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Nancy Lieberman

Nancy Lieberman
Medal record
Women's Basketball
Olympic Games
Silver medal – second place 1976 Montreal Team Competition
World Championship
Gold medal – first place 1979 Seoul National Team
Pan American Games
Gold medal – first place 1975 Mexico Team Competition
Silver medal – second place 1979 Puerto Rico Team Competition
Jones Cup
Gold medal – first place 1979 Jones Cup Taipei, Taiwan Team Competition

Nancy Elizabeth Lieberman (born July 1, 1958), nicknamed "Lady Magic",[1] is a former professional basketball player who played and coached in the WNBA.[2][3] Lieberman is regarded as one of the greatest figures in women's basketball.[4][5]

In 2000, she was inducted into the Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame. Lieberman is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame,[6] the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame[7] and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.[8]

Early years

Lieberman was born in Brooklyn, New York, on July 1, 1958, to Jerome and Renee Lieberman. She was raised Jewish,[9] and has become a born-again Christian.[10] Her family lived in Brooklyn, when she was born, but soon moved to Far Rockaway, New York where she grew up with her older brother Clifford.[11] Her mother brought up the children after a separation and divorce.[12] While growing up, she was very interested in a variety of sports, playing baseball, softball and football with boys, before settling on basketball as her primary sport.[12] She played basketball primarily on pickup teams with boys, not playing on a girl's team until she was a high school sophomore.[12] While attending Far Rockaway High School in Queens, New York, she established herself as one of the top women's basketball players in the country by earning one of only 12 slots on the USA's National Team. In 1975, Lieberman was named to the USA Team designated to play in the World Championships and Pan American Games, where she brought home a gold medal [13] and a silver medal in 1979.[14]

Lieberman's mother, Renee, was not supportive of her daughter's passion for basketball. During one instance when Lieberman was practicing dribbling techniques indoors, because it was cold outside, her mother demanded she stop dribbling because of all the noise. When she did not stop, her mother punctured the basketball with a screwdriver. Lieberman found another ball and continued, but her mother punctured that one as well. This continued until five balls were ruined. Nancy then decided she had better go outside before she ran out of basketballs.[15]

During the school year, she played for her high school team, but in the summer, played with an AAU team in Harlem, the New York Chuckles.[16]

USA Basketball

At age 17, Lieberman was named to the USA Basketball team roster. She would play for the team in the 1975 USA Women's Pan American Team, three years younger than the next youngest teammates.[17] The games were originally planned for Santiago, Chile, then Sao Paulo, Brazil and finally held in Mexico City, Mexico in October. The Pan Am team had failed to win the gold in 1967 and 1971. This year, the team would be more successful, compiling a 7–0 record, and winning the gold medal for the first time since 1963.[17]

Lieberman continued with the USA team to the 1976 Olympics in Montreal in the first-ever Women's Olympic Basketball Team Competition.[18] Shortly after turning 18, Lieberman became the youngest basketball player in Olympic history to win a medal as the United States captured the Silver Medal.[19]

Lieberman was named to the team representing the USA at the 1979 William Jones Cup competition in Taipei, Taiwan. The USA team won all six games en route to the gold medal. Lieberman earned a spot on the Jones Cup All-Tournament Team[20]

Lieberman finished her USA Basketball career with the Pan American Team, at the 1979 games in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Although the team would win most of their games with ease, including a 38 point win over Brazil in the semi-final, they were unable to beat the team from Cuba, and lost the title match 91–86, settling for the silver medal.[21]

College years

From 1976 to 1980, Lieberman attended Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and played on the women's basketball team there.[22] During that time, she and her team won two consecutive AIAW National Championships (1979, 1980)[23] and one WNIT (Women's National Invitation Tournament) Championship in 1978. She was the first two-time winner of the prestigious Wade Trophy,[24] a national "player of the year" award in college women's basketball, and was selected as the Broderick Award winner for basketball as the top women's player in America.[25] Lieberman also won three consecutive Kodak All-America awards (1978, '79, '80).[26] Lieberman was one of six young adults to win the Young American Award from the Boy Scouts of America in 1980.[27]

Lieberman earned the nickname "Lady Magic," a nod to Earvin "Magic" Johnson of NBA fame.[28] Lieberman set a school record for career assists (961) that still stands today. She led the team in assists each of the four years she was on the team—in her sophomore year she averaged 8.9 per game.[29] Lieberman amassed 2,430 points along with 1,167 rebounds in her collegiate career, producing an average of 18.1 points per game.[29] Lieberman achieved a triple double (40 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists) against Norfolk State in her sophomore year.[29] Lieberman stole the ball 562 times and assisted a basket 961 times in her college career, believed to be modern records.[12] She is the holder of several single-game and single-season records, including best free-throw shooting percentage in her freshman and sophomore years.[29]

Lieberman earned her degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Old Dominion University on May 6, 2000.[30] She was inducted into the ODU Sports Hall of Fame in 1985.[31]

Awards and honors

  • 1979—Winner of the Honda award for basketball[32]
  • 1979—The Honda-Broderick Cup winner for all sports.[33]
  • 1980—Winner of the Honda award for basketball[32]

