Women’s basketball trailblazer Lusia Harris passed away Tuesday at 66 years old, her family announced. No cause of death was given.
Harris won three national championships at Delta State in 1975, ‘76 and ‘77 back when the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) governed women’s collegiate sports. In 1977, Harris was drafted by the NBA’s New Orleans Jazz. She is the first and only woman to be officially drafted by an NBA team.
While she did not try out for the Jazz because she was pregnant, she did play in the Women’s Professional Basketball League in 1979-90.
The center also starred on the inaugural U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team, making history as the first woman to score points in Olympic women’s basketball history. Alongside Nancy Lieberman and Pat Summitt, Harris and Team USA won silver at the Montreal Games in 1976. The center led Team USA as its leading scorer and rebounder.
In 1992, Harris became the first Black woman to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“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 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.
“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.”
Harris is still Delta State’s career record-holder in points (2,891) and rebounds (1,662). Throughout her career, she averaged 25.9 points and 14.5 rebounds in 115 games and was a three-time All-American.
Her career was detailed in a 2021 short film by the New York times called “The Queen of Basketball.”