Women in Sports: Basketball

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff
  • The first women's intercollegiate basketball game took place between Stanford and the University of California on April 4, 1896. Stanford won.
  • The Harlem Globetrotters are the only coed professional basketball team. In 1985 the team picked Olympian Lynette Woodward as its first female member.
  • The Women's Basketball Association, a professional basketball league, was founded in 1977. The WBA started with eight teams-Dayton, New Jersey, New York, Houston, Milwaukee, Chicago, Iowa, and Minnesota-and lasted three seasons.
  • In 1977, Lucy Harris became the first woman to be drafted by an NBA team (New Orleans Jazz) and then in 1979, Ann Meyers signed an NBA contract for $50,000 for one year with the Indiana Pacers. Neither ever appeared in a game.
  • Nancy Lieberman, the outstanding basketball player from Old Dominion College in Virginia, played for Springfield, Mass. of the U.S. Basketball League in 1986, becoming the first woman in history to play in a men's professional league.
  • The U.S. Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, began inducting members in 1959 but it was not until 1992 that the first women were inducted. They were Nera White, a 10-time Most Valuable Player in Amateur Athletic Union tournaments in the 1950s and 1960s, and Lucia Harris-Stewart, a member of the first U.S. Olympic women's basketball team in 1976. Through 2001, ten women have been inducted into the Hall of Fame as players. Also, Judy Conradt, Billie Moore, Pat Summitt, and Margaret Wade have been inducted as coaches. In addition, Senda Berenson Abbott, a.k.a. “The Mother of Women's Basketball,”and Bertha Teague were inducted as contributors, making it 16 women in all.
  • The American Basketball League (ABL) began in 1996 and was very popular with fans but unfortunately lost money and could not afford to stay in existence. The league decided to shut down in December, 1998.
  • The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) began in 1997 and has been extremely successful. The Houston Comets, led by superstars Cynthia Cooper and Sheryl Swoopes, won the league championship four times from 1997-2000.
  • Currently there are 14 WNBA teams-Charlotte Sting, Chicago Sky, Connecticut Sun, Detroit Shock, Houston Comets, Indiana Fever, Los Angeles Sparks, Minnesota Lynx, New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury, Seattle Storm, San Antonio Silver Stars, Sacramento Monarchs, and Washington Mystics.
  • In 2007, the WNBA Sixth Woman Award was given out for the first time. Plenette Pierson, now in her sixth season, was the 2007 Sixth Woman Award recipient.
  • In 2012, Pat Summitt, the University of Tennessee women's basketball coach, retired with more wins than any other collegiate coach in any sport. Summitt led the Lady Vols to eight national championships and 1,098 wins, the most in major-college basketball history. During the 2011-2012 season, Sports Illustrated named Summitt Sportswoman of the Year. That same year the NCAA gave her the NCAA President's Gerald R. Ford Award for her leadership in intercollegiate athletics. She was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award handed out by the government.

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