UConn legend Sue Bird confirms Tokyo Olympics will be her last

What was long assumed is now confirmed: These Olympics will be the last for Sue Bird.

“No, I won’t,” the UConn legend told reporters when asked if she plans to play beyond the Tokyo Games.

At 40, Bird is the oldest player on Team USA, which opened its Olympic competition Tuesday morning with an 81-72 preliminary round victory over Nigeria.

“It ends an incredible legacy here at the Games,” Team USA head coach Dawn Staley said of Bird, who didn’t score but dished out 13 assists. “She’s really (been) the top point guard in the world for a very long time, and to see that, it’s hard for us, her teammates, her coaches, and it’s extremely hard for the game of basketball because she’s played it unlike any other guard across the world, and to see that come to an end, you’re saddened by it.

“But at the same time, we got a chance to witness it, her greatness for a very long time.”

Bird’s resume is almost unparalleled. Since debuting with the U.S. national team in 2002, Bird has won four Olympic gold medals. Nobody in basketball — men’s or women’s — owns five.

She was a teammate of Staley’s when she collected her first in Athens in 2004.

“Sue is like fine wine,” Staley said. “She gets better with time. I looked at the stat sheet and saw 13 assists, and I’m thinking that’s normal. That’s normal Sue. But for someone else that hasn’t been around Sue, they think that’s a huge number and a great feat, and it is. But we’re so used to Sue doing these type of Sue things that we don’t take for granted.”

The Americans are unbeaten in Olympic competition since 1992, stringing together a 50-game win streak. They remain heavy favorites despite a surprising exhibition loss to Australia last week in Las Vegas and a closer-than-expected call against Nigeria.

In fact, Nigeria became the first team to play the U.S. within single digits at the Olympics since Russia in 2004.

Nigeria challenged them early, jumping ahead 8-1 as the U.S. missed its first four shots. The Nigerians’ lead grew to 20-17 after the first quarter and to 25-20 early in the second before the U.S. asserted itself.

The Americans answered with 23 straight points and went into halftime up 44-32. They extended their lead to 70-50 at the end of the third.

Reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson, one of six newcomers on Team USA, finished with a game-high 19 points and 13 rebounds.

“I think the best part about this game for us is that from quarter one to quarter two, you saw we settled down,” Bird said. “There was a little bit of adjustment. We calmed down, and we were able to play our game.”

Including, of course, Bird. The ageless wonder played more minutes (27:38) than anyone on Team USA besides Breanna Stewart. In addition to her 13 assists, including the 100th of her Olympic career, Bird recorded four rebounds.

Diana Taurasi added 10 points and two boards over 23 minutes. The 39-year-old, who had been out since July 3 because of a hip injury, came away feeling “pretty good.”

“Hopefully I just keep getting a little bit stronger, a little bit better,” Taurasi told reporters after the game. “And whatever I can do to help, that’s what I’m here for.”

Next up for Team USA is host Japan on Friday at 12:40 a.m.

dbonjour@ctpost.com; @DougBonjour