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100 of the Most Influential Women in Sport: Nancy Lieberman

PUBLISHED March 7, 2019 | News

Nancy Lieberman, USA

Basketball

If there is one sport where the gender barrier could truly be broken, it’s basketball. And should a woman ever head up an NBA outfit, they will have a lot to thank Nancy Lieberman for. Becky Hammon lays claim to becoming the first full-time female assistant coach in the NBA with Lieberman following suit at the Sacramento Kings a year later in 2015. But the gravitas of Lieberman’s appointment, a Hall of Famer and two-time Olympian, really raised the profile of women working in the NBA. She is widely regarded as being the most important figure in women’s basketball history, both as a gifted player during a long career, and now as a powerful advocate and coach. Lady Magic is a true trailblazer. She became the first woman to coach a professional men’s basketball team when leading the Texas Legends, an affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA’s development league. And although the 60-year-old stepped away from the Kings in 2017 (in part to help care for her ailing mother), she became the first female head coach in the BIG3, a professional 3-on-3 league, taking over the Power last year and guiding them to finals success. Lieberman continues to push for the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to at least interview minority candidates for heading coaching and senior football operation jobs, to used in the NBA and include a provision for interviewing women. If Hammon or any other woman takes a lead role in the NBA, Lieberman’s influence will be undeniable.

– In her first season as head coach, Lieberman guided the Power to a BIG3 league triumph in 2018. She was awarded Coach of the Year for her exploits in the league put together by Ice Cube.

– Lieberman’s project to build “Dream Courts” in hundreds of urban neighbourhoods across the States has allowed more than two million children to play the game in a safe environment.

– The Nancy Lieberman Award is handed to the USA’s top female point guard in the NCAA Division I every year.

Did you know…

Lieberman counted the iconic Muhammad Ali as a close friend. The two met a joint appearance for former Olympians at the New York Stock Exchange in 1979 and formed the foundation of a bond which lasted for year through visits and phone calls.

“There’s not been one day in my life that I’ve hated this game. It’s like the greatest love story. A poor kid from New York, no father, no food, no heat, no electricity, one parent away from food stamps, and it’s 2018 and I’m still relevant because this game has challenged me and loved me and given me more than I could ever give the game.” – Nancy Lieberman (Source: The New York Times)