First female Globetrotter Lynette Woodard broke barriers and records

Long before Lynette Woodard broke barriers she was breaking records. In 1985, the year she became the first female member of the Harlem Globetrotters — the exhibition basketball team known for their on-the-court tricks and humor — Woodard still held the all-time career high score at the University of Kansas.

As a college student, the Wichita native had qualified for the 1980 U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team, but the U.S. boycott of those games left her benched. She spent time playing in Europe and coaching at her alma mater before she got another chance to grab the gold in the 1984 Olympic games. As team captain, she led the U.S. to victory over the South Koreans.

Winning a gold medal is a worthy accomplishment for any elite athlete, but Woodard never forgot her childhood desire to become a Harlem Globetrotter. Her cousin, Globetrotter legend Hubert “Geese” Ausbie, had shown her a few tricks whenever he visited her family during holidays, and it left a strong impression.

When she earned a place on the team, it was the fulfillment of a dream even though she was the only female player. “My concern was just to be a Globetrotter,” Woodard told the AJC in 1986. “The good Lord gives you all of your needs and some of your wants and desires.”

Woodard was a Globetrotter for two years before moving on to play in the WNBA and later earning a place in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.