After the Women’s National Basketball Association was founded on April 22, 1996, and play began the summer of 1997, the league expanded four years later.
In 2000, the WNBA welcomed the Indiana Fever, the Miami Sol, the Seattle Storm and the Portland Fire.
The Fire joined the league as the counterpart to the Portland Trail Blazers.
In the Portland Fire’s second game of their inaugural season, the Fire defeated the Seattle Storm on the road.
It’s hard to believe that the Fire’s first season was 20 years ago and after falling to Houston at home, 93-89 on May 31, the game in Seattle was Portland’s very first WNBA victory.
In that year’s draft, Portland selected four players:
- No. 7 pick Lynn Pride (G/F) out of Kansas
- No. 23 pick Stacey Thomas (F) out of Michigan
- No. 39 pick Maxann Reese (G) out of Michigan State
- No. 55 pick Rhonda L Smith (C) out of Long Beach State
The Fire also picked up Alisa Burras (F), Sonja Henning (G), Tari Phillips (C), Coquese Washington (G), Molly Goodenbour, and Jamila Wideman (G).
In the June 3 victory over the Storm, it was starting forward Sylvia Crawley who led the way for Portland. Crawley finished with 18 points on an efficient 7-of-10 from the floor to go along with six rebounds, one assist, one steal, and two blocks. Fire starting guard Sophia Witherspoon added 11 points, while guard Tara Williams notched 10 points off the bench.
Portland went 2-1 against the Storm that season, as the Fire finished the year, 10-22, just ahead of the last place finishers in the Western Conference -- the Seattle Storm who held a 6-26 record.
Now that twenty years has passed since the Portland Fire’s first victory in the Women’s National Basketball League and after playing a total of three seasons before the team folded, we are taking a look back at what happened to the Portland Fire.
That's right! We’re excited to announce that on Tuesday, June 23, we will be releasing part one of a three-part mini documentary series on the WNBA’s Portland Fire.
June 23 is also a significant date to the organization. On that day in 2000, Portland won its first game at home in front of the enthusiastic Rose Garden crowd, beating the Storm, 72-61.
Hear from Fire head coach Linda Hargrove, former WNBA President Val Ackerman, standout players Jackie Stiles and Tully Bevilaqua, along with many other women who worked for the team in NBC Sports Northwest’s special on the Portland Fire.
I never told people this because they would think I was crazy, but internally I wanted to be the best that ever played the game... That’s why probably my body broke down because I was like ‘other people take days off, I’m not gonna take a day off.’ -- Former Portland Fire guard and the 2001 WNBA’s Rookie of the Year recipient Jackie Stiles
Part 1 of “What happened to the Portland Fire?” drops June 23 on our website and will air on NBC Sports Northwest’s 'The Bridge' on June 24.