Charlotte Sting of the WNBA: Folded But Not Forgotten

By: Sports Teller


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Charlotte Sting of the WNBA: Folded But Not Forgotten! Why did the Charlotte Sting Fold Suddenly? What did the Charlotte Sting Roster Look Like?

Hello Everyone! Welcome to Sports Teller! Today, we will be going over the Charlotte Sting of the WNBA: Folded But Not Forgotten! In fact, we will be going over the history of the Charlotte Sting.

Defunct WNBA Teams: Cleveland Rockers, Sacramento Monarchs, Miami Sol, Portland Fire & Houston Comets! Without further adieu, let’s begin!

Charlotte Sting of the WNBA: Folded But Not Forgotten

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The Birth of the Charlotte Sting and First Game in Team History

When the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) was formed in 1997, the Charlotte Sting were one of the original teams to begin play. The other clubs that began play are the following: Phoenix Mercury, New York Liberty, Los Angeles Sparks, Houston Comets, Utah Starzz, Cleveland Rockers, and Sacramento Monarchs. The Sting played their first game in club history on June 22, 1997 with a 76-59 loss on the road vs. Phoenix. A couple days later, Charlotte celebrated its first franchise win at home 67-44 vs. Cleveland. The Sting spent the majority of their existence playing home games at the Charlotte Coliseum. Also, Charlotte played in the East Conference.

The Creation of the WNBA’s North Carolina Team: Charlotte Sting

Sting Selects the 1st Draft Picks in WNBA History

The Sting had the first two picks in the inaugural WNBA Draft in 1997. Charlotte selected center Vicky Bullet as the 1st overall pick (out of Maryland) in the draft as part of the initial player allocation. Later in the same draft system, Charlotte would select guard Andrea Stinson as the 2nd overall pick (out of N.C. State). Later in the year, the league held a college draft as the Sting selected guard Tora Suber as the 7th overall pick (out of Virginia). In the Elite Draft, Charlotte would go on to select forward Rhonda Mapp as the 3rd overall pick (out of N.C. State).

Early Playoff Appearances & Trip to WNBA Finals

The Charlotte Sting would make the playoffs in the first three seasons of its existence. In 1997 and 1998, Charlotte would lose in the WNBA Semifinals to the eventual league champion Houston Comets. However, in 1999, the Sting won their first playoff battle in the Semifinals vs. Detroit Shock. In their first Conference Finals appearance in team history, the Sting went on to lost to the New York Liberty in three games.

Then, in 2001, the Charlotte Sting had a season to remember as the club advanced to their first appearance in the WNBA Finals. Earlier in that postseason, Charlotte defeated the Cleveland Rockers (Semifinals) in three games and the Liberty (Conference Finals) in three games. In the WNBA Finals, however, the Sting would get swept in two games by the Los Angles Sparks.

Who was the Charlotte Sting’s Owner?

George Shinn was the Sting’s first owner in addition to the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. Shinn would relocated the Hornets to New Orleans in 2002 and relinquish his ownership of the Sting due to negative media coverage in terms of his adultery allegations. In early 2003, BET (cable channel firm part of Viacom) co-founder Robert L. Johnson became the owner of the Sting after his ownership group was awarded an NBA expansion franchise, the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats, in December 2002. Johnson also became the first African American to majorly own a professional sports franchise. The Bobcats would begin play in 2004. The return of the NBA to Charlotte occurred not long after the Hornets’ relocation. When the Hornets played in Charlotte, the Sting and the original NBA team had the team colors of teal. But when the Hornets relocated and the Bobcats began play, both the Sting and the new NBA team had the team colors or orange.

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Charlotte Sting Superstars to Remember

Andrea Stinson

  • 12.3 Points per Game, 4.1 Rebounds per Game, 3.0 Assists per Game
  • Led Sting to 2001 WNBA Finals
  • 3-Time WNBA All-Star
  • Played for Charlotte from 1997 to 2004
  • 5 Playoff Appearances

Dawn Staley

  • 8.5 Points per Game, 2.0 Rebounds per Game, 5.1 Assists per Game
  • 6-Time WNBA All-Star
  • Played for Charlotte from 1999 until 2005
  • Guided Sting to 2001 WNBA Finals
  • 4 Playoff Appearances
  • Currently the head coach for South Carolina Gamecocks Women’s Basketball

