Erica L. Ayala

New York City-based women's sports writer with bylines at The New York Times, Deadspin, The Athletic, and more.

Sep 10, 2021
Published on: The Athletic
1 min read
CHARLOTTE, NC - JUNE 3: Dawn Staley #5 of the Charlotte Sting directs the defense against the Houston Comets during the game on June 3, 2002 at Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The Sting won 67-52.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright 2002 WNBAE  (Photo by: Garrett Ellwood/WNBAE/Getty Images)

Dawn Staley played seven seasons for the Charlotte Sting and another four with the Houston Comets. Although regarded as one of the best players in WNBA history, Staley’s jersey doesn’t hang in the rafters of any of the league’s arenas.

The teams she played for no longer exist.

Like so many stars and pioneers from the early days of the WNBA, part of Staley’s history is in memory only. There’s no home team to bring back Staley or many other WNBA pioneers for anniversary celebrations. No home arena to build statues. No place for future generations to build on their legacies.

Charlotte was one of eight teams that launched the WNBA. The Sting competed in the Eastern Conference alongside the Cleveland Rockers, Utah Starzz and New York Liberty. The Western Conference included the Los Angeles Sparks, Sacramento Monarchs, Phoenix Mercury and Houston Comets.

Only three of the original franchises — New York, Los Angeles and Phoenix — remain today. The Starzz became the San Antonio Silver Stars in 2003 and then the Las Vegas Aces in 2018.

Staley would love to have her original WNBA team return.

“The Charlotte Sting fans, they’re crying out for another WNBA team,” said Staley before the 2021 WNBA All-Star Game last month when she coached Team USA. She added a plea to Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan.

“M.J., M.J., Michael Jordan,” Staley said, knocking on the podium for emphasis.