In a world where the way we look is often considered more important than how we play our sport, Black women continually break through glass ceilings to earn respect. The long history of Black women participating in basketball will not go unrecognized, no matter how many false impressions are given. Still, the importance of women’s sports to young girls across the globe is immeasurable, and it sees no color.

For centuries, Black athletes have excelled nationally and internationally, but for Black women, competing often came at a cost. Instead of being recognized or respected for their athleticism, they were regularly taunted and demoralized. But many of them forged on, because they had a higher calling to help future basketball players excel and flourish in ways they never imagined.

Two of the earliest all-Black women basketball teams were the Philadelphia Tribune Girls, led by center Ora Mae Washington, and the Chicago Romas. The Romas, playing against both men’s and women’s teams, didn’t lose a single game in six years following World War II, from 1939-45. That was in large part thanks to their best players, namely Corrine Robinson, Mignon Burns, Lillian Ross, Virginia Willis, Lola Porter and Isadora Channels. The Romas were unable to capitalize on the many opportunities basketball had afforded men, but they continued to play ball, setting the stage for a future they wouldn’t live to see.

In the last 30 years, women’s basketball has gained more recognition and support. The teams of the 1930s and 1940s passed the torch to players such as Lusia Harris, Althea Gwynn, Elizabeth Galloway McQuitter, Janice Lawrence, Lynette Woodard, Medina Dixon and Cheryl Miller. Those icons then passed the torch to us, who have since passed it on to the current generation.

As public interest in women’s basketball grew, so did the development of professional women’s basketball leagues like the WBL in the 1970s, the ABL in the 1990s and the WNBA in 1997. By 2000, top women’s basketball players from the college ranks and overseas were seen as viable investments for shoe deals and endorsements, just like their male counterparts.

Dawn Staley and Saudia Roundtree became household names thanks to their signature shoe deals with Nike and Reebok. But there were others, like Elizabeth Galloway McQuitter of the now-defunct WBL, who also opened the door for young girls with dreams of playing basketball but have not been as widely celebrated. The WBL was the first professional league in America, and what we did paved the way for others. We need to put every era on the basketball timeline, so the legacies of players like McQuitter are remembered.

Decades later, WNBA players in 2020 have indisputably transformed ignorance into awareness for social, racial and criminal justice, led by Maya Moore, Candace Parker, Tina Charles and Layshia Clarendon, just to name a few. It takes more than Black History Month to recognize all of the players involved in building this empire.

I often wonder how to thank all those who came before me, so I decide to use Kobe Bryant’s “Dear Basketball” as a tribute to Black History Month and the game that changed our lives forever.

Basketball has been a vehicle through which Black women can earn a scholarship, an education and a chance to make a career out of what they love. Truly, basketball has provided me with more than I could have ever imagined. All I had to do was practice.

I pay homage to the sport that saved my life and put my feet on solid ground. You helped me earn a scholarship to play in college, which in turn led me to a career overseas in Brazil, Spain and China. You then opened doors for me in two professional leagues, the ABL and WNBA. I’ve met countless people and traveled the world, all for the sake of growing the game. You helped me build lifelong relationships with phenomenal women from all walks of life. We created bonds that can never be broken — a sisterhood through all generations.

I salute you for being a part of my soul’s journey and for helping me become a towering example for many young girls who have a dream.

Adrienne Goodson (“Goody”) is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. She played 14 years of professional basketball, including seven in the WNBA. A three-time All-Star in the pros and an NCAA champion, she was inducted into the Old Dominion Hall of Fame in 1999. She is the host of the podcast “A WNBA State of Mind with Adrienne Goodson.” Follow her on Twitter @agoody15_wnba.

The New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury’s recent head coaching vacancies have reignited discussions about the WNBA’s player-to-coach pipeline. While the league has made progress toward more diversity in the past year, men still filled six of the 12 head coaching jobs in 2021.

