global ambassador

MANILA, Philippines  – FIBA officially named basketball legend Sue Bird as its global ambassador for the 2026 Women’s World Cup to be staged in Berlin from September 4 to 13. 

Five-time Olympic gold medalist Bird was joined by 2022 global ambassador and Spanish basketball star Pau Gasol, who passed the torch to the recently retired WNBA star in a press conference at the Mall of Asia Arena. 

“Women’s basketball is at a really exciting moment. It’s pivotal and there’s no better way to continue, not as a former player, but to be sitting here as an ambassador to help continue to grow that game and really ride that wave as long as possible,” said Bird, who has won four World Cup golds for USA Basketball. 

In the 2022 hosting of the quadrennial tournament in Sydney, Australia, records in game attendance, live broadcast, and digital and social media engagement were shattered. 

It became the highest attended Women’s World Cup with a grand total of 145,519 fans watching the games live at the Sydney Superdome and Sydney Sports Centre. Viewership from the finalists USA and China also experienced a boom as ESPN US tripled its numbers from 2018 and China set an audience reach record of 750 million fans for the whole tournament. 

Bird said that the story lines like Australia Opals star Lauren Jackson coming out of retirement and playing at 41 years old helped fans buy into the women’s game in 2022. 

“In women’s basketball we have stories. There are so many incredible stories and a lot of times, those just haven’t had the chance to be told and I think a big part of what made the Sydney World Cup so special was the Lauren story amongst others for sure,” said Bird, who also expressed that there continues to be a lack of sharing women’s sports stories that build connection.

The WNBA star is optimistic of the growth of women’s sports and encourages media and fans to follow the players, teams and their stories leading up to the 2026 World Cup. 

“What’s really special about women’s basketball is the growth part,” said Bird. 

“The growth you’ve seen in the men’s game – looking at players from 20 years ago to now – you’re starting to see that in the women’s game. It’s really exciting to tap into the qualifications, to follow a player because you’re gonna be able to watch the evolution.” 

On the other hand, the Spanish great shared that the Gasol Foundation’s research records a drop in girls’ participation in sports after 12 to 13 years old. With the continued support for the women’s game, he’s excited to see opportunities open up for girls, so that they can choose to continue playing basketball and sports. 

“That’s what I would like to ask to see in the near future – more girls getting excited about basketball, playing sports, being active, being healthy and fulfilling their dreams,” said Gasol. – 

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Beatrice Go

More commonly known as Bee, Beatrice Go is a multimedia sports reporter for Rappler, who covers Philippine sports governance, national teams, football, and the UAAP. Stay tuned for her news and features on Philippine sports and videos like the Rappler Athlete’s Corner and Rappler Sports Timeout.