Why did the Portland Fire Only Last 3 Seasons in the WNBA? What Was Portland’s Roster? Portland Fire of the WNBA: Folded But Not Forgotten!
Hello Everyone! Welcome to Sports Teller! Today, we will be going over the Portland Fire of the WNBA: Folded But Not Forgotten! In fact, we will be going over the history of the Portland Fire.
Portland Fire of the WNBA: Folded But Not Forgotten
The Birth of the Portland Fire and First Game in Team History
When the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) expanded from 12 to 16 teams in 2000, the Portland Fire was one of the four new teams. The other three newly expanded teams that began play in 2000 are the following: Seattle Storm, Indiana Fever & Miami Sol. The Fire played their first game in club history on May 31, 2000 with a 93-89 loss at home vs. Houston Comets. A couple days later, Portland celebrated its first franchise win on the road 65-58 in Seattle. The Fire’s first home victory came on June 23 by defeating the Seattle Storm 72-61. The Portland Fire spent all of their existence playing home games at the Rose Garden (now known as the Moda Center). Also, Portland played in the West Conference.
The Creation of the WNBA’s Oregon Team: Portland Fire
Fire Selects the 1st Draft Picks in WNBA History
Along with the three new teams (Indiana, Seattle, Miami), the Portland Fire took part in the WNBA’s Expansion Draft in 2000. Portland selected forward Alisa Burras as the 4th overall pick (Cleveland Rockers and out of Louisiana Tech) in the expansion draft. Later in the same draft system, the Fire would select guard Sonja Henning as the 5th overall pick (Houston Comets and out of Stanford). Later in the year, the league held a college draft as the Portland Fire selected forward Lynn Pride as the 7th overall pick in the 1st round (out of Kansas).
Zero Taste of the Playoffs
In all three years of existence for the Portland Fire, the franchise has never been to the playoffs. However, the Fire’s closest time in regards to trying to qualify for the postseason was during the 2002 campaign when the team finished with a 16-16 record.
Who was the Portland Fire’s Owner?
Paul Allen (Microsoft Co-Founder) was the Fire’s owner in addition to the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. Even though Allen’s ownership with the Fire was short-lived, his other basketball team (the Trail Blazers) reached the playoffs seven straight times dating back to 2014. In fact, Paul Allen won a Super Bowl championship in early 2014 when the Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos.
Portland Fire Superstars to Remember
- 14.4 Points per Game, 2.9 Rebounds per Game, 1.9 Assists per Game with Team
- Played for Portland from 2000 to 2001
- Also Played for New York Liberty (1997-1999) and Los Angeles Sparks (2002-2003)
- Won WNBA Championship with Sparks in 2002
- 10.5 Points per Game, 1.6 Rebounds per Game, 1.4 Assists per Game with Team
- Played for Portland from 2001 to 2002
- Won 2001 WNBA Rookie of the Year with Fire
- Assistant Coach for Loyola Marymount (2012-2013), Missouri State (2013-2019)….
- ….and Oklahoma (2019-Present)
- 9.8 Points per Game, 5.5 Rebounds per Game, 1.4 Assists per Game with Team
- Played for Portland from 2000 until 2002
- Head Coach for Ohio (2006-2008) and Boston College (2008-2012)
- North Carolina Assistant Coach (2016-Present)
- 6.5 Points per Game, 3.1 Rebounds per Game, 0.9 Assists per Game with Team
- Played for Portland from 2000 until 2002
- Also Played for Sacramento Monarchs (2003-2009), Connecticut Sun (2010-2011)…..
- …..Washington Mystics (2011), and New York Liberty (2012-2013)
- Won WNBA Title with Sacramento in 2005
- WNBA All-Star in 2005
- Coached the Portland Fire from 2000 until 2002
- Only Head Coach in Franchise History
- Compiled a 37-59 record with team; No Playoff Appearances
- Washington Mystics General Manager (2005-2008)
Here’s What Led to the Demise of the Portland Fire
Lack of Success for the Franchise
Why would the Portland Fire last only three seasons in the WNBA? Other than finishing with a 0.500 record in 2002 (16-16), nothing else significant happened for the Sol. The team had never been to the playoffs nor competed in the WNBA Finals. But on the positive note, Jackie Stiles did win the 2001 WNBA Rookie of the Year during her time with the Fire.
The Portland Fire is No More in Oregon: WNBA Decides to Fold
With the 2002 season ended with short expectations for the franchise, things turned for the worse for the Portland Fire. After the 2002 campaign, the WNBA decided to restructure its financial guidelines. Based to the league’s reconstruction, as well as the country’s economical impact from the September 11th 2001 tragedy, Owner Paul Allen and the management group realize that they didn’t have enough money to control both the Fire and the Trail Blazers. Due to financial concerns involving the franchise, the ownership had no choice but to fold the Portland Fire.
According to the Portland Tribune, local engineering firm owner Terry Emmert and Trail Blazers legend Clyde Drexler attempted to buy the Fire and keep the team in Portland. However, their offer was rejected by Allen and the Trail Blazers management. Without any deal to buy the team, the Fire was extinguished for good. The folding took place in late 2002 after the WNBA franchise lasted only three seasons (2000-2002). According to NBC Sports Northwest, the Trail Blazers management decided not to maintain the ownership of the Portland Fire following the WNBA restructure due to financial issues resulting from the Blazers’ string of 1st round exits (2001-2003).
The Fire compiled a 37-59 regular season record as well as no appearances in the playoffs. The Portland Fire became one of the two teams that folded after the 2002 WNBA Season. The other club that bit the dust was the Miami Sol and they, along with the Fire, also lasted just three seasons. Portland and Miami are currently the shortest-lived franchises in the history of the WNBA.
When was the Fire’s final game? What happened to the Portland Fire Players?
The final game in the history of the Portland Fire took place on August 11, 2002 with Portland losing at home vs. Phoenix Mercury 73-70. In fact, the final victory for the Portland franchise took place on August 2, 2020 when the Fire defeated the Mystics in Washington 67-65. As a result of the club ceasing operations, the players were eventually sent to other teams in the WNBA via dispersal draft.
The Aftermath of the Portland Fire Becoming Extinct
Since the Fire ceased operations, a lot of events have happened since then. Paul Allen remained the owner for the Trail Blazers and the Seattle Seahawks until his passing in 2018. Seattle would reach the Super Bowl three times (2005, 2013, 2014) and won the Lombardi Trophy in early 2014. After Allen’s death in 2018, the ownership of the Trail Blazers and the Seahawks was transferred to his sister, Jody. Meanwhile, former Portland Fire head coach Linda Hargrove would become the General Manager for the Washington Mystics in 2005. The star plater for Portland would either join other teams within the WNBA or become assistant coaches in women’s college basketball.
Will the WNBA Return to Portland One Day?
As of now, there are currently no discussions on whether the WNBA plans to expand. Based on the Fire’s short-lived history, it appears that the resurrection of the Portland WNBA team is more unlikely. Despite the lack of ongoing expansion discussion from the WNBA, NBC Sportsnet Northwest recently released a three-part series about the history of the Portland Fire. Perhaps the reason longer-tenured teams like Houston have a higher chance of landing a WNBA team one day is due to the huge fan base during the Comets’ era. The Fire might have given Portland its only WNBA franchise, but they did not have the same big fan following as the Comets had.
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