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Caitlin Clark's scoring record reveals legacies of Lynette Woodard and Pearl Moore

Lynette Woodard, pictured circa 1990, scored 3,649 points for the University of Kansas and went on to play professionally and for Team USA.
Tony Duffy
Getty Images
Lynette Woodard, pictured circa 1990, scored 3,649 points for the University of Kansas and went on to play professionally and for Team USA.

All eyes were on Caitlin Clark as she set a new all-time scoring record in NCAA women's basketball on Thursday night. Her overall scoring record, which now grows with each remaining game of Clark's college career, easily surpassed the previous mark of 3,527 points.

The Iowa Hawkeyes senior uses deep shooting, creative drives and tight handles to consistently threaten opposing defenses.

Clark has many reasons to be proud of breaking the scoring record of Kelsey Plum, who played for the University of Washington and is now a WNBA champion with the Las Vegas Aces. But there are some legends missing from this story — basketball players Lynette Woodard and Pearl Moore.

Woodard starred for University of Kansas in the late 1970s and early 1980s – and she scored 3,649 points over four years.

So why isn't Woodard the all-time scoring leader? After all, more points is more points.

Well, Woodard played at a time before the NCAA recognized women's collegiate sports. Statistics from non-NCAA associations "are not currently included in NCAA record books, regardless of gender," an NCAA spokesperson said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.

Amid the conversation around Woodard's scoring record, some are also arguing that Woodard, could also be women's college basketball's forgotten GOAT (greatest of all-time).

Woodard became a two-time Olympian, winning gold as the captain of Team USA at the 1984 Games. She also joined the Harlem Globetrotters as their first female member. After playing overseas, she even came out of retirement to play for the brand-new WNBA. In other words, Woodard blazed a trail that modern women's basketball players are now following.

In a statement provided to NPR, Woodard wrote: "In honoring Caitlin's accomplishments, I hope that we can also shine a light on the pioneers who paved the way before her. Women's basketball has a glorious history that predates the NCAA's involvement. I applaud Caitlin for everything she has done and look forward to watching her score many more points for years to come."

Lynette Woodard plays for Team USA at the Goodwill Games in August 1990.
Tony Duffy / Getty Images
Getty Images
Lynette Woodard plays for Team USA at the Goodwill Games in August 1990.

Woodard's legacy isn't the only one being resurfaced regarding women's basketball greats. The college scoring record of an even lesser-known basketball star, Pearl Moore, should last even longer.

Moore played for Francis Marion College in the late 1970s, and scored even more buckets than Woodard. Moore's record of 4,061 points has stood for decades in women's college basketball. And because Francis Marion isn't a Division I school, its sports records have received much less attention. But Moore was recognized as a four-time Small College All American, going on to play professionally for the New York Stars and the St. Louis Streak. Both teams were part of the short-lived Women's Professional Basketball League.

In a recent interview, the four-time college All-American said she's excited for Caitlin Clark to potentially break the non-NCAA scoring records.

"Records were made to be broken. And I'm thinking about let's say Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James, and I think it was about 40 years between LeBron's like 38 and that record last for like 30 years," Moore said. "And I finished college at 22 and I'm 66 now, so that records like 40 years, so records are made to be broken and if she does it, good for her."

With renewed attention on scoring records, numerous women's basketball legend are now weighing in on the overlooked accomplishments of players such as Woodard and Moore. Just days after surpassing Duke's Mike Krzyzewski to become the all-time coaching wins leader in college basketball, Stanford's Tara VanDerveer shared her view on the topic with The Wall Street Journal.

"I think the overall record by Lynette Woodard is THE RECORD," VanDerveer wrote. She added that Woodard scored all of her points before the 3-point line was even added to the court.

None of the conversation around which record should be recognized is to take away from the accomplishments of Caitlin Clark. She's a senior at Iowa, so she's expected to soon make a big splash in the WNBA, inspiring new generations of women's basketball players to shoot their own shot at the record books.

But as women's basketball rapidly evolves, it's good to look to the future, while never forgetting the accomplishments of the players of the past.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: February 15, 2024 at 11:00 PM CST
An earlier version of this story mistakenly referred to the Iowa Hawkeyes as the Iowa Buckeyes.
Devan Schwartz
Devan Schwartz is an editor for NPR's Morning Edition. He is an experienced audio professional who, in addition to his work with NPR, has worked with such organizations as BBC, Slate, the New York Times, and various public radio stations.