Meet Lynette Woodard, a Pioneer in NCAA Women’s Basketball


March 12, 2024

This Women’s History Month, we’re shining a spotlight on a woman who changed the game, literally.

Lynette Woodard is widely considered to be one of the greatest basketball players of all time, breaking records, norms and barriers for women athletes around the globe long before women’s basketball was even officially recognized as an official sport on either the collegiate, or national level. 

The Kansas native won two state championships at her high school and was four-time Kodak All-American before committing to the University of Kansas, where she scored a record 3,649 points–the most points in women’s basketball history. Caitlin Clark of Iowa broke this scoring record this year on Feb. 15, 2024 and, because the NCAA did not govern women’s basketball during Woodard’s college career, this Black woman’s historic achievement has long gone overlooked. However, Lynette Woodard continued to make waves in the basketball world long after graduating.


She is one of the most decorated female athletes in history. She was awarded a Wade Trophy, awarded to the best female basketball player in the nation, in 1981. In 1984, she captained the US women’s basketball team and won a gold medal in the Olympic games. She’s also a 10-time hall of fame inductee, having been inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame, the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame, the Black Legends Professional Hall of Fame, the State of Kansas Hall of Fame, and the African-American Hall of Fame, to name a few. In 2004, Woodard was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, the highest hall of fame honor in the sport. 

Woodard is also the first woman ever to play for a men’s basketball team, joining the famous Harlem Globetrotters in 1985. In 1987 Woodard decided to leave the Globetrotters. Since there were few opportunities for professional women’s basketball players at the time, she played abroad. She helped her team secure the Italian league championships in 1989 and then went to Japan, where she played for the Daina Securities team from 1990 to 1993, winning the division championship in 1992.  

Woodard was scoring big both on and off the court. While playing for the Daina Securities team, she developed an interest in stocks and returned to the states to work for the New York Stock Exchange where she had a successful career. However, basketball was in her blood. In 1997, she came out of retirement to play in the newly formed Women’s National Basketball Association, the WNBA. She played one year for the Cleveland Rockers and one year for the Detroit Shock before officially retiring as a player and returning to the stock brokerage business.


Woodard would go on to become the assistant women’s basketball coach at her alma mater, Kansas, for four seasons. She’s currently the head coach for Winthrop University’s women’s basketball team. 

Even though Lynette Woodard is a pioneer, a rule breaker and thought to be one of the greatest athletes of all time, her achievements were almost lost to history due to a lack of respect for women’s sports at the time in which she played. However, Woodard remains committed in continuing to break glass ceilings. It’s her hope that one day the achievements of her fellow female athletes will get the recognition they deserve.

“Those records should have been merged a long time ago,” Woodard, 64, told the Washington Post in reference to the NCAA’s erasure of her collegiate achievements. “We’re so quick to erase anything we don’t like or think we don’t like. It’s just not fair. There’s a lot of history there, and it just should not be dismissed.”


Cover photo: Meet Lynette Woodard, A Pioneer In NCAA Women’s Basketball / Photo credit: CBC Sports

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join the BOTWC newsletter for the latest in news & culture!

By clicking Submit, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Newsletter Signup
Skip to content