Naismith Hall of Fame Statement on the Passing of Lusia Harris, Class of 1992
- Video: The Queen of Basketball: When the N.B.A. Officially Drafted a Woman
- Meet the First Woman Officially Drafted by the N.B.A. (New York Times)
- Delta State Statement
Basketball Hall of Fame on the Passing of Lusia Harris, Class of 1992
Springfield, Mass. (Jan. 19, 2022) – The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame celebrates the life and mourns the passing of legendary women’s basketball pioneer Lusia Harris. Enshrined as a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992, Ms. Harris has passed away at the age of 66.
“Lusia Harris was an inspiration to women’s basketball players around the world,” said John L. Doleva, President and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame. “As a true trailblazer, Lusia changed the way people viewed the women’s game and encouraged girls from around the globe to participate in basketball. She’ll be remembered for being a pillar of her community and bringing joy to everyone around her. Needless to say, she will be tremendously missed by the entire Hall of Fame family and our thoughts and condolences go out to her family and loved ones.”
Harris was the first African American woman to be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and was the first and only woman ever drafted by an NBA team after the New Orleans Jazz selected her with the 137th pick in the 1977 draft. One of the greatest centers ever to play women’s basketball, Harris was big, relentless and dominated the painted area like no woman before her. During her four-year career at Delta State University, Harris changed the face of women’s basketball. Opponents called her unstoppable, but even that barely described her approach to the game. She scored 2,981 career points (25.9 ppg), grabbed 1,662 rebounds (14.4 rpg), was a three-time All-American and graduated with 15 Delta State team, single game and career records. In 1976, the bruising center averaged 31.2 points and 15.1 rebounds per game. She led Delta State to a 109-6 record and three straight AIAW national championships. When women’s basketball made its debut at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Harris helped lead Team USA to a silver medal by leading the team in both points and rebounds and holds the distinction of scoring the first basket in women’s basketball Olympic competition.
GREENWOOD, Miss. — The Delta State University athletics family mourns the death of Lusia Harris, who passed away on Tuesday, Jan. 18.
One of the greatest women’s basketball players to ever grace the court, “Lucy,” as she was affectionately known to most, was part of three AIAW National Championship-winning teams (1975, 1976, and 1977) for the Delta State women’s basketball team.
“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.”
“Obviously, we’re saddened to hear the news of her passing,” said Delta State University Director of Athletics Mike Kinnison. “She was one of our greatest Lady Statesman athletes ever. We certainly send our sympathy to her family and at the same time we’re very appreciative to all of the contributions she made to Delta State athletics. She holds a special place in our hearts at Delta State and always will.”
A native of Minter City, Miss., Harris still owns a plethora of Lady Statesmen basketball records, and also has the honor of holding another distinction: at the 1976 Olympics, Lucy scored the first points ever recorded in an Olympic women’s basketball game.
Harris is still Delta State’s career record holder in points (2,891) and rebounds (1,662), and averaged 25.9 points and 14.5 rebounds per game in 115 career games played. Harris shot an astonishing 63.3 percent from the field in her illustrious collegiate career.
She holds the distinction as being the first female collegiate player inducted in the National Basketball Hall of Fame (1992), and is a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame (1999). She is also a member of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame (1990) and the Delta State Sports Hall of Fame (1983).
Harris collected Kodak All-American honors in 1975, 1976, and 1977, and was the Mississippi Sportsperson of the Year in 1976. She also became the first and only woman drafted by the NBA, when the New Orleans Jazz selected her in the 1977 draft.