Before there was the Women’s National Basketball Association, the Women’s Professional Basketball League made headlines as the first major competition for female basketballers in the country.
This weekend, the entire league will become the ninth team or organization to be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee. On Saturday, these “Trailblazers of the game” will receive much-deserved recognition for their contributions to the beloved sport of basketball.
Former players from the Northern Arizona women’s basketball program will be on hand at the induction. This includes Peggy Kennedy, who was welcomed into the NAU Hall of Fame in 1984. She played one season in the WBL and will join nearly 100 other pioneer players at the event.
Although the WBL was around for just three seasons from 1978-1981, the league played a crucial role in the sport’s overall growth and success. Now, women’s basketball is more popular than ever before, and the contributions of the WBL laid the foundation for it all.
Kennedy rounded out her time at NAU in 1979 as the Lumberjacks’ career leader in points and rebounds. Sally Coughanour, who once worked as the Sports Information Director at NAU, helped Kennedy make her way into the 1979 WBL Draft prior to the league’s second season. The Chicago Hustle selected Kennedy in the 10th and final round, but she spent only part of her season in the Windy City before being traded to the Milwaukee Does.
That year, Kennedy and four other players from the Intermountain Conference, which NAU played in at the time, made it to the league. During its three season, the league welcomed notable players and WBHOF inductees like Nancy Lieberman, Muffet McGraw, Carol Blazejowski and Anny Meyers Drysdale, among many more.