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Team and League History


January 11, 2001
     National Women's Basketball League logo
It is announced that a team known as the Birmingham Power will compete in the inaugural season of the newly formed National Women's Basketball League.

Other cities in the league include Atlanta, Kansas City, Mobile, and New York. The season will be 20 games over 12 weeks. Eight home games will be played at Hoover High School, UAB Arena, and Fair Park's Bill Harris Arena. A championship game is scheduled to be played on April 28th.

One of the principal owners of the Power is Wenonah High School girl's basketball head coach Emmanuel Bell. "We just feel we're going to be successful with it and my feelings ain't ever failed me yet. Girls basketball is up and coming and I feel Birmingham should have one because we get involved with our sports - the XFL, Steeldogs, hockey. Semi-pro girls basketball should be here. We're going to get our just due. We're looking at 500 to 700 people in the stands a night, paid people."

Gerard and Denise Johnson are the other principal owners of the Power.

Top salary for players in the league will be $4,000 a season.

Former University of Alabama assistant women's basketball coach Pat Charity was named head coach. "This is a business. That's one of the reasons we chose coach Charity. This is not just some upscale recreational program," Denise Johnson said.

The NWBL was founded by Patrick Alexander in 1997 to give women the chance to compete on a national level in semi-pro basketball. "We have well over 800 players in 25 cities that play in NWBL Division I, II, and III. It provides everyone a change to play. In the past 3 years, many of our players have been drafted by the WNBA (Women's National Basketball Association). It was only a matter of time to take the next step to provide a professional division for the top echelon of players, not only in our league but across the country," Alexander said.

The league requires each franchise to put up roughly $100,000 to cover player salaries and other expenses. Declining to name their investors, Denise Johnson said, "I'm about 60, 70% on verbal commitments. It's just a matter that I've got to close the deals out. It's definitely going to happen, definitely."

January 27, 2001
The NWBL completes its first player draft. The draft was later in the month than scheduled because more WNBA players had expressed a desire to play than was originally anticipated. However, there was confusion as to exactly which WNBA players wanted to play. The NWBL's goal is to now have 3 WNBA players on each team.

"We're still in the process of trying to put together a team. We don't have a complete team but we do have a team and we'll try to get a roster of 12. At the moment, Birmingham Power has one WNBA player so we're still trying to draft 2 more. As they come in, I guess we'll have the opportunity. The other teams have 3 and I guess they're all set with their 12 man roster," Charity said.

February 2001

2001
  National Women's Basketball League   
   Atlanta Justice 
   Birmingham Power
   Kansas City Legacy
   Mobile Majesty 

Atlanta Justice logo    Birmingham Power logo    Kansas City Legacy logo    Mobile Majesty logo

April 22, 2001
The Birmingham Power advance to the NWBL's Pro Cup championship game but lose to the Atlanta Justice 90-75.

December 26, 2001
Johnson announces that Curtis Oden will be the Power's head coach for the 2002 season.

Charity left the Power to become head coach of the women's basketball team at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

February 2002

2002
  National Women's Basketball League   
   Atlanta Justice 
   Birmingham Power
   Chicago Blaze
   Kansas City Legacy 
   Houston Stealth
   Springfield Spirit

Atlanta Justice logo    Birmingham Power logo    Chicago Blaze logo    Kansas City Legacy logo
              
Houston Stealth logo   Springfield Spirit logo        

February 10, 2003
Alexander announces the Power will play the 2003 season without a local owner. The league will assume responsibility for the team as well as look for potential local investors. "We're on a franchise program. As opposed to closing or moving the team, we're looking for an owner in Birmingham for the 2004 season."

2003
  National Women's Basketball League   
   Birmingham Power
   Chicago Blaze
   Grand Rapids Blizzard
   Houston Stealth
   Springfield Spirit
   Tennessee Fury

Birmingham Power logo    Chicago Blaze logo    Grand Rapids Blizzard logo    Houston Stealth logo
              
Springfield Spirit logo   Tennessee Fury logo        


September 24, 2003
At a press conference at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, Lucien Blankenship is announced as the new majority owner of the Power. Blankenship is a local lawyer and his ownership group, Sports Strategies LLC, will be minority owners.

Blankenship and his group paid the league $600,000 to own the Power. Under the 4 year deal, the league will receive $150,000 each year. Blankenship says they have already spent more than that establishing a front office.

"I just happened to go out to a game one time and saw Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson, Michelle Snow, all the top WNBA players right here in Birmingham and nobody knew about it. We thought that something that exciting in Birmingham and nobody knew about it was a travesty," Blankenship said.

Blankenship intends to make the Power a more visible part of the city with players, cheerleaders, and a dance squad that makes frequent public appearances. "You don't wait on people to buy tickets. You create relationships and opportunities to make them want to be a part of what you're doing, and they'll buy tickets."

Sports Strategies is negotiating with the city to possibly play home games at Boutwell Municipal Auditorium.

"We're going to make this team extremely fan friendly and recognizable to the community. We're going to make the team a resource to the city. We want Birmingham to feel the Power," Blankenship said.

December 2, 2003
At a weekly Jefferson County Commission meeting, Dee Stokes is introduced as the Power's new head coach.

Stokes played at Wake Forest and North Carolina-Charlotte before becoming an assistant coach at UAB, Murray State, Texas A&M, and Nebraska. She was also the head coach at East Carolina for 3 and a half seasons. While at ECU, Stokes' record was 50-52 before she left the school. "We weren't doing well. We weren't having a good year and I wasn't used to that."

However, reports at the time indicated that Stokes was removed for "personal matters". During the 2001-02 season, Stokes locked the players out of the team's locker room. Stokes disputes the reports, saying, "At one point we weren't playing well and we did stop them from using their locker room. But we didn't lock them out. We dressed in another room, initially another locker room and then another room."

Stokes said the Power players shouldn't worry about her using that kind of tactic on them. "I think you motivate at the professional level a bit differently than you motivate at the collegiate level."

January 2004

2004
  National Women's Basketball League   
   Birmingham Power
   Chicago Blaze
   Colorado Chill
   Dallas Fury
   Houston Stealth
   Springfield Spirit
   
Birmingham Power logo     Chicago Blaze logo    Colorado Chill logo    Dallas Fury logo
              
Houston Stealth logo   Springfield Spirit logo        

January 2005

2005
  National Women's Basketball League   
   Birmingham Power
   Chicago Blaze
   Colorado Chill
   Dallas Fury
   Lubbock Hawks
   San Jose Spiders

Birmingham Power logo     Chicago Blaze logo    Colorado Chill logo    Dallas Fury logo
              
Lubbock Hawks logo   San Jose Spiders logo        

Epilogue
The Birmingham Power franchise folds in early December 2005. While no official announcement was made by team officials or the National Women's Basketball League, the lack of local fan interest appeared to be the major cause.



Contact Gene Crowley
Last update: May 11, 2018