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TSL Women’s History Month in Focus: Nancy Lieberman

This is part of The Shadow League’s Women’s History Month In Focus series celebrating excellence in sports, entertainment and culture.

In my opinion, the only instance of a perfectly functioning democracy that I have ever seen has been a well-coached, championship winning basketball team. i wouldn’t exactly call that the musing of a basketball puritanical, but rather a basketball extremist mindset.

I love watching winning basketball. Breaking down those principals and components, we find that certain players are like magnets to victory; wherever they go, winning follows not far behind like some basketball pheromone. Unfortunately, you can’t bottle this essence and spritz it. Because you have to be born with it. Nancy Lieberman was definitely born with it.

Yes, Lieberman’s skills were so nice that she was the youngest USA Basketball player of all time at 17 years old. She played two seasons in a men’s pro league, doing work I might add. So pure is her basketball pedigree, the Queens-born lady hooper even had ties to Harlem World, playing for the New York Chuckles AAU team during summer breaks.

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So ill were her skills, she won a Gold at the Pan Am Games of ’75, silver at the Pan Am Games of ’79, silver at the first women’s basketball Olympic competition in Montreal in ’76 and won gold at the ’79 World Championships in Seoul.

In between doing all that work internationally, she was killing at then-women’s basketball powerhouse Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, where she won the AIAW National Championships in ’79 and ’80, as well as a WNIT Championship in ’78.

She was also two-time women’s National Player of the Year. Her school record for assists still stands. She once posted a triple-double of 40 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists against Norfolk State as a sophomore.

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Listen, they ain’t call her Lady Magic for nothing. She was so good, and confident, that she dropped out of college to play basketball. That was unheard of then, and now, for women’s collegiate athletes. She played with the Dallas Diamonds of the WBL, and  in the USBL and played for the Washington Generals. Yes, those Washington Generals.

She was 39 years old during the WNBA’s inaugural season, but still showed flashes of greatness.

After a three-year stint as a General Manager and Head Coach for the Detroit Shock in the WNBA, Lieberman became an analyst at ESPN. I remember when she signed that seven-day contract with the Shock at the age of 50. She only had to assists, but it was worth seeing. 

In November of 2009, Lieberman became the coach of the Texas Legends in the NBA Development League, an affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks. In doing so, she became the first woman to coach a professional men’s basketball team.

She is currently a member of the Sacramento Kings coaching staff and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996, an honor which had become long overdue by that time.

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