With the growth of Charlotte over the past decade, there's a good chance that some of our supporters may not have known that Charlotte once hosted a WNBA team. The Charlotte Sting was one of the eight original WNBA franchises that began play in 1997. The Sting were then the sister team to the Charlotte Hornets. The Sting finished their first season with a 15-13 record and qualified for the first WNBA playoffs, but lost to eventual champions Houston Comets in the one-game semifinal.
Charlotte Sting primary logo, 1997-2003.
The 1998 Sting finished the season with an 18-12 record. In the playoffs, the Sting once again lost the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Houston Comets, and the Comets once again took home the championship.
In the 1998–1999 offseason, with the folding of the American Basketball League (ABL), the Sting added former ABL guard Dawn Staley to an already impressive roster that featured Vicky Bullett and Andrea Stinson, the only player to have a Charlotte Sting jersey number retired.
Their record, however, fell to 15-17 in 1999. It was still enough to qualify them for the playoffs, where they defeated the Detroit Shock in the opening round 60-54. In the Conference Finals, the Sting fell to the New York Liberty 2 games to 1.
The 2000 season was very disappointing for the Sting, with a final record of 8-24. They missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
The 2001 Sting lost 10 of their first 11 games. But the team lost only 4 games after that, finishing with an 18-14 record. Although they had barely qualified for the playoffs as the #4 seed, no one wanted to face them. In the first round, the Sting upset first the #1 seeded Cleveland Rockers and then the #2 New York Liberty, beating each in 3 games. For the first time in franchise history, the Sting found themselves in the WNBA Finals. But the magic ended there for the Sting, as they were swept by the Los Angeles Sparks in 2 games.
The Sting posted a solid 18-14 record in the 2002 season, but were swept by the Washington Mystics in the first round of the playoffs.
After the 2001–2002 NBA season, the Charlotte Hornets relocated to New Orleans. The Sting did not accompany the Hornets out to New Orleans. For one season (2003), the Sting had no brother team.
The NBA immediately announced, after the Hornets moved, that a new team would begin play in Charlotte starting in the 2004–2005 season. Shortly after, Robert L. Johnson was announced as owner of this new franchise. Johnson also bought the Sting to play as the sister team of the new Charlotte Bobcats.
The 2003 season saw yet another playoff appearance for the Sting. The franchise had posted an 18-16 record and tied with the Connecticut Sun for the #2 seed. The Sting played the same Sun in the playoffs, and were swept out in 2 games.
After the season, Johnson changed the Sting team colors from the Hornets' teal and purple to correspond with the Bobcats' blue and orange. There was some speculation that the team might get a new name, but a newly released mascot following the same Sting theme made that idea unlikely.
Charlotte Sting primary logo, 2004-2006.
Charlotte Sting alternate logo, 2004-2006.
During the 2005 season, the Sting traded veteran Dawn Staley to the Houston Comets and named Charlotte basketball icon Muggsy Bogues as their new head coach late in the season. The season also saw the team play its last game in the Charlotte Coliseum, the team's home arena since 1997.
Former Sting player, 3-time Olympic gold medalist, and current South Carolina Gamecocks women's basketball head coach, Dawn Staley inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.
The Sting moved into the Bobcats' new home, Time Warner Cable Arena (now Spectrum Arena), for the 2006 season. The Sting had a better season in 2006 than 2005, posting an 11-23 record. The Sting had a new arena and were clearly making progress in the rebuilding. Despite the growing number of successes on the court, the 2006 season proved to be the Sting's final season in the league.
On December 13, 2006, Bobcats Sports and Entertainment turned ownership of the team over to the league, citing low attendance in Charlotte (despite a new arena) and loss of revenue and ultimately the players went to the other teams in the league via a dispersal draft.
Honestly, I'd absolutely love to see the Sting make a comeback. The team's contributions to our community, both on and off the court, could only serve to enrich the culture in Charlotte, especially amongst our youth. What are your thoughts?
Until next week!
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“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass