It was a night filled with celebration as the MTRWestern 84th Annual Sports Star of the Year awards gala was held at the Sheraton Grand in Seattle.
There were Storm, Seahawks, Reign, Sounder, and Seawolves players and staff mingling with fans as they celebrated the past year of Washington sports teams and players.
The night also brought together members of the Seattle Supersonics who were on hand to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Sonics NBA championship.
Seattle native Charissa Thompson was the night’s MC and she started the evening off by introducing former Sonic legend Gary “The Glove” Payton who was there to introduce another legend.
Payton introduced the Royal Brougham Award for lifetime achievement to WNBA Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird who’s not done with her career yet but appreciated the nod.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Bird. “Usually when you get an award it’s like for one year, or one championship or maybe you did something good in one game but this is like the whole thing so I think it just speaks to a level of consistency that I’ve tried to maintain and I’ve been able to do it for a long time so it’s cool to have people recognize that.”
Before giving her speech various sports stars stood and congratulated her for her career and play including former NFL star and Tacoma native Ahmad Rashad.
Bird thanked her many teams and teammates over the years with the Storm as well as the Storm staff. She said she was stoked when she heard that Payton was going to introduce her and looked forward to, “join you on that Sonics coaching staff” which got a loud round of applause from the crowd.
She also talked about how much she enjoys being a part of Seattle and though she is still proud of her New York roots coming home to Seattle is always a great feeling.
“I think the best way to explain it is, and this is really true I’m not like blowing smoke,” said Bird. “When I’m flying back to Seattle and we land in the airport, I step out of the plane like literally in the airport I’m like, “Ah, finally home,” and it really in so many ways feels like home more than a lot of places in this world so I’m thankful to be here.”
Longtime Seattle Seahawks employee Sandy Gregory received the Paul G. Allen Award which is given to an individual who has made a significant or compelling philanthropic contribution.
Gregory was with the Seahawks for over 40 years before retiring last year and was praised by players past and present who she helped with charity work and was considered the heart and soul of community outreach.
Young Elijah Hagstrom was given the Wayne Gittinger Inspirational Award presented by Seattle Children’s Hospital to a young athlete who has overcome major medical obstacles to inspire others.
Hagstrom was diagnosed at age six with stage IV cancer and over the past three years went through rounds of chemotherapy and had most of his liver removed but is now cancer free.
Throughout the night the various honorees received standing ovations, but for Elijah, they did more than that. Throughout his speech the crowd stood.
Standing up against cancer. Standing for Elijah and for all who have fought and are still fighting.
They only sat down when Elijah’s dad asked them to so he could recognize those who helped Elijah become cancer free. He gave an emotional speech about watching his son deal with cancer and the treatments and the difficult decision to plan his son’s funeral at a time when it looked like he wasn’t going to make it.
But he said prayers got Elijah back and recently Elijah achieved his own athletic achievement when his football team won their league championship.
Sports columnist Art Thiel was given the Keith Jackson Award given to a member of the media for excellence in communicating the sports stories of our state. Thiel, who co-founded the website Sportspress Northwest, had previously worked for The News Tribune in Tacoma, the journal American (now the Bellevue Reporter) and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
The first of three awards to be announced this evening went to Washington State Cougar quarterback Gardner Minshew who won the Male Sports Star of the Year.
Minshew was the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and received the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award after leading the nation in total offense and passing yards while breaking the Pac-12 season passing record and was MVP of the Alamo Bowl helping the team to win a school-record 11th victory.
Other athletes in this category were University of Washington linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven, Seattle Seahawk wide receiver Tyler Lockett, rugby player Phil Mack of the Seattle Seawolves, Sounders FC head coach Brian Schmetzer and Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger.
The Female Sports Star of the Year nominees included Special Olympic USA Games paddle boarder Devon Adelman, UW softball sensation Sis Bates, Seattle University basketball star Alexis Montgomery, Reign FC forward Jodie Taylor, WSU soccer player Morgan Weaver and Storm forward Breanna Stewart.
Who should receive the award was a basic no-brainer for Bird who gave a list of why Stewart was the best choice, which the voters agreed with, naming her the Female Sports Star of the Year.
“I mean, listen, this summer alone she was on the WNBA champion, she was on a USA team that won gold in the world championships and she was the MVP for both teams,” said Bird. “At 24 that’s saying so much. The WNBA because it’s the toughest league for women’s basketball by far talent wise it is not easy to win a championship it is not easy, even harder to be honest to win MVP. And then with USA she’s surrounded by other great players and yet she was the one that stuck out, she was the one that played the best. So as far as I don’t know a summer full of awards I really can’t think of anyone who had one quite as good as Stewie.”
Stewart, who is in Russia playing pro ball this off-season, sent a video to express her thanks for the award.
In it Stewart applauded her fellow nominees saying they were an inspiration to her and together as a unit they inspire Seattle and the young kids who look up to them.
“Three years ago the city welcomed me and made me feel right at home and I haven’t looked back,” said Stewart as she thanked the Seattle Sports Commission for the honor.
To her team and organization she thanked them for making 2018 the best year yet and “I can’t wait to try and do it all over again next year.”
Rounding it out she thanked the fans who showed up and giving the Storm the best home court advantage.
“We already know that we have the best fans in the country,” said Stewart. “Just the way that you guys show up from a preseason game to a WNBA finals game. That’s why we go out and leave everything on the court every single night.”
The Storm wrapped up their championship season with the final award of the night as they were voted the best Sports Story of the Year in winning the franchise’s third WNBA title.
For Bird being at the event and seeing all the other athletes, teams and fans shows just how close the city is to their sports teams.
“I think it’s such a tight knit community here in Seattle when you talk about its sports teams, its athletes,” said Bird. “You know, there’s just so much support and it really feels, I don’t know, it just feels like a close knit group and it’s something special to be a part of.”