Lusia Harris, Only Woman Officially Selected in NBA Draft, Dies at Age 66

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 19, 2022

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 10: Ben Proudfoot, Gabe Godol, Lusia Harris and Brandon Somerhalder attend the 2021 Tribeca Festival Premiere Shorts: "Go Big" at Hudson Yards on June 10, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Tribeca Festival)
Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Tribeca Festival

Lusia Harris, who was the only woman ever officially drafted into the NBA in 1977, died unexpectedly Tuesday. She was 66.

"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," her family said in a statement.

Harris never played a game in the NBA, turning down the opportunity after the New Orleans Jazz selected her in the seventh round of the 1977 NBA draft. It was later revealed she was pregnant at the time.

When she was told in Mississippi she had been drafted by the Jazz, she responded: "Drafted by a men's team?"

The three-time All-American at Delta State also was the first woman ever to score a basket at the Olympics, helping the United States win a silver medal at the inaugural women's tournament in 1976 at the Montreal Games. Hall of Famers Nancy Lieberman, Ann Meyers and Pat Summitt were also on that team.

Natalie Pierre @NataliePierre_

There are many things I appreciated about my time at Delta State. Having the opportunity to learn of and truly appreciate all that Lusia Harris was, easily one of my favorite parts.<br><br>RIP to "The Queen of Basketball.” Thank you. <a href="https://t.co/Kc1ifhS6nC">https://t.co/Kc1ifhS6nC</a>

Cindy Brunson @CindyBrunsonAZ

Thank you for EVERYTHING! Rest easy queen πŸ™πŸ½ Lusia Harris, trailblazing basketball Hall of Famer &amp; only woman officially drafted by NBA team, dies at 66. <a href="https://t.co/ctEYnTBAkK">https://t.co/ctEYnTBAkK</a>

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

She was the subject of 2021's The Queen of Basketball, a short film that showcased her basketball career and achievements.