The 5 Most Influential Black Female Sports Figures
In celebration of Women’s History Month, I wanted to recognize my 5 most influential Black Female sports figures. It’s predictable that when a little brown girl tries out for a sport, likened to her male counterparts, statistics show that young boys chasing their dreams of being successful can actually grow up to be multi-million-dollar ballers are low but they are even lower for young girls. The five women I chose kicked down doors as well as the current stars who are strutting down those already burnt trails for black female athletes.
Some of the Most Influential Black Female Sports Figures Ever
The most dominant player in tennis (both male & female) grew up in Compton, CA, and rose from phenom to fashion nova, to mother and along the way won 23 Grand Slam titles and four Olympic gold medals. Williams is often referred to as the GOAT of tennis and is often referred to by the media as the “Queen of the Court.” In 2014, she was named America’s Greatest Athlete by The New Yorker. She has been ranked World No. 1 in singles on numerous occasions en route to winning 6 U.S. Opens and 5 Wimbledon championships. Serena failed to drop a single set and she played the entire 2017 Australian Open, while two months pregnant.
Florence “Flo Jo” Griffith Joyner
Florence Griffith Joyner burst onto the scene at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Her career started to skyrocket in 1985 when she won the 100M at the IAAF Grand Prix Final with a time of 11.00 seconds. “Flo Jo” solidified her legend at the 1988 Summer Games, where she captured three gold medals and a silver. Griffith-Joyner set records in the 100M and 200M and those records still stand today. She doubled as a style and cultural icon, as she was known for her custom bodysuits along with her famous 6-inch nails became staples of “the fastest woman in the world.” Unfortunately, she passed away from an epileptic seizure in 1998.
Simone Biles won 10 gold (all-around, floor, balance beam, team), two silver (vault), and two bronze (balance beam, vault) medals at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships from 2013 to 2015. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Biles dominated. She became the most decorated American gymnast (male or female) of all-time winning four Olympic gold medals and one bronze. In 2018, she took it up a level by becoming the most decorated gymnast in world championship history. Simone dominated and won gold in all four events.
Biles became the first gymnast ever to land a double-double dismount on a balance beam in competition and she is the first woman to land a triple-twist, double-flip on the floor. Simone is also credited with a movie named after her when she successfully landed a double backflip with two twists which is officially called “the Biles.” She was named by ESPN the Magazine’s “Most Dominant Athlete” of 2018.
Cheryl Miller was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995. In 1999, she was inducted into the inaugural class of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. Then, on August 20, 2010, Miller was also inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame for her success in international play. Miller was the first player, male or female, to be named an All-American by Parade magazine four times. Also, while a senior in high school, she scored 105 points in a game against Norte Vista High School. At the University of Southern California (USC), she led the Trojans to a 112–20 record and NCAA titles in 1983 and 1984 (was named NCAA Tournament MVP both years).
Miller would go on to win Gold medals at the 1983 Pan American Games, the 1984 Summer Olympics, and the inaugural Goodwill Games in July 1986. Cheryl was drafted by several professional basketball leagues, including the United States Basketball League, a men’s league. She is currently entering her third season as the head of women’s basketball at California State Los Angeles.
C. Vivian Stringer
C. Vivian Stringer is currently the head coach of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team where she arrived back in 1995. Stringer is the first coach in NCAA history to lead three different women’s programs to the NCAA Final Four (Rutgers in 2000 & 2007), (the University of Iowa in 1993), and (Cheyney State College in 1982). She was honored as the Naismith College Coach of the Year for women’s basketball in 1993.
Stringer was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 and enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. On February 26, 2013, Stringer won her 900th game, becoming only the fifth coach in women’s basketball history to reach this mark. In 2018, she won her 1,000th game as Rutgers coach, making her the first Black, as well as black female college basketball coach to win 1,000 games.
The U.S. Sports Academy decided to name its annual women’s coaching award in her honor, The C. Vivian Stringer Medallion Award of Sport for Women’s Coaching was handed out for the first time in July 2002. Stringer was recognized by Sports Illustrated as one of the “101 Most Influential Minorities in Sports.”
With style and grace, these ladies dominated their fields. However, they are not just role models to little brown girls but kids in general. I have grown up marveling at Florence Griffith-Joyner, Cheryl Miller, and C. Vivian Stringer. As an adult, I have watched Serena Williams and Simone Biles personify black excellence. Thank you ladies for what you have done on and off the field. And, for showing us what greatness looks like!
Levanstian “Lee” Brown for Thread Head Media
LeeKeysNEvanRT (Real Talk) Podcast on Blog Talk Radio