Lusia Harris, Only Woman Drafted By An NBA Team, Dies At 66
The Queen is dead!
Lusia Harris, the only woman to be officially drafted by an NBA team and the subject of the 2021 film The Queen of Basketball, died Tuesday.
Harris, who scored the first points in women’s basketball history at the Olympics, was 66.
“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 today in Mississippi,” her 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.”
Harris was drafted by the New Orleans Jazz in the seventh round in 1977 but was pregnant at the time and didn’t try out. The San Francisco Warriors had tried to draft Denise Long in 1969, but the league blocked it because she didn’t meet the criteria, partly because of her gender.
Harris led Delta State University to three straight national titles in the 1970s and earned a silver medal for the U.S. at the Montreal Olympics in 1976.
She averaged 25.9 points and 14.4 rebounds at Delta State with a 109-6 record. She remains the school’s all-time scoring (2,981 points) and rebounding (1,662) leader. Harris was named to the U.S. women’s team in 1975; the following year, women’s basketball made its Olympic debut and she scored the first points in the first game.
She was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992—the first black woman to earn that honor—and later enshrined into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.
“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,” the statement said.