Former WNBA All-Star Adrienne Goodson has seen firsthand what the hiring cycle is like, having aspired to enter coaching after her playing career ended in 2005. She looks to Minnesota Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve as an emblem of a more inclusive future in the WNBA. Reeve has been vocal about getting more women and women of color into coaching positions, and what her role is in fostering that growth.

In her own words for Just Women’s Sports, Goodson shares highlights from her recent conversations with Reeve and Lynx assistant coach Katie Smith, what she’s learned about the coaching pipeline over the years and what the league can do to close the gender gap at the top.


Cheryl Reeve is a warrior in the push to get more women and women of color into positions of leadership in the WNBA. Since she recognized what she calls a coaching “crisis,” she’s made the decision to hire only women to her coaching staff with the Lynx. She wants to ensure her female assistants are given the same opportunities that James Wade (Chicago Sky, 2019) and Walt Hopkins (New York Liberty, 2020) got when they were hired as head coaches.

When I caught up with Coach Reeve recently, she told me how important it is for women in leadership positions to become the norm, and anything she could do to contribute to that, she would. Because even though she’s in a high place as coach of the Lynx, and now also of the U.S. women’s national team, she still has glass ceilings that she has to bust through. I’m glad she’s had the success that she’s had as a coach so she can sit down at the table with the decision-makers. She’s the change that she wants to see in the league.

As she told me: “I got to a space I never thought of when I had two male assistants. James Wade’s resume was pretty strong in terms of number of years and who he worked with, like Dan Hughes, before he came to Minnesota, so he was ready. My next hire was Walt Hopkins. And we can’t blame him when people wanted to interview and ultimately higher him, but when that moment hit, it’s not a case of anything against Walt Hopkins, it’s more about, OK if I’m a feeder, I’m a feeder to the next head coach opportunities and we’re in crisis mode. I’ve got to make sure that my feeder system includes Black females and females. So I said, while in crisis, we are only going to hire females until we can get a much better representation among our 12 teams. … I wanted to be a part of the solution and that is where the passion came from.”

Coach Reeve’s relationship with Katie Smith is a great example of the player-to-coach pipeline the WNBA can foster. Cheryl coached Katie while they were with the Detroit Shock and got to know Katie’s personality. She said that was so important during the process of bringing her on and her becoming a coach.

Katie was a spitfire on the court. She was very competitive and would do whatever it took to win the game, whether it meant playing the one, the two, the three, the four, the five, if necessary — a couple of times, I remember her being thrown in the post in Minnesota. Cheryl liked that about her, that she could constantly adapt and adjust, and she knew that she would fit in on her coaching staff.

When they let go of Katie in New York, Cheryl said, “Listen, that is not an indication of who you are as a coach,” and she wanted to remind Katie of all of the great things people were saying about her. From there, Cheryl brought her on, and the rest is history. On the court, Cheryl leans on Smith to act as her “buffer,” just as Cheryl did for Bill Laimbeer back in Detroit. Katie appreciates how coordinated the Lynx are as a staff — between her, Cheryl, Plenette Pierson and Rebekkah Brunson — and she believes their history with each other helps with the day-to-day decisions and their overall success.

Reeve learned under coach Bill Laimbeer in Detroit before getting the head coaching job in Minnesota. (Dan Lippit/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA is hot right now, and I think they could use more investment dollars toward developing players who want to coach in the future. Let’s stop being the hope that we want to see and actually make it happen. Let’s start walking and living and breathing it like Coach Reeve.

I’ll even throw myself into the pot. I feel any team that hires me in the WNBA is going to be a problem. I have that Marianne Stanley mentality on the court. I’ve been on the men’s side of it, in the NBA’s assistant coaches program. I’ve coached men’s varsity in Newark, N.J. I got a lot of my skills from Wendy Larry at Old Dominion because, in the WNBA offseason, I used to go back and be an assistant coach on her staff. We won the 2005 CAA tournament championship. We got to the Sweet 16.

Former players interested in coaching in the WNBA, like me, have to seek out those opportunities because there’s no pool. You’ve seen more WNBA athletes becoming coaches in the NBA because of the assistant coaches program. The WNBA has to have a pool that also includes the players who are on the outside trying to get in. It seems that you always have to know somebody in order to move up, so it’s a whole lot for us to get back in as coaches or into positions in the front office.

