February 1, 2022
Playing in the name of Black history
Jordan Nixon reflects on the legacy and future of Black women in basketball
No team in the history of Texas A&M University women’s basketball has consisted solely of Black women since its conception in 1974-75.
Sitting in the green room located in the belly of Kyle Field filming our tribute to Black Excellence, Sydney Carter – an Aggie legend and former WNBA player – smiled as I mustered up a shocked “Really?”, in response to her sharing this fact.
In the 2021-22 season, I am a proud member of the first all black team in A&M history. Despite the time gap, it’s reminiscent of Ora Mae Washington’s Philadelphia Tribune Girls and the Chicago Romas back in 1931 — only the Romas played against both male and female teams, which is almost inconceivable now, and flaunted a six year winning streak after World War II. We’re not in a post-world war era, nor have this year’s Aggies had that kind of success. But we’re entering a new month, and there’s plenty more basketball for us to play.
May we play with the legacy and memory of Lusia Harris, the first woman to ever be drafted to the NBA – no, that isn’t a typo – and three-time national champion of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) in mind.
May we consider Lynette Woodard, the first woman to play for the Harlem Globetrotters, who played where no woman had before.
May we entertain and contribute to the appeal that led to the establishment and growth of the professional women’s game through the American Basketball League (ABL). It won’t be under the moniker of a perfect season like the 1995 Connecticut Huskies, nor the 1996 Olympic gold medal team, but nevertheless, we can honor our past.
Somewhere within the last 25 years since the NBA showed its support by commissioning its female counterpart, the initial eight teams that ignited women’s professional basketball in America, four more have sprouted, and the opportunities for young women to compete have exploded. There are now over 1,300 women’s basketball teams at 4-year colleges and over 500 Junior College teams across the country.
Every one of us, every college basketball player, have seen ourselves in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), or more colloquially known, the “W”. Even if the dream never comes to fruition, it’s the home of the fiercest women this game will ever see. Think Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes and Cynthia Cooper – who by the way graciously came to speak with us after our game versus her tenacious Texas Southern team. Or Maya Moore, Candace Parker and Tamika Catchings. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that or to even believe it possible? We look to them in the same way that Dawn Staley may have imagined herself hoisting up the national championship trophy, following the example of Carolyn Peck who became the first Black female head coach to cut down the nets following a national championship win on March 28, 1999.
So what’s it like playing throughout the month of February? It’s a privilege. It’s a privilege to play the game that unrelenting Black women past have handed to us. It’s a privilege to play in the name of those who endured for the love of the game. It’s a privilege to have another opportunity to be part of the inexorable force that is both Black and female. They crawled so we had a chance to walk and fall over and over again, taking a couple steps forward each time.
In this month, let us each be reminded of our love for the game, and the enumerable effort of those before us as we accept the challenge of growing out of their shoes. Let us carry in our minds the wisdom of Carolyn Peck when she said, “When I was described as the first, that meant there was going to be a second”, as we blaze new trails and continue on others.
This year’s team was the first team comprised entirely of Black women, and some point down the road, there will be a second.