The basketball world suffered a huge loss this week as Hall of Famer Lusia Harris passed away at 66.
Harris had a noteworthy basketball career, as she led Delta State to three college basketball championships from 1975 to 1977. She also won Tournament MVP in each of those seasons.
In their first championship win, Harris had 32 points and 16 rebounds to beat Immaculata University, a team that won the last three consecutive AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) championships. Delta State went undefeated this year (28-0), and the matchup between Delta State and Immaculata was televised nationally (though delayed).
Harris had other great performances in her college career, as in her final year with Delta State, she had 47 points in Madison Square Garden. That was the most points scored by any college player (male or female) that year, and it was one of the first women’s college basketball games to be played at MSG.
According to Delta State, Harris averaged 25.9 points and 14.5 rebounds her career and 63.3 percent from the field in the process. She had a great college career, but her accomplishments didn’t stop there. She also made history in the Olympics and the NBA.
Harris was a member of the USA women’s basketball team in the 1976 Summer Olympics. This was the first time the Olympics held a women’s basketball tournament, and Harris scored the first-ever points in the tournament.
In 1977, Harris became the first woman to be officially drafted by an NBA team. She was drafted by the New Orleans Jazz with the 137th pick.
Harris did not play for the Jazz, as she didn’t try out due to her pregnancy. However, she finished college with a Bachelor’s degree in health, physical education and recreation. She also earned a Master’s in education years later. She coached for a few years and played professionally in the Women’s Professional Basketball League.
In 2021, Harris was the subject of a mini-documentary by the New York Times. She spoke on her journey and whether or not she regretted not going to the NBA.
“Not even a little bit,” she said. When asked why, she pointed to the accomplishments of her children: One is a lawyer, one has a master’s degree, two have their doctorates. All are athletes.”
Delta State shared a statement from her family and said that her recent months brought her great joy.
“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 said.
Shaquille O’Neal, an executive producer of the documentary, took to Twitter to share his thoughts of her passing.
“I am extremely saddened at the sudden loss of the unsung legend and fearless trailblazer – Lusia Harris. Her inspiring story should be bookmarked in history. While she rests in peace, let’s celebrate her legacy.”
Lusia Harris was a basketball legend, and recently, she got the recognition she deserved. So let’s keep that legacy alive and celebrate what she did!