Even at 51, Nancy Lieberman is full of energy. The Olympic gold medallist and NBA Hall of Fame member has been a pioneer in women’s basketball in USA.
At Friday’s Celebrity Game, one of the highlights of the NBA All-Star weekend, Lieberman was still the most loved star. And by people of all ages. After drawing prominent cries of support from the crowded stands, Lady Magic, as she is nicknamed, continued to hex her opponents as she scored the first basket and directed the first assist.
“It may be only a celebrity game but we are all here for the passion of the sport,” said Lieberman.
It was a passion she discovered early in her life and carried it with a sort of a disdain against anyone who disapproved.
Her mother, Renee, once literally tried to puncture the enthusiasm, but to no avail. Due to bad weather outside, Lieberman was forced to dribble the ball inside. Renee, tired of the noise, demanded she stop. When she didn’t, her mother went ahead and punctured the ball. It took five deflated balls before Lieberman was convinced. Not to stop dribbling, but to simply take the game outside.
One of the eleven women to be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, Lieberman believes the establishment of the Women’s NBA in 1997 was the biggest step forward.
“The WNBA has changed everything. There are so many women wanting to play the game now.”
Though the WNBA was not established during her prime, Lieberman played in the leagues available then and in 1986 became the first woman to play in men’s pro league (United States Basketball League) for a team called Springfield Fame.
“I had to come ready to play everyday,” she recounts.
“I did not want to be a girl on a men’s team. I wanted to be as good as any of the other players.”