There are a handful of WNBA fans that associate the Portland Fire with Jackie Stiles and vice versa.
And rightfully so.
Even though there was so much buzz surrounding the first season of the Portland Fire in 2000, the Fire finished with a 10-22 overall record, which was good for the second to last spot in the Western Conference, just ahead of the Seattle Storm.
The 2001 season not only meant a new start for the Fire, but it also meant – welcoming in the No. 4 overall draft pick, shooting guard Jackie Stiles.
I can’t envision myself doing anything else… I would never look at basketball as work. I love it so much. -- Jackie Stiles
The Southwest Missouri State grad was fresh off her Final Four appearance where she became a media darling.
Stiles became the first NCAA Division I Women's Player to score more than 1,000 points in a season, scoring 1,062 points her senior year.
During her four collegiate years, she poured in 3,393 points, which is a career total that stood as a record for Division I women's basketball until it was broken just recently by University of Washington’s Kelsey Plum in 2017.
Missouri State earned a 5-seed in the West Region Stiles’ senior year. The Lady Bears earned a trip to the Final Four in St. Louis after winning the West Region.
Missouri State defeated Toledo 89-71, Rutgers 60-53, Duke 81-71, and Washington 104-87.
Stiles and the Lady Bears lost in the National Semifinals to Purdue 81-64. Even though she didn’t hoist up a National Championship trophy, Stiles won the Wade Trophy, which honors the best women's college basketball player, as well as the Broderick Cup, which honors the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year.
Her list of accolades didn’t stop there.
As a WNBA rookie with the Fire, Stiles earned a WNBA All-Star nod. She scored four points to the West’s 80-72 win over the East.
In addition to her All-Star honors, Stiles was voted the WNBA’s Rookie of the Year while scoring an average of 14.9 points. She beat Lauren Jackson who was the Seattle Storm’s No. 1 overall draft pick that year.
But one thing that Stiles will never forget about her rookie season was her experience at Walmart:
Do you remember the poster section in Walmart? Well, I was like – I’m in the poster section in Walmart? Like, what is happening!? Just moments like that where I had to pinch myself. -- Jackie Stiles
Listing Stiles as a 5’8 shooting guard was being generous. She certainly gave a lot of hope to aspiring WNBA players who didn’t quite have the height.
[Listen to the latest Bridge Podcast with Fire Head Coach and GM Linda Hargrove]
In 2002, Stiles suffered a severe injury to her wrist, while other injuries also started piling up.
She was out for most of her second season in the league. Even without their superstar player that year, the Fire finished with an even record of 16-16. But, at the end of that season nobody knew it would be their last.
I was shocked that the team folded… We were one of the better attended games and the city of Portland just really wrapped their arms around us, so I was really, really shocked when it folded and definitely very disappointed. -- Jackie Stiles
Now that we have talked with several players and employees of the Portland Fire organization over the past couple of months in an effort to take a deep dive into the expansion team that lasted just three short years, NBCSNW is releasing a three-part mini documentary series on the Fire.
With a focus on what Jackie Stiles meant to the organization, check out Part 2 of ‘What happened to the Portland Fire’ right here.
You can check out Part 1 of the three-part mini documentary series on the Fire here.
Part 3 of ‘What happened to the Portland Fire?’ will be released Tuesday, July 7.