We’ve seen progress in the past year with the Wings hiring Vickie Johnson and the Dream appointing Tanisha Wright. The bigger problem is that there’s no pool, and without it, teams are more inclined to recycle the same coaches.

There has to be communication between former players and the league; it can’t just be players talking to players all the time. And then we have to sit across the table from the higher-ups and come up with viable solutions to what’s going on. I’m not even at retirement age yet. That’s why there was never a conversation about 401Ks or pensions because players are retiring at 38. But it has to be a conversation, just like building the pipeline from player to coach has to be at the forefront.

Based on what I’ve heard and read, I’m pretty confident the Liberty and Mercury are doing their due diligence with the interview process for their head coach openings. I just hope that everybody they felt was a good candidate has gotten an opportunity to showcase themselves.

Adrienne Goodson (“Goody”) is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. She played 14 years of professional basketball, including seven in the WNBA. A three-time All-Star in the pros and an NCAA champion, she was inducted into the Old Dominion Hall of Fame in 1999. She is the host of the podcast “A WNBA State of Mind with Adrienne Goodson.” Follow her on Twitter @agoody15_wnba.

The WNBA is riding a wave of momentum former All-Star Adrienne Goodson believes the league hasn’t seen since its early days.

WNBA viewership during the 2021 regular season was up 49 percent year over year. The playoffs were the most-watched since 2014. The champion Chicago Sky sold out both of their home games during the Finals and ticket prices soared. Players also signed a record number of endorsement deals. That included Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart, who will be the first WNBA player to have her own signature shoe in a decade after inking a long-term partnership with Puma.

Goodson, who played for four WNBA teams during a 14-year professional career that started overseas and in the American Basketball League (ABL), sees those signs of progress as a call to action. Here, in her own words for Just Women’s Sports, Goodson reflects on her experience with growth in women’s basketball and shares her thoughts on how the WNBA can capitalize on the success of 2021.


The league can never be the same, with the increased viewership and the ticket prices rising for the playoffs this season. I mean, a ticket in Chi Town versus the Mercury sold for as much as $1,500. With that and the four Finals games on ESPN averaging 548,000 viewers compared to 440,000 in 2020 and 381,000 in 2019, that’s a huge jump for them. They’re coming along.

And even when I look back in the day, we had massive crowds. Washington had crazy crowds, New York had crazy crowds, Houston had crazy crowds. Utah was off the chain — we went from, like, 3,000 fans all the way up to a playoff game that I think touched 15,000. And we’re talking way back in the day. Then in 2003, the Detroit Shock versus the L.A. Sparks had 1.2 million viewers.

So there is a lot of potential for this league, and I just think that they can do a better job with television. That starts with not following the NBA as much because we have our own market. We’re the sister league and the NBA already had a model in place, so it was like, OK, we’ll just use that model because it’s proven. But we have totally different markets, so I think that the model has to change in the ways that the league is marketed.

And I’ll keep saying it: We need WNBA TV and we need affiliates out there that will also boost the games. So if you’re going to model it after something, model it after NBA TV because it’s television, it’s in-house and it pays the bills. That way, we can get sponsors on TV spots and things like that, and now we can speak to our own market. As much as they’re promoting the league, how we walk and how we talk and our fashion, my God, just imagine all the sponsors that can be unleashed if something like that were to happen.

It’s not a criticism because I love the WNBA app. However, I pay for it because I want to give back to the league. I want to make sure that whatever it is that they put out there, I support it in some kind of way. But trying to view the games on there is not always cool. I think I watched one game this season; all the rest of them were blacked out. So we have to have more options than that or Twitter or some of the channels that we are on like ESPN, where we sometimes get bumped around. We shouldn’t be bumped around.

And what about jerseys? I think it’s time that everybody’s jersey is available across the board, from current players to throwbacks. This is what people are requesting, so you’ve got to give the people what they want. They’re aware of it now.

