January 18, 2022 

How Lusia Harris transformed women’s basketball

Honoring the legacy of a women's basketball giant

Before there were dominant post players like Lisa Leslie, Brittney Griner and Sylvia Fowles, there was one that towered above all the rest. Center Lusia “Lucy” Harris, who died this week, is the blueprint for the modern center in women’s basketball.

Harris was simply dominant. She led Delta State to three consecutive AIAW championships (1975, 1976 and 1977), tied with Immaculata for the most AIAW championships of any college. During each of those title runs, Harris was named MVP of the AIAW national tournament. She finished her college career with a remarkable 2,981 points (25.9 ppg) and 1,662 rebounds (14.4 rpg). As a senior, she was awarded the Honda Broderick Cup as the best collegiate athlete in any sport.

“Lucy Harris was the trademark for how centers should play,” Hall of Famer Ann Meyers-Drysdale told The Next.

Trailblazer

In addition to a dominant collegiate career, Lusia also made history in international basketball. Harris earned a gold medal as a member of the 1975 U.S. Pan American Team that competed in Mexico City. The following year, Harris scored the first-ever basket in Olympic women’s basketball history. Harris would go on to lead the 1976 U.S. Olympic team in both scoring (15.0 ppg) and rebounding (7.0 rpg) en route to a silver medal.

In 1977, Lusia made history again. With the 137th pick of the 1977 NBA draft, the New Orleans Jazz selected Harris as the first-ever woman to be drafted to the NBA. While she never reported to training camp or played with the team, she remains the only woman ever to be officially drafted by an NBA team. She would eventually play for the Houston Angels of the Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL), a professional women’s basketball league that lasted from 1978-1981.

In 1992, Lusia became the first Black woman inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. She is also a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and several other Halls including the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

Lusia is a giant of women’s basketball. The sport mourns her passing and celebrates her incredible legacy.

Written by Tee Baker

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