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Bigger mission drives Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame class

The 6 WBHOF Inductees honored the tireless work of their predecessors in providing equality in athletics and encouraged friends and family to continue that work on the court and beyond. 

KNOXVILLE, TN- Tonight, the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame 2017 Induction Ceremony took place at the historic Tennessee Theatre in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. Home of the legendary Pat Summitt, Knoxville holds sentimental value as the location of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

In fact, the ceremony for the 2017 inductees began tonight with a video tribute to the late Coach Summitt, in which she stated, “Basketball is not about championships. It is about relationships.”

Summitt’s mentality could not have been illustrated any clearer tonight at the WBHOF Ceremony. The Tennessee Theater was filled with a community of people who have dedicated their lives to seeing women’s basketball grow and prosper. The heart of the inductees and their supporters was something inductee Coach Rick Insell could only describe as “it”- a passion for women’s basketball so strong that it simply could not be put into words.

The energy within the theater was inexplicable, as well. As each inductee took the stage for their speeches, fans and family came to their feet and filled the theater with the sound of roaring applause. All people, whether they were inductees, family, friends, or simply fans, were all joined together by the shared appreciation for the sport and the women and men who came before and pioneered the development of the game.

Inductee Kara Wolters recognized the hard work of her predecessors, as well as the continued commitment to unity in women’s basketball during her speech: “[Women’s basketball] is not about rivalry,” said Wolters. “It is more about sisterhood. It’s about working for the greater good, for something bigger than ourselves—and that is to grow the game of women’s basketball.”

Wolters continued to speak of the immense opportunities that women’s basketball offers to young girls across the nation. The mother of two daughters, Wolters firmly believes in spreading hope and encouragement to all girls.

She inspired girls in the audience of the theater to always dream big and to believe in themselves, despite any doubters. “I want to show all of the little girls the opportunities they can get,” she said, “just by putting a ball in a basket.”

Just as Wolters emphasized the importance of providing athletic opportunity to young women, inductee Christine Grant recalled the significance of the passing of Title IX in the 1970s, which states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

As a founding member of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, Grant has been nothing short of incredibly instrumental in the fight for women’s equality in sports.

Yet, in her speech, Grant challenged the audience to look beyond equality in athletics and towards equality in all aspects of society. “Imagine all we could no if we recognized the talents of all women and all minorities,” she said before ending her speech by citing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

The night concluded with the singing of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame song, “The Dream” by vocalist Evelyn Jack. As she sang, 30 young girls and aspiring female athletes invited to the event by the Hall of Fame’s title sponsor, Eastman Company, filmed the artist on their phones so that they could always remember the lyrics she so proudly sang:

“She had to try a little harder

She had to reach a little higher

She had to run a little faster

She had to walk through the fire

She had to be a little stronger

She had to pray a little longer

Cause nothing is impossible it seems

When a little girl starts to dream.”

Tonight, the dreams of Sally Bell, Christine Grant, Rick Insell, Lousie O’Neal, Sheryl Swoopes, and Kara Wolters were realized as they were inducted into the WBHOF Class of 2017. Through their words and actions, they have continued the tireless work of those before them to provide a platform for generations to come to see their dreams realized, as well.