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Former ODU Women’s Basketball Great Nancy Lieberman Immortalized With Statue on Campus

PUBLISHED November 6, 2022 | News

The statue will sit between the Mitchum Basketball Performance Center and Chartway Arena.

NORFOLK, Va. — Former Old Dominion women’s basketball All-American Nancy Lieberman, who led the Monarchs to two national titles and is one of the nation’s most well-known women’s sports figures, recently became the first person immortalized with a statue on ODU’s campus.

Old Dominion unveiled a six-foot bronze statue of Lieberman atop a two-foot base on Saturday morning. Other than a bronze likeness of Big Blue, ODU’s athletic mascot, located in the Webb Student Center, there are no other statues on campus.

The statue will sit between the Mitchum Basketball Performance Center and Chartway Arena. ODU officials eventually hope that statues of other ODU athletic greats will also eventually be installed in the courtyard.

A portion of 43rd Street, extending from Hampton Boulevard to Monarch Way, will also carry the name of “Nancy Lieberman Pass.” Norfolk Mayor Kenny Alexander, an ODU graduate, worked with the city officials to get approval for the signs, which are already installed.

The dedication will come the day after Lieberman and Pepsi Stronger Together, PepsiCo’s series of grassroots initiatives for local communities, dedicate a “Dream Court” at the East Ocean View Recreation Center in Norfolk.

The Dream Court is the third that has been opened in the Hampton Roads community and is the 116th overall donated by Nancy Lieberman Charities in underserved neighborhoods across the country.

Upon completion, the court will include a state-of-the-art outdoor high school regulation size basketball court, a supply of brand-new basketballs, as well as programming and mentorship on inclusion, social justice, and civic engagement

Nicknamed “Lady Magic” because she was considered the Magic Johnson of the women’s game while playing at ODU, Lieberman was a three-time Kodak All-American and was the first player ever to win the Wade Trophy twice.

At 17 years old, Lieberman became the youngest, and to this day remains the youngest, player ever to play for the U.S. Olympic team for both men and women.

Although opportunities were limited for women’s professional basketball players at the time, Lieberman had a long and distinguished career playing in both women’s and men’s leagues.

At age 50 became the oldest player to take the court in the history of the WNBA. She was the first woman to be the head coach of a men’s professional team for the NBA’s G-League Texas Legends and the second as an assistant coach in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings. Most recently, she coached a championship in the BIG3 summer league in 2018.

She has carved out a career as a TV commentator and is currently with the Oklahoma City Thunder, where she is an analyst on team’s television pre-game and post-game shows.

“I grew up in Larchmont and remember when Nancy starred for ODU,” said Dr. Wood Selig, ODU’s director of athletics.

“Now that I’m in my current role, I see her from a different vantage point, what her legacy has meant not just to ODU, but to women’s athletes across the country and across the globe.

“She was a pioneer in women’s athletics. She has established an athletic legacy that few, male or female, will ever come close to achieving.

“The fact that she’s one of us deserves celebration and lasting recognition.”

The statue was crafted by famed sculptor Brian Hanlon, a close friend of Lieberman’s who is donating it to the University. The statue is valued at $125,000.

“Brian Hanlon is the one who made this happen,” Lieberman said. “He said there has to be a statue of me at Old Dominion. I’m so honored. He’s done this for so many other great athletes.”

Hanlon is one of the most storied sculptors in athletics. He fashioned statues of Ernie Davis and Jim Brown at Syracuse, Shaquille O’Neal at LSU, John Chaney at Temple and former Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox for the Major League Baseball team.

Pepsi Stronger Together has donated a $25,000 scholarship for female athletes at ODU in honor of Lieberman’s impact and as one Title IX’s earliest successes. Lieberman is a national ambassador for the Pepsi Stronger Together program.

“Pepsi Stronger Together and Nancy Lieberman Charities have a shared mission in using our platforms to drive positive change across communities, starting at a local level,” said Derek Lewis, President, PepsiCo Multicultural.

“This partnership is another way we hope to create access to sport, and the benefits and opportunities it provides, for even more youth in the Norfolk community.”

Lieberman said she wants the statue dedication to be about every ODU athlete.

“That statue isn’t for me; it’s for every athlete who’s ever put on a uniform, either for a men’s or women’s team,” she said.

“It represents what all of us have done for Old Dominion University. I hope athletes walk by it, touch it, and that they are proud of the athletic program and everything ODU has done athletically and academically.”

She said it’s also a nod to Dr. Jim Jarrett, the former ODU athletic director who invested in women’s sports in the 1970s, long before most athletic programs, and thus made the university a women’s basketball and field hockey powerhouse.

She also praised Dr. Selig.

“Jim was way ahead of everyone when it came to women’s athletics,” Lieberman said. “And Wood has been so supportive. That the university was receptive to this from the beginning means a lot to me.”

Lieberman says it’s symbolic that the statue is going up during the 50-year anniversary of Title IX, which was a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972 that mandated equality between male and female students in all educational endeavors.

“I want this to be a greater celebration for Title IX and for all of the great people who’ve been in my life,” Lieberman said. “You get a statue not for what you did, but for what people did collectively.”

Statues often have a longer life than some athletic buildings, and Lieberman said she’s humbled that 100 years from now, young girls and boys may look at her likeness and be inspired.

“I hope when they do, that they think this lady did some good work at ODU,” she said.

ODU’s football team hosts Marshall on Nov. 5 at a time to be announced and Lieberman will be introduced on the field during a timeout in the first half.

ODU graduate and ESPN sportscaster Jay Harris was the master of ceremonies both for the opening of the Dream Court and the unveiling of the statue.