Without the All American Red Heads, there would be no WNBA 

The Arkansas-rooted professional team showed the world that women belong in basketball.

Page 6 of 7

The players were paid about $500 a month. At 40-hour weeks, this would have fallen at least $40 short of minimum wage. In 1997 the WNBA debuted a new era of women's basketball — one that is lipstick free and champions MVPs, slam-dunks and players measuring nearly 7 feet. The All American Red Heads were a relic, revered as pioneers by scholars and the players they influenced but long-removed from America's household vernacular.

When the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame opened in Knoxville in 1999, it included a Red Heads exhibit, complete with the team's trademark white limousine. But the Red Heads didn't truly rediscover the limelight until historian John Molina found a photo of his grandmother's 1934 J.B. Williams soap factory team, became fascinated with women's basketball and took up the Red Heads' cause. He has amassed the largest collection of Red Heads memorabilia, and shows it all over the country, including the NCAA championships. He first nominated the Red Heads for Naismith in 2006, but it took until 2012 for the team to make it. Molina didn't mind that he had to apply six times. "Considering how little information there was on the All American Red Heads just 10 years ago, to have gone from relative obscurity to the pinnacle of the basketball world is amazing," he said. Shortly after the induction ceremony in Springfield, Mass., the New York Times published an article on the Red Heads.

And make-up or not, in the footage that exists, the Red Heads play as a mechanically precise unit. They dart around opponents, pop the ball off hips and forearms, pass behind their back more often than not and shoot with dead accuracy. Their tricks are so clean that by the time the other team realizes what's happened, the Red Heads are on to the next play.

Vivian Stringer, the Rutgers women's basketball coach, was on the Naismith selection committee. "They were so skilled, and at a time when so many people thought we as women couldn't handle the ball without passing out. ... We all owe them our gratitude for paving the way for us," she said.

Another of Moore's favorite sayings: "If you can't play good basketball, you better stay home."

Sept. 7, 2012. About 80 Red Heads and a few coaches crowd the Springfield stage inside the giant silver dome, stacking three deep. Most of them are gray-headed and modestly dressed in black or royal blue, but several reddish-orange Clairol-heads bob among the gray.

In the crowd, Coach Stringer snaps dozens of pictures. Right now, she's not just the coach with the third highest number of wins in women's basketball history, she's an excited fan, overcome with the gravity of legacy.

A middle-aged blonde woman in a strapless blue gown steps away from the pack. She slides down the reading glasses perched atop her head and speaks into the mic. She's nervous, thanking the class of 2002 rather than 2012. Her voice wavers and she loses her place a few times, but behind her, award presenter Julius Erving and her extended family of Red Heads stand patiently. Only once does Tammy Harrison Moore's face nearly crumple. "My father never gave up on the idea that the All American Red Heads would someday reach his goal of being enshrined into the Naismith Hall of Fame. He knew this was the definitive honor in the game of basketball," she read. She presses her lips together tightly, holding back the rush of emotion — her father had died in 2009, three years before the nomination stuck. Then, as quickly as a Red Head on the court, she regains her composure. "We thank you for recognizing the work of the All American Red Heads and celebrating our part in the great game of basketball," she finishes. Behind her, there are a lot of fast blinkers.


Speaking of...

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by Cheree Franco

Readers also liked…

  • Casting out demons: why Justin Harris got rid of kids he applied pressure to adopt

    Rep. Justin Harris blames DHS for the fallout related to his adoption of three young girls, but sources familiar with the situation contradict his story and paint a troubling picture of the adoption process and the girls' time in the Harris household.
    • Mar 12, 2015
  • Ruth Coker Burks, the cemetery angel

    In the darkest hour of the AIDS epidemic, Ruth Coker Burks cared for hundreds of people whose families had abandoned them. Courage, love and the 30-year secret of one little graveyard in Hot Springs. 
    • Jan 8, 2015
  • A child left unprotected

    State Rep. Justin Harris and his wife adopted a young girl through the state Department of Human Services. How did she, six months later, end up in the care of a man who sexually abused her?
    • Mar 5, 2015

Most Shared

  • Defense for Suhl asks judge to dismiss bribery indictment, citing Supreme Court decision in McDonnell case

    Attorneys for the businessman argue that his cash payments to a former deputy director of DHS, Steven Jones, did not constitute corruption. They say prosecutors cannot prove the money was given in exchange for any particular "official act" from Jones.
  • Nursing home bribery case details suspect judicial fund-raising

    Plaintiffs' lawyers made their case today to continue to trial with the civil suit over then-Judge Mike Maggio's reduction of a $5.2 million jury verdict in a nursing home negligence case to $1 million, a reduction he said he made in return for campaign contributions from the nursing home's owner.
  • Arkansas Heirloom Tomatoes at Edwards Food Giant for the Fourth of July weekend

    We are receiving 200-pounds of large heirloom tomatoes Friday morning from Times publisher and farmer Alan Leveritt. We have dark, brick red Carbons, Goldies (large, high acid golden tomatoes) and Annis Noire, a delicious French heirloom that is green with red marbling when ripe.
  • When America was great

    Donald Trump is right. There was a time when America was great and it didn't pussyfoot around to avoid offending people who thought they were victimized by discrimination. It was, let's see, the period after World War II, when everyone prospered and America was kicking butts, at home and abroad, and Arkansas's leaders were at the center of it.
  • Resistance grows nationally to freeway expansions

    The U.S. Public Interest Research Group has issued a news release about freeway expansion with relevance in Little Rock. It's about wasting money to widen freeways that only create more congestion. Sound familiar?

Latest in Cover Stories

Event Calendar

« »


  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments


© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation