Lusia Harris, first and only woman drafted into NBA, dies at 66

Last year's "The Queen of Basketball," a documentary on Harris' life, was recently shortlisted for the Oscars.

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Lusia Harris, known as the Queen of Basketball, and the only woman to be officially drafted by an NBA team, died at her home at the age of 66. 

Per NBC News, her family confirmed her passing in a statement Tuesday, writing: “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.” 

Olympic medalist Lusia Harris, the first — and only — woman officially drafted by an NBA team, has died at 66. (Photo: by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

“The recent months brought Ms. Harris great joy,” they noted, “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.”

That 22-minute documentary, The Queen of Basketball, was directed by Ben Proudfoot and released in 2021 to critical acclaim. The short film debuted last summer at the Tribeca Film Festival and was recently shortlisted for the Oscars.

“I am completely heartbroken, particularly for Lucy’s family and friends,” Proudfoot said in a statement shared exclusively with Deadline. “Lucy was special. She welcomed us into her home and into her life. She enchanted us with her gentle spirit and infectious laugh, and she gave us all the gift of her incredible life story. True greatness and true humility met in the person of Lucy Harris.”

Harris was a championship basketball player who led Delta State University to three straight national titles in the 1970s. Nabbing 2,981 points and 1,662 rebounds, she remains the school’s all-time scoring leader. 

She was named to the United States Olympic Women’s Basketball team in 1976, which was the first time women competed in the sport at the Olympic level. Harris scored the first points in the first game, and was instrumental in leading the U.S. team to a silver medal. 

The following year, Harris was officially drafted in the seventh round by the New Orleans Jazz — but she didn’t move forward with trying out for the team because she was expecting a child. 

Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992, Harris was the first Black woman to receive that honor. She was later inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999. 

Her family’s statement noted that Harris “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.” 

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