100 days of Kansas City-area Olympians: Lynette Woodard, basketball

Sen. Robert Dole and Lynette Woodard
Ronald Reagan
1985 Women of The Year
Posted at 8:00 AM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-30 09:00:14-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Lynette Woodard is one of the greatest women’s basketball players in history.

But before she became the first female Harlem Globetrotter, before she regularly hung out with U.S. presidents, before she was a renowned international champion and frequent Hall of Fame inductee, Woodard was a two-time state champion at Wichita North and four-time All-American at the University of Kansas.

During her college career, Woodard averaged 26.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 3.1 assists in 139 career games from 1977-81 with the Jayhawks. Hers was the first number the program ever retired.

As a sophomore, she averaged an astounding 31.0 points, 14.3 rebounds, 5.1 steals and 1.5 blocks per game.

Each year at KU, Woodard averaged a double-double in points and rebounds, while also raising her assists per game from 2.1 as a freshman to 5.5 as a senior, when she was chosen as the national player of the year.

She was the Big Eight Player of the Decade for the 1980s.

1985 Women of The Year
For creating new standards of excellence in their work and their lives, Ms. Magazine has awarded twelve women of achievement the title of the Woman of the Year for 1985. Posing in New York on Tuesday, January 7, 1986, are three of the recipients from left: Lily Tomlin, Patti Davis and Lynette Woodard.

Her 3,649 career points at Kansas would be an NCAA record — Washington’s Kelsey Plum officially owns the record with 3,527 — but Woodard’s played during the AIAW era before the NCAA sponsored women’s sports.

Woodard — who served as the Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools athletic director from 1992-94 — could do it all on the basketball court, including winning Olympic gold.

Woodard was selected for the 1980 U.S. women’s basketball team, but didn’t get to compete due to the boycott of the Moscow Olympics.

Four years later, Woodard got another chance at Olympic glory and didn’t waste it, serving as team captain for the gold medal-winning U.S. team, which also included fellow women’s basketball icon Cheryl Miller.

Team USA won all six games during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics by at least 28 points. Woodard was the leading scorer in a 91-55 rout against China during pool play, averaging 10.5 points and 4.0 rebounds during the Olympics.

Ronald Reagan
U.S. Olympic hopeful Lynette Woodard of the University of Kansas presents President Ronald Reagan with an Olympic warm up suit during his visit to the U.S. Olympic Training Center on Tuesday, May 30, 1984 in Colorado Springs.

Internationally, Woodard also won gold at the World Cup, Pan-American Games, Universiade and Jones Cup.

After the Olympics, Woodard became the first woman to play for the Globetrotters in 1985, cementing her place in basketball lore.

Woodard, who played professionally in Italy and Japan, has been inducted into numerous halls of fame — notably the National High School Hall of Fame (1989), Kansas Sports Hall of Fame (1990), Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (2004) and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (2005).

In August 2015, Woodard was one of 10 people selected for the Women's Blue Chip Basketball League's Women's Professional Basketball “Trailblazer” Award.

She joined the fledgling WNBA for two seasons at age 38, playing for the Cleveland Rockers in 1997 and the Detroit Shock in 1998.

Woodard returned to the Jayhawks as an assistant coach, briefly served as interim head coach and eventually spent three seasons as head coach at Winthrop University.

Bill Clinton                President    recreation
President Bill Clinton, flanked by Lynette Woodard, left, and Nancy Hogshead, shoots a basketball over-the-back during a ceremony honoring women athletes at the White House in Washington, February 4, 1993. Woodard is the first female member of the Harlem Globetrotters and a member of the 1984 Women's gold medal Olympic basketball team. Hogshead is a 1980 Olympic medal winner in swimming.

The Kansas City region has a deep, rich history with respect to the Olympic Games. As the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games approach with the Opening Ceremony scheduled for July 23, we will profile an athlete with ties to Kansas City, Missouri or Kansas each day.

41 Action News and is your home of the Tokyo Olympics. Follow our coverage at and check out our complete list of 100 Kansas City-area Olympians as it is revealed.