The history of women’s professional basketball in the US pre-dates the modern-day WNBA by at least two decades, when inveterate pro sports entrepreneur Bill Byrne launched the Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL) in 1978. Taking cultural cues from the Equal Rights Amendment movement, the adoption of Title IX, Billie Jean King’s landmark victory in tennis’ “Battle of the Sexes,” and a surprisingly strong showing by the US women’s squad in the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics, Byrne hustled his way into forming an odds-defying circuit that ultimately lasted three seasons with franchises that stretched from New York to San Francisco. The first person to sign with the fledgling league also became its most prolific scorer and reliable public relations attraction – “Machine Gun” Molly Bolin. Nicknamed by a reporter for her dazzling shooting ability (with multiple records that still stand today), the since-remarried Molly Kazmer lit up the WBL both on and off the court with equal parts athletic prowess and sexy femininity – becoming one of the true pioneers of the women’s professional game in the process.
Kazmer joins host Tim Hanlon to discuss some of the more memorable moments in her remarkable career in the WBL and beyond, including:
- The unique playing style of Iowa high school basketball that uniquely prepared her for breakout success in the collegiate and pro ranks;
- The public relations spectacle of signing her first pro contract in the Iowa governor’s office;
- The wild ride (often on a bus nicknamed the “Corn Dog”) of the Iowa Cornets;
- Life as the “poster child” of the WBL;
- The double-standard of being a female athlete in modern society; AND
- How the success of today’s WNBA sends mixed signals to the original WBL pioneers whose work set the stage for the modern pro game.