Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird are one of those couples that are effortlessly cool. So it might come as a shock to learn that their meet-cute wasn't nearly as effortless as they are now. In fact, Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird’s first meeting, details of which they shared with GQ in their recent cover story, was actually supes awkward. But honestly, it just makes them even more adorable if you ask me.
The two met for the first time ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics. They were both taking promotional photos when they crossed paths as Rapinoe was heading out of her shoot and Bird was going into her own in full uniform and makeup. Rapinoe wanted to make a good first impression, but her nerves got the better of her and the result was adorably cringey. Instead of playing it cool, she made the joke, “Are you getting ready for a game?” There may have been two-handed “this guy” pointing, Bird recalled.
“It didn’t go like I planned at all,” Rapinoe said. “I walked away like, ‘You’re an idiot.’" Oh man, who can’t relate to that?
But even a goofy first impression didn't stop the sparks from flying. The first hint of chemistry between the star athletes was evident at the victory party following Rapinoe’s team’s gold medal win. “It was on a ship, a big ballroom; there were a lot of people, and Sue would just gravitate right back to [Megan’s] table,” Diana Taurasi, a WNBA legend and close friend of Bird's, told GQ. “I’ve seen Sue in a lot of bars, and I can tell when she’s on the prowl. I was just like, ‘Yep, there it is.’”
While it's clear now that these two were meant to be, their relationship was, like so many other couples' — put to the test when they found themselves quarantining together during the pandemic. Normally, the two professional athletes aren't able to be together nearly as much as they'd like because they're usually both playing around the globe. However, 2020 changed all that when the WNBA elected to create a “bubble” campus in Florida to allow for the season. Rapinoe and Bird decided to quarantine together, despite the close quarters of what was essentially a hotel room. “It was either that or not be around you for three months,” Rapinoe said, gazing at Bird during their GQ interview. “And that was not happening.”
Fortunately, the two learned that they enjoyed each other's company even when they were sharing a hotel room practically all hours of the day. And as it turned out, they decided that this should be a permanent arrangement. A week after leaving the bubble, Rapinoe popped the question.
Like their first meeting, the engagement didn't exactly go according to plan — but in this case, it was because there was no plan. The couple was in Antigua to celebrate Bird’s 40th birthday, and the backdrop to the celebration was breaking news from back home that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had just passed away. As a result, there was a growing sense of fear that, with the balance of power in the court shifting in a conservative direction, the couple's civil rights were in danger. If they wanted to take that step and get married, they might need to do it now while it was still an option.
While the political situation might have sped things along, it didn't take anything away from the magic of the moment. The couple recalled the memory to GQ, telling the magazine that it was midday and Rapinoe was lying at the edge of an infinity pool with Bird beside her. “There was a look in her eye,” Bird said. Rapinoe then got on one knee and Bird realized what was happening. “I could just sense it. I knew what was happening,” she said. “She had this bucket hat on,” she added. Bird asked her to take it off and Rapinoe did, just in time to take the proposal photo they both posted on their IGs. The snap quickly went viral, racking up a combined 750,000 likes.
Who would have ever thought that an awkward first meeting could lead to such a beautiful love story? These two really are relationship goals, in every sense of the word.