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Lusia Harris, one of two women drafted by NBA, dies at 66

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Lusia Harris, one of only two women to be drafted by the NBA, died at the age of 66 on Tuesday.

“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 Clarion Ledger reported

“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,” they added, according to the Jackson, Miss., newspaper.

The New Orleans Jazz selected Harris in the seventh round of the 1977 NBA draft, but she could not play due to her pregnancy. The San Francisco Warriors tried to draft Denise Long in 1969, but the league said she did not meet qualifications, such as gender, and denied her a spot on the team.

Harris, who was six-foot-three, earned a silver medal in Montreal in 1976, the first year women played basketball in the Olympics. She was the first U.S. woman to get a basket in the Olympics. 

Her career started at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., where she still holds the record for most rebounds and points scored, according to the AP.

A movie called “The Queen of Basketball” examined her life.

“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. At this time the family respectfully requests their privacy. Details of a memorial service will follow,” the family stated, according to the Clarion Ledger.

–Updated at 9:47 a.m.

Tags African-American people Basketball Lusia Harris NBA Sports in the United States
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