It’s just time to really take a serious look at the league as a whole, starting all the way back in 1997 to the 25th anniversary. The 2002 collective bargaining agreement — that was fire. That was the beginning of a lot of action. We were fighting for maternity leave because, at that time, players were only getting 50 percent of their salary if they got pregnant. That was obviously not enough, to not work, get 50 percent and be expecting a child. And then we fought to raise the veterans’ minimum salary from something like $30,000 to $60,000, which we felt was really successful. But at that time, it kind of clashed with the league’s budget. We started to see veterans fade out because teams were choosing to pay two rookies versus one vet.

I think there’s a lot of change that’s in the air and in the background with things that come across my email. So I think this is a great time for us. You don’t want to praise the pandemic, but the pandemic was what catapulted us into the limelight because people were at home and they had to watch the league. We were confined to the house and, all of a sudden, people started to pay a little more attention to it. We had the social justice movements going on and the girls took that on, which is something that we’ve always done. We’ve always been a part of those types of movements.

I think it just needs to be a conversation where you get the people in the room who could make it happen. If you have a whole bunch of people sitting around, just hoping for the best, then nothing is going to get done. If you have only one or two people addressing it, that’s still not power. I think there are enough resources out there that will allow that to happen. If we just market the league the way that we need, and not just treat the product as a thing that stays afloat, it can actually make money. There’s potential now, so we can never be the same. And then that takes care of your pension problem and all of the issues that you’re dealing with under the table.

Our market is different and it needs to be tailored in a different way. You can go far, but you always have to tap into your ancestry, understand why you do things the way that you do. It’s not even just about basketball — it’s about elevating women’s sports. We’re all in this together because we all have to deal with that same glass ceiling.

Adrienne Goodson (“Goody”) is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. She played 14 years of professional basketball, including seven in the WNBA. A three-time All-Star in the pros and an NCAA champion, she was inducted into the Old Dominion Hall of Fame in 1999. She is the host of the podcast “A WNBA State of Mind with Adrienne Goodson.” Follow her on Twitter @agoody15_wnba.

Before there were the A’ja Wilsons and the Breanna Stewarts of the WNBA, there was Adrienne Goodson. “Goody,” as she is popularly known, was a fiery 6-foot forward whose career spanned 14 years, beginning overseas before she returned to the U.S. in 1996 for the American Basketball League’s inaugural season.

In 1999, the Bayonne, N.J. native made the jump to the recently formed WNBA and was drafted by the Utah Starzz. In her first WNBA season, Goody had an immediate impact. She finished 10th in the league in scoring while averaging 33 minutes per game. In 2002, she was named to a WNBA All-Star Game. When the Utah Starzz relocated to San Antonio ahead of the 2003 season, Goody re-signed with the newly minted San Antonio Stars, now the Las Vegas Aces.

Here, Goodson tells the story of the ABL’s inception and her decision to enter the WNBA, the Aces setting an example by honoring their alumni and what’s next for the franchise, in her own words for Just Women’s Sports.


I’m in Jersey right now, but I’ve been traveling a lot this summer between North Carolina, Virginia and also Vegas. My trip to Vegas on Memorial Day Weekend was pretty out of the blue. It was four o’clock in the morning, and when I got this email from the president of the Las Vegas Aces (which shows how much Nikki Fargas is grinding!), and it said, “We want to honor you,” real talk, I thought, “Man, what do the Aces want with me?”

I had to re-read the email, and I still can’t believe it. It was mindblowing. The Aces were actually reaching out to former players with an invitation to a Las Vegas alumni celebration. As any diehard fan knows, the history of our team stretches far and wide. I decided to respond and heard back immediately. Before I knew it, I was flying out to Vegas to celebrate the WNBA’s 25th consecutive season at an Aces game on May 30.

As a former player, it can be hard sometimes when the league doesn’t show former players much love. But then came Mark Davis. The owner of the Las Vegas Aces franchise and the NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders, Mark understands the importance of acknowledging former players for their worth. The things he is doing for us are phenomenal, and I hope other teams follow suit in the years to come.

