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Legendary WNBA Sting Player Dawn Staley Returns For All-Star Celebrity Game

With NBA All-Star game uptown this weekend, the Charlotte Hornets are getting more attention.

But there was a time when Charlotte was a two-basketball-team city - the Hornets and their sister team, the Charlotte Sting. Dawn Staley was one of the most well-known players for the Sting.

She now coaches the South Carolina women’s basketball team, but Friday night she'll be at Bojangles Coliseum coaching the celebrity game as part of the NBA's All-Star weekend.

Staley says she was shocked and honored when she got the call to coach the game. She welcomed the opportunity to return to the city that launched her pro career.

“The community of Charlotte really supported our Sting organization. They really wanted our organization to do well and the best way you do that is get your butts in the seats and support you in that way. I had a real good connection with the people that came out to watch.”

The now-defunct Sting was one of the eight original WNBA franchises in 1997. In 2006, owner Robert Johnson put the team up for sale, due to low attendance and financial losses. The team folded in 2007.

Staley says today’s players want to see growth with their paychecks. It's a concern that wasn't as prevalent 20 years ago, she says.

“I think when we were playing we were just happy to play in the United States and not have to go overseas if we didn't want to go overseas. The newness of the league, I think you don’t really look at the money that you're making.”

But she says the WNBA is doing something right. After all, it's still in business, in part because of the popularity of women’s college basketball, Staley says. She believes the WNBA gives young girl ball players something to aspire to. 

Staley says she's approaching the celebrity game the same way she would any game, by getting to know her roster, which includes former Carolina Panther Steve Smith, WNBA player A’ja Johnson, and Dr. Oz.

“It’s a fun, super opportunity. I’m looking forward to getting back to Charlotte and represent the Charlotte organization again as a Sting member," says Staley, a three-time Olympic gold medal winner who also is the head coach of the U.S. women's Olympic basketball team.

Staley won't be able to stick around for Sunday's All-Star game, however. Her 11th-ranked Gamecocks play Sunday at Florida.

Sarafina Wright is the "All Things Considered" producer for WFAE 90.7 Charlotte’s NPR Source. Before coming to WFAE, she worked as a political correspondent for EBONY.com, staff writer at the Washington Informer and editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge in Washington, DC. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Howard University. When she's not writing professionally, Sarafina can be found blogging at www.sarafinasaid.com or hanging out with her book club, Charlotte West.