Lusia Harris, who became the only woman to be officially drafted by an NBA team and scored the first points in women’s basketball history at the Olympics, died Tuesday, her family announced. She 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,” the 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, who died in her native Mississippi, was drafted by the New Orleans Jazz in the seventh round in 1977, but didn’t try out for the team because she was pregnant at the time. The San Francisco Warriors tried to draft Denise Long in 1969, but the NBA blocked it because she didn’t meet the criteria to be drafted — in part because of her gender.
Harris helped Delta State University win three straight national titles in the 1970s and earned a silver medal for the United States at the Montreal Olympics in 1976.
Harris was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992 as the first Black woman to earn that honor. She was later enshrined into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.