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…

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.
  • Arkansas archeologist does his job, is asked to leave

    Amid Department of Arkansas Heritage project.

Latest in Cover Stories

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

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 31

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments


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