Lynette Woodard

First Woman on the Harlem Globetrotters

Lynette Woodard on defense, 1990
Lynette Woodard on defense, 1990. Tony Duffy /Allsport /Getty Images

About Lynette Woodard:

Known for: women's basketball star, pioneer women's basketball player, first woman basketball player to play with the Harlem Globetrotters or on any men's professional basketball team
Dates: August 12, 1959 -
Sport: basketball

Lynette Woodard Biography:

Lynette Woodard learned to play basketball in her childhood, and one of her heroes was her cousin Hubie Ausbie, known as "Geese," who played with the Harlem Globetrotters.

Lynette Woodard played varsity women's basketball in high school, achieving many records and helping to win two consecutive state championships. She then played for Lady Jayhawks at the University of Kansas, where she broke the NCAA women's record, with 3,649 points in four years and a 26.3 point per game average. The University retired her jersey number when she graduated, the first student so honored.

In 1978 and 1979, Lynette Woodard traveled in Asia and Russia as part of national women's basketball teams. She tried out for and won a spot on the 1980 Olympic women's basketball team, but that year, the United States protested the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan by boycotting the Olympics. She tried out for and was selected for the 1984 team, and was co-captain of the team as it won the gold medal.

Between the two Olympics, Woodard graduated from college, then played basketball in an industrial league in Italy.

She worked briefly in 1982 at the University of Kansas. After the 1984 Olympics, she took a job at the University of Kansas with the women's basketball program. She saw no opportunity to play basketball professionally in the United States.

She called her cousin "Geese" Ausbie, wondering if the famed Harlem Globetrotters might consider a woman player.

Within weeks, she received word that the Harlem Globetrotters were looking for a woman, the first woman to play for the team -- and their hope to improve attendance. She won the difficult competition for the spot, though she was the oldest woman competing for the honor, and joined the team in 1985, playing on an equal basis with the men on the team through 1987.

She returned to Italy and played there 1987-1989, with her team winning the national championship in 1990. In 1990, she joined a Japanese league, playing for Daiwa Securities, and helping her team win a division championship in 1992. In 1993-1995 was an athletic director for the Kansas City School District. She also played for the U.S. national teams that won the 1990 World Championships gold medal and the 1991 Pan-American Games bronze. In 1995, she retired from basketball to become a stockbroker in New York. In 1996, Woodard served on the Olympic Committee's board.

But her retirement from basketball didn't last long. In 1997, she joined the new Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), playing with the Cleveland Rockers and then the Detroit Shock, while maintaining her stockbroker position on Wall Street. After her second season she retired again, returning to the University of Kansas where, among her responsibilities, she was an assistant coach with her old team, the Lady Jayhawks, serving as interim head coach in 2004.

She was named one of Sports Illustrated's hundred greatest women athletes in 1999. In 2005, Lynette Woodard was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Medals Include:

  • Gold Medal: U.S. national team, World University Games, 1979
  • Gold Medal: U.S. national team, Pan-American Games, 1983
  • Silver Medal: U.S. national team, World Championships, 1983
  • Gold Medal: Los Angeles Olympics women's basketball team (co-captain), 1984
  • Gold Medal: U.S. national team, World Championships, 1990
  • Bronze Medal: U.S. national team, Pan-American Games, 1991

Olympics: 1980 team (US participation cancelled), 1984 (co-captain)

Honors Include:

  • All-American High School Team, women's basketball
  • All-American high school athlete, 1977
  • Wade Trophy, 1981 (best woman basketball player in U.S.)
  • Big Eight Tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP) (three years)
  • NCAA Top V Award, 1982
  • Women's Sports Foundation Flo Hyman Award, 1993
  • Legends ring, Harlem Globetrotters, 1995
  • Sports Illustrated for Women, 100 Greatest Women Athletes, 1999
  • Basketball Hall of Fame, 2002 and 2004
  • Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, 2005

Country Represented: United States of America (USA)

Education:

  • Wichita North High School, varsity women's basketball
  • University of Kansas
    • B.A., 1981, speech communications and human relations
    • basketball coach Marian Washington
    • twice named academic All-American and four times named athletic All-American
    • ranked first or second in nation in steals, scoring, or rebounding each year

Background, Family:

  • Born in: Wichita, Kansas
  • Mother: Dorothy, homemaker
  • Father: Lugene, fireman
  • Siblings: Lynette Woodard was the youngest of four siblings
  • Cousin: Hubie "Geese" Ausbie, player with the Harlem Globetrotters 1960-1984

Places: Kansas, New York

Religion: Baptist