Three-time Olympic champion Dawn Staley graced through her enshrinement speech at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Sunday with the same poise that made the undersized point guard one of the most respected to ever master a jumpshot.
Wrapped in a navy blue dress with one silver-plated strap, Staley was presented by Olympic teammates Teresa Edwards and Katrina McClain, each inducted the previous two years, forming a trinity on stage of what it means to be a powerful woman.
Staley based her speech on the honor bestowed upon her in 2004 when the captains of each sport chose her to carry the U.S. flag at the opening ceremonies of the Athens Olympics, mentioning different people and events in her life for every curve of the track.
She said she began her march thinking of growing up in the housing projects of North Philadelphia, then shifted to Dobbins Tech, the University of Virginia, playing for Tara VanDerveer in the 1996 Olympics, the formation of the ABL and WNBA, her foundation, and coaching Temple and South Carolina, before winding up with an appreciaton of her family.
It was an honor seven years in the making since her retirement from the Houston Comets, and maybe one day she can join John Wooden and Lenny Wilkens as players who also went in as coaches.
The first time I laid eyes on Dawn Staley in person, I was a 20-year-old reporter covering St. Bonaventure for "Sports and Leisure Magazine" and she was the Temple coach. That game on Feb. 27, 2003, was the one marked on the schedule all season, an interview with a real superstar. Two years later, I attended her foundation’s gala in Philadelphia. I had never seen anyone so respected, who never forgot where she came from and tirelessly fought for others to improve their lives. Just one minute of talking to her makes someone want to be a better person. I returned to the gala again in 2009, but unfortunately she said she hasn’t been holding them anymore since her move to South Carolina. Truly, one of my all-time inspirations on and off the court, I wasn’t going to miss her ascendance into immortality.
Some of her colleagues who are likely to join her in the Hall one day and some who are already there took the time to praise Staley, as well:
Indiana Fever forward won gold medal in 2004 with Staley.
“Dawn, I can’t say enough about her, the career that she’s had, represtenting our country, and a great coach, being able to impact so many lives, definitely a well-deserved honor for her, she’s one of those players, I remember the 1996 Olympic team and watching her, thinking ‘Man, if I ever get the opportunity to play with her,’ and just as a leader, she’s one of the ones on that USA team, leading so many players, and I thought ‘I want to be like that one day.’”
Seattle Storm forward won gold medal in 2004 with Staley.
“I think that it’s amazing, It’s an honor that is definitely deserved, Dawn has done so much for women’s basketball, her accolades just go on and on and on. What sticks out for me the most is her leadership. She has led every single team she has been on, the experience I had with her during the Olympics, as well as in Houston has stuck with me, and I will carry it forever. Her imprint is one that is very visible and will last for a very long time. I’m so excited for Dawn, I think she absolutely deserves it, and I’m proud of her.”
Phoenix Mercury guard won gold medal in 2004 with Staley.
“Playing with her was probably the best, in the 2004 Olympics. She’s a winner, a leader, probably one of the most unselfish players I’ve been around. She’s well deserving and will probably go in as a coach some day too. How to prepare for a game, making sure everyone was always ready to go, those are just some of the little things she brought to the table.”
Seattle SuperSonics point guard inducted with Staley into Hall of Fame.
“It was great because Dawn played with me on the Olympic team too, I’ve watched her game, especially being as small as she is, as crafty as she is, I loved her in college. When I heard she made it, I thought this is nice, we can go in together.”
North Carolina women’s coach inducted into Hall of Fame with Staley.
“Dawn was a great player. When I first started coaching at North Carolina, she was at Virginia, and they used to beat us like a drum. I can remember one time, they were beating us by 40 or 50, and Dawn was dribbling over by the sideline, by the bench and saying to (Virginia coach Debbie Ryan) ‘What to you want us to practice on, what do you want to work on?' That was motivation to me because Dawn was such a great player and now such a great coach, as well.”
Also, Phoenix Mercury forward Candice Dupree played for Staley at Temple. Her story can be read in: “As Dawn Staley enters Hall of Fame, Former Temple Player Candice Dupree reflects.”