Wed, 25 May 2022

Basketball pioneer Lusia Harris dies at 66

Field Level Media
20 Jan 2022, 07:19 GMT+10

Basketball Hall of Famer Lusia Harris has died. She was 66.

Harris' family said she died in Mississippi on Tuesday. No cause of death was revealed.

Harris is the only woman to be officially selected in the NBA draft. The New Orleans Jazz picked her in 1977, but part of the reason she didn't try out for the Jazz was because she was pregnant.

"We are deeply saddened to share the news that our angel, matriarch, sister, mother, grandmother, Olympic medalist, The Queen of Basketball, Lusia Harris has passed away unexpectedly in Mississippi," Harris' family said in a statement. "The recent months brought Ms. Harris great joy, including the news of the upcoming wedding of her youngest son and the outpouring of recognition received by a recent documentary that brought worldwide attention to her story.

"She will be remembered for her charity, for her achievements both on and off the court, and the light she brought to her community, the state of Mississippi, her country as the first woman ever to score a basket in the Olympics, and to women who play basketball around the world."

Harris, a native of Minter City, Miss., led Delta State to three straight national championships from 1975-77 when the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women oversaw the sport. She was a three-time All-American.

When women's basketball debuted in the 1976 Olympics, Harris scored the first basket of the Montreal Games in a contest against Japan. The U.S. won the silver medal.

After her college eligibility was complete, the 6-foot-3 Harris was selected in the seventh round (137th overall pick) by the Jazz. The draft was eight rounds at the time.

She recently detailed her thoughts on being picked last year in "The Queen of Basketball," a short documentary about her life and career.

"I just thought it was a publicity stunt and I felt like I didn't think I was good enough," Harris said in the film. "So I decided not to go. Yeah, I said no to the NBA. I don't regret not going. Not even a little bit."

Harris was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.

--Field Level Media

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