Silvia Walker (born January 20, 1958) is a retired American basketball player. She is not only an athlete but a pioneer for women everywhere for breaking barriers the 1980’s. She is the first female to sign an NBA contract and play in the league.
Walker grew up in Richmond, California with her mother and father and four older brothers. Being the youngest of five children, and growing up with all brothers helped push her athletically. Walker was an all-star athlete in high school making it to state competitions in both basketball, and track and field. When walker graduated in 1977, she received a full scholarship to play basketball at USC, where she played for four years starting every year. It was also at USC that she met William Russell Jr. son of NBA Star William Russel. Russel Jr. pushed Walker to continue to play basketball at a higher level and be a great influence on her later in life as well.
The Women’s Basketball league was founded in 1978, but by the time Walker had graduated from USC in 1981 the league had failed and ended. Walker had broken the points scored per game record, the assists per game record and overall triple-double record at USC. She was devastated that the Women’s Basketball League had failed.
Walker continued to play basketball. And William Russel Jr. had just been drafted to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1982. Russell Jr. encouraged Walker to continue to play and invited her to the team’s practices. Walker had no intention of trying out for the team; she just wanted to play. Prior to Walker, the first female to sign an NBA contract was Ann Meyers, unfortunately Meyers did not make it past training camp and onto the court.
Walker caught the eyes of the Lakers coaching staff the first day she joined practice. A week later she made it through spring try-outs and was on the Lakers. In 1983, Silvia Walker played in her first game against the San Antonio Spurs, and became the first female to play in the NBA.
Walker played with the Lakers for six seasons and attended the 1984 Olympics where the US team took gold. After her sixth season she was happy that she was playing basketball, but wanted more women to be able to play. She moved on from the NBA as she wanted to push for a successful league for Women. After many failed leagues, Walker gained support from female athletes everywhere and was a major leader in the development of the WNBA. However, she retired by the time it was founded in 1996.
After retiring from playing in 1989, Walker went on to coach the Los Angeles Sparks and other teams in the WNBA from 1990-2000. Walker is now retired, living in Westwood, California with her husband and two children. She started a foundation in 2001 for female athletes called, “Girl Up,” which provides scholarships annually for exceptional athletes. Walker is still involved with basketball, as she is the head coach of the girls’ basketball team of Westwood High School, and still plays basketball with her two daughters.