In the Mountaineer Christmas Classic, 38 years ago a moment in history worth a rewind took place. During a women’s college basketball game played at Elkin’s Randolph County Armory, against the University of Charleston (WV) on December 21, 1984, West Virginia University’s center Georgeann Wells forever inked her name in sports history. After receiving a pass from WVU point guard Lisa Ribble on a fastbreak, Wells exploded for a dunk. With that play, Wells became the first woman to ever record a dunk in an official basketball game. The Mountaineers would cruise to an easy 110-82 victory, but Wells’ historic highlight stole the show.
Wells dunk made her an overnight celebrity, making Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, USA Today, and the hallowed Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame to all took note of and honor her milestone accomplishment. Despite garnering national acclaim and recognition for her accomplishment, it was devalued slightly by the absence of video of the highlight; at least that was what was originally believed until over 25 years later when footage of the game was dug up by an author researching a book on the dunk’s larger cultural and societal significance. Making Wells feat even more impressive is the fact that following her dunk, no woman matched her achievement until 1994. Wells dunk still ranks among the most talked about highlights from a female basketball player.
While her highlight dunk largely came to overshadow her basketball career, to say that Wells was an accomplished player while donning the “old gold and blue” would be an understatement to say the least. A Columbus, Ohio native, Wells was a four-year letter winner for the Mountaineers basketball team. She immediately made an impact as a true freshman in 1983, averaging nearly 12 points a game and being named a Freshman All-American selection. As a sophomore in 1984, Wells was named to the Atlantic 10 second team all-conference team. In her final two season in 1985 and 1986, she took her game to the next level, being named to the first-team all-conference team both years. As a senior, she was named a Third-Team All-American selection. In her college career, she scored 1,484 points, pulled down 1,075 rebounds, and blocked a school record 436 shots. Following her time in Morgantown, Wells toured with the world-renowned Harlem Globetrotters before playing professionally overseas from 1986-2003.
Wells feat was pivotal moment in sports history and one that was unequaled for nearly a decade. Her dunk was more than just a mere phenomenal display of athleticism, it became a cultural touchstone. This moment spurred the further growth of the game of basketball by inspiring little girls to pick up the game and chase the dream of soaring to the rim. This moment in history evolved into something much larger than the game it occurred in or the player that made the play; something much more significant, an inspiration.