Before our trip to Vegas, Mark told me, “I’m bringing you guys out here, and I’m going to feature and showcase you all.” We watched two Aces games, we ate meals together, and everybody was able to tell their own story. I remember sitting with everyone and, let me tell you, there was not a dry eye in the room. From the players to the administration, those four days were an unforgettable experience.

This month, the Aces also honored WNBA All-Star and NBA coach Becky Hammon with a halftime jersey retirement ceremony. Although Becky never played in Las Vegas, the Aces have not forgotten what she did for the franchise in San Antonio. I was proud to see them pay tribute by retiring Becky’s No. 25. While her jersey is the first to hang in the rafters, there will soon be many more.

Players like Becky Hammon are not just pioneers of the Aces franchise — we are also pioneers of the WNBA. We paved the way for many of these young players to continue to excel. When I think back to entering the WNBA and being drafted by the Utah Starzz, it’s hard to forget the role the American Basketball League played in this story.

The ABL was really what brought me back home. When I graduated from Old Dominion in 1988, there was no professional women’s league in the United States. Playing overseas was our only option. So I packed my bags and I embarked on a professional career in Brazil. Soon enough, I was playing basketball in Rio de Janeiro, learning Portuguese, and sipping on coconuts every morning with my teammates. To leave that setting was difficult because I was in one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen in the world.

In Brazil, I met Val Whiting. She was part of the Stanford crew, and since the American Basketball League was headquartered in San Jose, Val had the lock on all the information. I remember her saying, “Hey, listen, this league is getting ready to start, and you’ll get the opportunity to go back home if you want to play.” I thought, “Wow, I guess I’m going to stay home this year.”

I can’t say enough great things about the American Basketball League. I really feel like “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” when I think of those years. And I feel the same way about Brazil — I left my heart there, too! Those two places were just absolutely phenomenal and opened the door for myself and so many other players. I don’t think the ABL ever gets enough glory.

Shortly after the ABL was formed, the NBA began creating the WNBA. During those years, what I remember most is the crazy media attention surrounding the WNBA. The WNBA commercials! There were so many dang commercials. And that was really because something new had arrived in women’s basketball: competition.

I was hesitant to leave the ABL because it was a very family-oriented league. The passion of our fan base was something I’ve never experienced before. But when the league folded in 1998, I decided it was time to move over to the WNBA.

I felt like Utah was a special place because, first of all, when I found out I was going there, I dropped to my knees and I started screaming something along the lines of: “Lord, you got jokes! Are you kidding me? Salt Lake? What’s even in Utah?”

After I went through that moment, Fred Williams called me and said, “Listen, I don’t know how the hell you dropped to the third round.” And to be honest, I was furious, too. I had heard from many different teams before the draft so I thought I might be going fifth or sixth overall. But then there’s always the politics that goes on behind the scenes. I really got hit with it. I feel like I was one of those players that always had to “kick in the door.”

With that being said, I get out to Utah and I decide that I’m just going to get to work. I became top three on the team in scoring that year, third in rebounding and second in assists, and I continued to consistently finish in the league’s top 10 in scoring. But more importantly, we all grinded up there. For three hard years, we accomplished more than anyone thought we could. We took that team to a new level and we brought the fans with us.

Looking back on our legacy, it can feel bittersweet at times. But from Natalie Williams to Margo Dydek, Debbie Black, Korie Hlede and myself, we laid the foundation for that team. That was our blood, sweat and tears.

I know we prayed so much in Utah and in San Antonio for our team, and you know what? God never let us fold! And maybe it was for all of this, so that we could build something so special with the Las Vegas Aces. So that nothing could ever tear us down.

Adrienne Goodson (“Goody”) is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. She played 14 years of professional basketball, including seven in the WNBA. A three-time All-Star in the pros and an NCAA champion, she was inducted into the Old Dominion Hall of Fame in 1999. She is the host of the podcast “A WNBA State of Mind with Adrienne Goodson.” Follow her on Twitter @agoody15_wnba.