Last year, Ohio State basketball alumnus Katie Smith was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and nominated to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In women’s basketball, Katie Smith is nothing short of a legend.
Born in Logan, Ohio, in 1974, Smith began playing basketball in 5th grade and enrolled at The Ohio State University in 1992. In her first season playing basketball for the Buckeyes, the team played its way to the NCAA championship game, and Smith was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Sports Illustrated National Freshman of the Year, and a member of the Kodak All-American first team.
Katie Smith plays for the Ohio State University in this 1993 image. Photo: The Ohio State University Libraries
By the end of her Buckeye career in 1996, Smith was the leading scorer in Big-Ten women’s basketball history. In 2001, Ohio State honored her as the first female Buckeye athlete to have her jersey number retired. It now hangs on a banner above Value City Arena.
A Superstar at Every Level
After graduating from Ohio State, Smith played professional basketball in the American Basketball League (ABL) until 1999, when she joined the Minnesota Lynx in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). In 2006, she became the only player to win championships with both the ABL and WNBA. She would eventually win WNBA championships in 2006 and 2008.
Smith spent 15 years playing in the WNBA and was a seven-time All-Star. In the history of women’s professional basketball (WNBA and ABL), Smith is the all-time leading scorer with 7,885 career points. In 2016, the WNBA voted her one of its top-20 most influential players ever.
Internationally, Smith helped the United States earn gold medals in the 2000, 2004, and 2008 Olympics. She also led her team to gold at the 1998 and 2002 World Championships.
Always Learning — And Giving Back
Despite her success on the court, Smith never lost her focus on her education; during her college career at Ohio State, Smith studied to become a dentist like her father. While she never pictured herself coaching, Smith couldn’t leave the sport she loved behind. She joined Ohio State’s women’s basketball coaching staff while also earning a master’s degree in allied health professions. In 2014, she joined the staff of the WNBA’s New York Liberty as an assistant coach, and in October 2017, she was named the team’s head coach.
Advancing women’s basketball is a major motivator for Smith. In 2018, she told OSU Alumni Magazine, “I think that’s partly why I want to coach, for the women. I feel like I need to help the women’s basketball game. I feel like it has given me so much that I need to give back.”
Smith speaks at the induction ceremony for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on September 7, 2018. Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Katie Smith’s legacy in Ohio and beyond is one of a woman who worked hard at the sport she loved created an unexpected and exemplary career.
The world of women’s professional sports and the state of Ohio will be watching, waiting to cheer on the next chapter.