“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,” Harris’ family said in a statement. The cause of her death is not yet known.
Harris, most known as the first and only woman drafted by an NBA team, shone on the court years before she was recruited. While a member of Delta State University’s basketball, she led the school to three consecutive Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) national championships from 1975-1977. She was also given the opportunity to play in the 1976 Olympics when women’s basketball was first introduced to the international event and helped the US team bring home a silver medal that year. Her basketball skills eventually caught the attention of the New Orleans Jazz, who drafted her in 1977.
Despite making history as the first woman to be drafted into the NBA, Lucy — who was pregnant at the time — turned down the offer to start a family with her husband and joined the Women’s Professional Basketball League in 1979-80. Her accomplishments were later honored as she was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999. Per Delta State, she still holds the record for the most points (2,891) and rebounds (1,662).
“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 family penned in a statement. “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.”
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