Black History Month Spotlight: Lynette Woodard–First Female Harlem Globetrotter
As we enjoy the last ‘extra’ day in Black History Month, I wanted to highlight an extraordinatory pioneer in women’s basketball-Ms. Lynette Woodard
Born August 12, 1959, in Wichita, Kansas, Lynette Woodard was a standout college and professional basketball player who made history in 1985 when she became the first female member of the Harlem Globetrotters.
As a young child, Woodard developed her basketball scoring abilities from her older brother, who taught her to shoot using a stuffed sock. By the time she was in her final year at Marshall Junior High School in Wichita, the high school basketball coach asked her if she’d want to join the varsity team. Surprisingly, Woodard declined. A year later she made up for lost time, when the five-feet 11-inch star sophomore led the club to a state championship in 1975. Two years later, Woodard was recognized as an all-American.
Woodard enrolled at the University of Kansas, where she graduated in 1981 with a B.A. in speech communications and human relations. During her collegiate basketball career, she scored the most points in NCCAA women’s basketball history (3,649) and did the same with field goals made (1,572) and field goals attempted (2,994). She also set school records in such areas as rebounds (1,714), free throws made (505), steals (522), and games played (139).
After graduation, Woodard headed to Europe, where she played two years in the Italian women’s league and led all players in scoring. In 1984, she captained the women’s Olympic team to a gold medal. Seeing no chance to play professionally in the U.S., she headed back to Kansas and joined the women’s basketball program at her alma mater.
In an effort to expand its fan base and popularity, the Harlem Globetrotters wanted to add a female player to its roster. Woodard was no stranger to Globetrotter basketball. Her cousin, Hubert “Geese” Ausbie, had played for the team from 1961-1985, and as a young girl Woodard had idolized her relative. It was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. After an intense series of try-outs, Woodard was selected to join the team.
After touring with the Globetrotters, Lynnette signed on to play in the newly formed Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) in 1997, playing two seasons for the Cleveland Rockers and, later, the Detroit Shock.
Woodard’s WNBA experience proved to be a fitting end for a player who’d done so much to popularize women’s basketball and bring it into the mainstream. Throughout her entire career, Lynette Woodard has been inducted into 10 different halls of fame, including the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (2005) and the African-American Sports Hall of Fame (2006).
Ms. Lynnette Woodard, another fine example of how Black Girls Truly Rock!