Staley says thanks as she enters Hall of Fame

Hall of Famer Dawn Staley said, "My life and my success are just proof of life's possibilities."
Hall of Famer Dawn Staley said, "My life and my success are just proof of life's possibilities." (STEVEN SENNE / Associated Press)
Posted: September 10, 2013

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Dawn Staley's longtime hoops love affair has taken her from the playground blacktop in North Philadelphia to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

As one of 12 inductees into the Hall, she looked back on that journey Sunday in a remarkable acceptance speech at Symphony Hall.

"Every experience in my life has been purposeful," said Staley, 43. "Every person in my life a teacher.

"My steps were divinely ordered; I just followed the path. My life and my success are just proof of life's possibilities. And I don't take any of it for granted."

Staley has become a successful college coach, first at Temple near where she grew up and now at South Carolina. But she was inducted because of her ability to cast a spell over opponents with her magical skills as a point guard.

Hall of Famer Magic Johnson has said Staley was the one women's player he would pay to watch.

"I hope I've done right by my blessings," Staley said. "And I pray that I've lent hope to those who needed it. Because I believe that is what I was meant to do. So although I'm uncomfortable, I'll take this honor and call it my final victory as a player."

Staley, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, delivered a narrative crafted around one of her greatest moments.

In her final appearance with USA Basketball as a player, she carried the American flag to lead the U.S. delegation at the opening ceremony of the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.

"As I neared the first curve, I thought about how far I'd come from the Raymond Rosen Housing Project in North Philly," Staley said.

"I wondered if the boys I played with at 25th and Diamond knew how grateful I was to them. I wondered if they knew how grateful I was for how much they taught me, how tough they made me, and how big they made my game."

Of three unbeaten city championships at Dobbins Tech, Staley said, "That experience inspired my love for winning."

After Dobbins, Staley starred at the University of Virginia, and in the American Basketball League and the WNBA.

An introductory video at Sunday's ceremony included remarks from several coaches and players.

"She always believed you can be better, you can do better," said former WNBA star Lisa Leslie, an Olympic teammate.

Staley was one of two inductees out of the women's nominating committee. The other was North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell, who won her 900th career game last season.

The other inductees were former ABA player Roger Brown; E.B. Henderson, the "Grandfather of Black Basketball;" Brazilian star Oscar Schmidt; NBA greats Richie Guerin, Gary Payton, and Bernard King; NBA executive Russ Granik; and coaches Guy V. Lewis, Rick Pitino, and Jerry Tarkanian.

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