Last week, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2018 inductees in San Antonio, the site of the NCAA Men’s Final Four. Three women are inductees in this year’s class: Tina Thompson, Katie Smith, and the late Ora Mae Washington. The Class of 2018 will be formally inducted on the weekend of September 6-8, 2018 in Springfield, Massachusetts. You can watch an ESPN video of the entire class above.
Tina Thompson is best known as the first draft pick in the WNBA’s history in 1997. In the WNBA, Thompson played for the Houston Comets (1997-2008); Los Angeles Sparks (2009-2011); and Seattle Storm (2012-13). She won four consecutive championships as part of the Comets’ dynasty in the WNBA’s early years. When she retired, Thompson was the all-time leading scorer in the WNBA. Her scoring record was ultimately broken by Diana Taurasi last season. Thompson also won two Olympic gold medals for Team USA in 2004 and 2008. She is now an assistant coach for the Texas Longhorns women’s basketball team.
Katie Smith is the other WNBA player in the class. She played 15 WNBA seasons from 1999-2013 where she spent time with the Minnesota Lynx (1999-2005); Detroit Shock (now the Dallas Wings) from 2006-2009; the Washington Mystics in 2010; the Seattle Storm in 2011-13; and the New York Liberty in 2013. Before her WNBA career started, Smith played two seasons for the ABL’s Columbus Quest. When her scoring numbers from the ABL and WNBA were combined, Smith retired as the all-time career scoring leader in women’s professional basketball history. Smith won two WNBA championships with the Shock in 2006 and 2008 and won three Olympic gold medals for Team USA in 2000, 2004, and 2008. After retiring, Smith spent three years with the Liberty as an assistant coach from 2014-17 and is now their head coach.
Ora Mae Washington isn’t a player who most know very well. She was born in 1898 and died in 1971. According to Claude Johnson of The Undefeated, Washington’s basketball career was during the 1930’s and 1940’s when she won 11 straight Colored Women’s Basketball World Championships and was regarded as “the Best Colored player in the world.” Back in the 1930’s, African Americans played in segregated leagues. Furthermore, women’s sports participation was discouraged, making Washington’s accomplishments that much more remarkable. Basketball wasn’t the only sport Washington excelled in. As a young child, she was a star tennis player and was already a well-known athlete within the African American media during the early 20th century.
Thompson, Smith, and Washington are part of a highly distinguished class. Here are the other inductees:
- Ray Allen, former NBA guard
- Maurice Cheeks, former NBA guard
- Lefty Driesell - former NCAA men’s basketball head coach at Davidson, Maryland, James Madison, and Georgia State.
- Grant Hill, former NBA guard
- Jason Kidd, former NBA guard
- Steve Nash, former NBA guard
- Charlie Scott, former ABA and NBA guard (inducted by the veterans committee)
- Rod Thorn, former NBA player, coach, and executive (inducted as a contributor)
- Rick Welts, NBA Team President/COO for the Golden State Warriors. He previously was the CEO of the Phoenix Suns and was the NBA’s Chief Marketing Officer in the late 1990’s. (inducted as a contributor)