Vicky Bullet

  • 10.8 Points per Game, 6.4 Rebounds per Game, 1.6 Assists per Game
  • 1-Time WNBA All-Star
  • Played for Sting from 1997 to 1999
  • Won Gold Medal in 1988 Seoul Olympics
  • Won Bronze Medal in 1992 Barcelona Olympics
  • 3 Playoff Appearances

Tracy Reid

  • 7.5 Points per Game, 3.4 Rebounds per Game, 1.0 Assists per Game
  • 1998 WNBA Rookie of the Year
  • Forward was the 7th Overall pick in 1998 Draft (out of North Carolina)
  • Played for Sting from 1998 to 2000
  • 2 Playoff Appearances

Anne Donovan-Head Coach

  • Coached the Sting from 2001 until 2002
  • Compiled a 36-28 record; 4-6 in Playoffs
  • Led the Sting to 2001 WNBA Finals
  • 2 Playoff Appearances

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Here’s What Led to the Demise of the Charlotte Sting

Missing Playoffs and Declining Attendance

With all those years of success of playoff history for the Charlotte Sting, why would such an good team all the sudden fold? According to the Associated Press, Robert L. Johnson and the ownership group decided to turn over operational assets to the WNBA in late 2006. In the end, the ownership decided to focus all contributions to the Bobcats business. There are two things that contributed to the ownership transfer: poor quality on the court and low ticket sales. Since the Sting’s last playoff appearance in 2003, the team went 33-69 in its final three seasons of existence. Despite the franchise moving into a new venue called Charlotte Bobcats Arena (now Spectrum Center), the home games saw a decline in fan attendance. Even though the Sting had an improved 2006 season (11-23) as opposed to the 2005 campaign (6-28), Charlotte continued to struggle with sales. As a matter of fact, even the Sting hiring former Hornets star Muggsy Bogues as head coach in 2005 didn’t catch on with the fans.

A Team Relocation Was in the Works

Since the WNBA claimed ownership for the Sting, the league was committed to sell the team to another buyer. According to the Charlotte Observer, a Kansas City-based investing group expressed interest in purchasing the Sting and moving the team to the then-under constructed Sprint Center (opened in 2007). An apparent relocation plan might make financial sense for the Sting since the previous owners lost approximately $2 million every year during the team’s final few years (per Kansas City Business Journals). Despite local buyers interested in buying and keeping the Sting in Charlotte, a move to Kansas City appeared to be more likely. However, the Kansas City plans fell through due to lack of sufficient funding needed.

The Charlotte Sting Bites the Dust: WNBA Decides to Fold

With the Kansas City relocation plans now dead and the search for new buyers failed, the WNBA had no choice but to fold the Charlotte Sting. The folding took place in early 2007 after the WNBA franchise lasted ten seasons (1997-2006). The Sting compiled a 143-179 regular season record as well as a 6-13 record in the playoffs. Charlotte became the first team in league history to play in the WNBA Finals and then fold suddenly. The Sting would eventually be joined by the Sacramento Monarchs on the list of teams that folded after having at least played in the WNBA Finals.

When was the Sting’s final game? What happened to the Charlotte Players?

The final game in the history of the Charlotte Sting took place on August 12, 2006 with Charlotte winning at home vs. Chicago Sky 84-57. As a result of the club ceasing operations, the players were eventually sent to other teams in the WNBA via dispersal draft.

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The Aftermath of the Charlotte Sting Becoming Extinct

Since the Sting ceased operations, a lot of things occurred since then. According to ESPN, George Shinn (1st Sting owner) sold the New Orleans Hornets in 2010 to the club’s minority owner Gary Chouset. Meanwhile that same year, Robert L. Johnson (another Sting Owner) sold the Charlotte Bobcats to former NBA Superstar Michael Jordan. In 2014, the Bobcats changed their team name and brand as the Hornets not long after the New Orleans team became the Pelicans.

Will the WNBA Return to Charlotte One Day?

As of now, there are currently no discussions on whether the WNBA plans to expand. Since the Charlotte franchise had a string of success in the playoffs, maybe a return to Charlotte could be possible. However, based on the Sting’s history with bad fan attendance, it appears that the resurrection of the Charlotte WNBA team is more unlikely. Perhaps the reason Houston has a higher chance of landing a WNBA team one day is due to the huge fan base during the Comets’ era. The Sting might be successful in the playoffs, but not with a huge fan base the Comets had.

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