Contrary to popular belief, the Tulsa Shock was not Oklahoma’s first women’s professional basketball team. The Miami-based Oklahoma Cougars own the distinction, as told in The Vision.
“By the grace of God, we were the first successful league.” WBA founder Lightning Ned Michell said. “The big thing was playing in spring and summer. That was the key. All the others that had come played during the regular basketball season.”
As popularity rose, the WBA was featured in an article in the Kansas City Star Magazine.
Just like all the players in the league, the hometown Kansas City Mustangs were shown as normal, everyday women—with daily class schedules and jobs, but whom also played professional basketball on the court at night.
As part of their promotional/marketing efforts, each season would feature game and league rosters that kept both new and veteran fans informed about their favorite teams on the court.
On the basketball court, speed and defense make the difference whether you win or lose. Off the court, the women who made up the Women’s Basketball Association showed their passion and love of the game in a different way to their fan base.
Very much like those of the NBA and other basketball leagues, the WBA also distributed player cards for its fan base. Kids and adults alike could collect and trade popular women’s basketball player cards with each other to grow their collections.
In the 1995 WBA All-Star game, the National conference rallied for an 89-67 victory over the rival American conference in Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium. Forward Ronda Lauderdale of the Memphis Blues had made successive three-point shots to pull the trailing Nationals ahead in the second half—she finished with a game-high 18 points and won the game’s MVP award.
Hailed as one of the most exciting and newest professional sports teams in town, the Chicago Twisters of the Women’s Basketball Association made its home debut in 1995. Playing in DePaul’s Alumni Hall, the Twisters defeated the Kentucky Marauders 135-105 to improve to 3-0. At that time, they were the city’s first women’s professional basketball team since the Chicago Hustle folded in the early 1980s.
In what was the WBA’s final season, the St. Louis River Queens fared well against most of their opponents—except the Chicago Twisters. The heated rivalry would continue all the way through the 1995 season to the league’s title contest, where they would ultimately fall 107-96.
The Kansas City Mustangs went undefeated in their second WBA season with an 15-0 record. Considering they received $50 every two weeks during the season, their determination and passion shows that they played for the love of the game, not the money.
The Oklahoma Cougars was one of the six original teams of the Women’s Basketball League (Crusaders, Knights, Unicorns, Express and Mustangs). Its nine-player roster, like many professional basketball teams, consisted of all-stars and fan favorites.
The WBA played three full seasons with plans to play as a 12-team league in 1997. The league was the first American professional women’s basketball league to be successful as a summer league, like its future counterpart the WNBA. The WBA acronym was first used for the All-Star tour that began in 1992.
Becky Inman-Han (left) drives toward the basket against Oklahoma’s Lynn Page (right). Inman-Han, a Chesterton graduate, tallied 15 points for the Indiana Stars in one of the fifteen games that were scheduled for the Women’s Basketball Association.