Lusia Harris, who became the only woman to be officially drafted by an NBA team and scored the first points in women's basketball history at the Olympics, died Tuesday, her family announced. She was 66.
"We are deeply saddened to share the news that our angel, matriarch, sister, mother, grandmother, Olympic medalist, The Queen of Basketball, Lusia Harris has died unexpectedly today in Mississippi," the family said in a statement. "The past few months have brought Mrs. Harris great joy, including the news of her youngest son's impending wedding and the great recognition that a recent documentary has garnered worldwide attention for her story."
Harris, who died in her home state of Mississippi, was drafted by the New Orleans Jazz in the seventh round in 1977, but did not try on the team because she was pregnant at the time. The San Francisco Warriors tried to draft Denise Long in 1969, but the NBA blocked it because she did not meet the criteria to be drafted - in part because of her gender.
Harris helped Delta State University win three national titles in a row in the 1970s and won a silver medal for the United States at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Harris was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992 as the first black woman to deserve that honor. She was later inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.
"She will be remembered for her charity, for her achievements both on and off the field 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, ”read the statement.
Harris averaged 25.9 points and 14.4 rebounds in Delta State, which lifted the team to a record 109-6 during his time there. She is still the school's leader ever in scoring (2,981 points) and rebounds (1,662).
Harris was named to the U.S. Women's Team in 1975. The following year, women's basketball made its Olympic debut, and Harris scored the first points of the first match of the tournament.
She was the subject of a 2021 short film titled "The Queen of Basketball" that detailed her career.