Lynette Woodward is one of the most successful female basketball players in the history of the sport. Born in 1959 in Wichita, Kansas, Woodward's first brush with fame occurred during her high school playing career, when she lead her team to a Kansas state championship. Woodward then attended the University of Kansas from 1978 to 1981, where she was one few athletes in the history of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) competition in any sport to be named an All-American for all four years of her collegiate career. In addition to graduating as the NCAA's all-time career female scoring leader, Woodward lead the nation in the key statistical categories of points scored, steals, and rebounds in at least one of those four seasons.
On graduation from the University of Kansas, Woodward was recruited to play in the Italian women's professional basketball league, where she starred. In 1984, Woodward was named captain of the United States Women's Olympic basketball team, which won a gold medal at the Los Angeles Summer Olympics. In 1985, Woodward made history as the first female player ever signed to play by the Harlem Globetrotters, the famous African-American basketball team that traveled the world playing exhibitions. Woodward was a member of the Globetrotters until 1987. The Globetrotters mixed a measure of showmanship, comedy, and basketball tricks in their games, and Woodward participated as a full member of the Globetrotters entourage.
After her tenure with the Globetrotters, Woodward returned to Italy where she played professionally for an additional two seasons and led the league in scoring. Woodward also played for one season in the Japanese women's professional league. At the age of 38, Woodward joined the newly established Women's National Basketball League (WNBA) as a member of the Cleveland Rockers. Woodward retired after completing two seasons in the WNBA in 1998.
Woodward was never the biggest or the strongest competitor. But her natural athleticism, leadership, and floor sense were the attributes that separated Woodward from her contemporaries. Woodward was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 2004. She was also named by Sports Illustrated magazine as one of the greatest athletes in the history of the state of Kansas.
SEE ALSO Basketball.