On October 7, 1985, Lynette Woodard, captain of the gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team in 1984, becomes the first female player for the Harlem Globetrotters. “I got chills, Woodard, 26, says of her selection. “I just shook my head and I said: ‘It’s me, I know it’s me.’” She beats out nine other finalists for the historic honor.
It was perhaps fitting that Woodard became the first female Globetrotter as her obsession with basketball began when her cousin, Herbert “Geese” Ausbie, then a member of the barnstorming team, visited her when she was 8. After witnessing Ausbie spin the ball on his finger and show off other Globetrotter moves, she was hooked.
Woodard traveled with the Globetrotters for two years and was presented with a “Legends” ring in 1996, joining her cousin Ausbie in receiving the team’s most prestigious honor.
After leading Wichita North High School to two state championships, Woodard became a star at the University of Kansas. When she finished college in 1981, however, she had limited options in women’s professional basketball—the first Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) season did not tip off until 1997. So, Woodard played two seasons in the Italian women’s league, leading all players in scoring.
Woodard led the Americans’ 1984 Olympic team to a gold medal, but she did not play at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow because of the U.S. boycott.
After her retirement from professional basketball in 1995, Woodard came out of retirement to play two seasons in the WNBA for the Cleveland Rockers and Detroit Shock.
In 2004, Woodard was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.