Lusia Harris, First and Only Woman Drafted by the NBA, Dead at 66

Lusia Harris, a legendary basketball player who was the first and only woman drafted by the NBA, died on Tuesday, her alma mater Delta State University announced. She was 66 years old. The cause of death was not announced, but her family released a statement to confirm the news.

"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. "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."  

Known as "Lucy," Harris is one of the best basketball players of all time. While at Delta State, Harris led the team to the three Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women championships from 1975-77. She finished her career at Delta State as the 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. In 1977, Harris was drafted by the New Orleans Jazz in the seventh round. However, Harris didn't want to play in the NBA and declined an invite to try out for the Jazz as she was pregnant at the time.

"Obviously, we're saddened to hear the news of her passing," Delta State University Director of Athletics Mike Kinnison said in a statement. "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."  

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Before being drafted by the NBA, Harris played on the United States national team and helped the squad win the silver medal in the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976. That was the first U.S. women's basketball team since it was a new sport to the Olympics, and Harris became the first woman to score a basket in the games. Harris was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992, becoming the first Black woman to earn that honor. She was also the subject of the 2021 short film called The Queen of Basketball which detailed her career.