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Nancy Lieberman says Sue Bird, Megan Rapinoe are ‘living the dream’

(Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Basketball trailblazer Nancy Lieberman stopped by the most recent episode of “Off the Looking Glass” and spoke with hosts Kate Fagan and Jessica Smetana about the evolution of women’s sports since her playing days.

At approximately the 26:20 mark of the podcast, Lieberman says she recently had a conversation with friend and former girlfriend Martina Navratilova about the cultural changes around LGBTQ+ acceptance in women’s sports.

“Everybody looks at [Sue] Bird and Megan [Rapinoe], and they can live their life and be who they organically are,” Lieberman said. “And we caught so much s–t in like 1980-81 because everybody was like, ‘Holy crap’. [Now] people are like, ‘Oh my gosh, talk about a power couple.’”

Lieberman, 63, went on to discuss the difficulties surrounding her relationship with Navratilova in the 1980s. Their celebrities at the time, she says, only exacerbated the issues; Navratilova was at the height of her tennis career and Lieberman was fresh off of a dominant four years at Old Dominion, where she became the first two-time winner of the Wade Trophy, an award given to the best player in women’s college basketball.

In 1981, Navratilova came out as bisexual in an interview with the New York Daily News. Soon after, she and Lieberman discussed the negative public perception of their decision to move in together in an interview with the Dallas Morning News. In it, Lieberman identified as straight.

“It was so difficult to lie and to hide, because of acceptance back in the early ‘80s,” she told Fagan and Smetana. “And we look here and we’re like, ‘How cool is that for them? They have no clue. They’re just living the dream.’ But that’s where our country has gone to in an amazing way.”

Lieberman also discussed the growth of women’s sports and how it’s allowed for diversity to flourish in leagues like the WNBA.

“It was a difficult time for a lot of women,” she said. “There was a pie, but the pie was so small. I had the majority of that pie. Cheryl Miller had the majority of that pie, or Ann Meyers. And what happened within the women’s community, as we know, people were jealous because they worked just as hard as us.

“And now, the thing that makes me so happy is that this pie is so big. And a lot of people, in a lot of sports, have it.”