Professional career

In 1980, Lieberman earned a slot on the 1980 Olympic team, but withdrew from the squad in support of U.S. President Jimmy Carter's boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.[34]

In the 1980s, she dropped out of college to embark on a professional career in basketball. She played for several basketball teams and leagues, including the Dallas Diamonds of the Women's Pro Basketball League (WBL),[35] a men's league called the United States Basketball League (USBL),[36] and also with the Washington Generals,[37] who served as the regular opponent of the Harlem Globetrotters. She was the number one draft pick of the Dallas Diamonds.[38] One of her teammates with the Generals was Tim Cline, whom she married in 1988,[39] taking the surname Lieberman-Cline until the couple's divorce on March 15, 2001.[40] Their son T.J. plays college basketball for the Richmond Spiders. [41]

Lieberman was a contestant on the season 4 Gold Medal Challenge of Champions special of American Gladiators. She was eliminated after the third event with the lowest score of the three female competitors.

Lieberman's WBL career is featured in the book "Mad Seasons: The Story of the First Women's Professional Basketball League, 1978–1981," by Karra Porter (University of Nebraska Press, 2006).

She was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame[6] as a player in 1996 and to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame[7] in 1999.

In the newly formed WNBA's inaugural year in 1997, Lieberman played for the Phoenix Mercury.[42] At the age of 39, she was the WNBA's oldest player in history.[5]

In 1998, she was hired as General Manager and Head Coach of the WNBA's Detroit Shock. She coached for three seasons. After leaving the Shock, Lieberman worked as a women's basketball analyst on ESPN.

On July 24, 2008, at 50 years old, Lieberman signed a seven-day contract with the Detroit Shock,[43] breaking her own previous record as the oldest player in league history. She played one game and had two assists and two turnovers against the Houston Comets. The Comets defeated the Shock 79–61.

On August 13, 2008, she was part of the inaugural class to be inducted into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame, honoring athletes, coaches and administrators who made contributions to sports in Southeastern Virginia.

NBA coaching career

In November 2009, Nancy Lieberman became the coach of the Texas Legends in the NBA Development League, an affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks, thus becoming the first woman to coach a professional men's basketball team.[44] Lieberman currently lives in Dallas, Texas, near to where she now serves as assistant GM for the Legends and runs a summer basketball camp for boys and girls. This season she will join Fox Sports Oklahoma as an Analyst on the Oklahoma City Thunder Pre & Post-Game shows, Thunder Live.

See also


  1. ^ Nancy Lieberman – Dubbed "lady Magic" – Famous Sports Stars
  2. ^ "Media Guide" (PDF). p. 12. Retrieved July 12, 2009. 
  3. ^ "Nancy Lieberman/ Basketball". Retrieved July 12, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Nancy Lieberman". Retrieved July 12, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b Woolum p 177
  6. ^ a b "Hall of Famers Nancy I Lieberman". Basketball Hall of Fame. Retrieved 26 Sep 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Nancy Lieberman". Retrieved July 6, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Class of 1992 Nancy Lieberman". Virginia Sports Hall of Fame & Museum. Retrieved 26 Sep 2012. 
  9. ^ Paul Yogi Mayer (1 March 2004). Jews and the Olympic Games: sport : a springboard for minorities. Vallentine Mitchell. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-85303-451-3. Retrieved 26 September 2012. 
  10. ^ "Nancy Lieberman". Retrieved 2012-09-27. 
  11. ^ Woolum p 175
  12. ^ a b c d Porter p. 281–282
  13. ^ "SEVENTH PAN AMERICAN GAMES – 1975". Retrieved July 6, 2009. 
  14. ^ "EIGHTH PAN AMERICAN GAMES – 1979". Retrieved July 6, 2009. 
  15. ^ Grundy p 171
  16. ^ Woolum p 176
  17. ^ a b "SEVENTH PAN AMERICAN GAMES – 1975". USA Basketball. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  18. ^ "Games of the XXIst Olympiad – 1976". Retrieved July 6, 2009. 
  19. ^ Nancy Lieberman – HowStuffWorks
  20. ^ "1979 WOMEN'S R. WILLIAM JONES CUP". USA Basketball. Retrieved 3 August 2014. 
  21. ^ "EIGHTH PAN AMERICAN GAMES – 1979". USA Basketball. Retrieved June 12, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Media Guide". p. 9. Retrieved July 6, 2009. 
  23. ^ "Lieberman Inducted Into HR Hall". Retrieved July 6, 2009. 
  24. ^ "The Wade Trophy". Women's Basketball Coaches Association. Retrieved 30 Jun 2014. 
  25. ^ "Honda-Broderick Cup". Retrieved July 6, 2009. 
  26. ^ "Past WBCA NCAA DI Coaches' All-America Teams". Women's Basketball Coaches Association. Retrieved 3 Jul 2014. 
  27. ^ "Recipients of the Young American Award" (PDF). Retrieved July 6, 2009. 
  28. ^ Grundy p 175
  29. ^ a b c d "Lieberman To Be Inducted Into Hampton Roads Sports Hall Of Fame". Retrieved July 26, 2009. 
  30. ^ "Old Dominion: Lieberman To Be Inducted Into Hampton Roads Sports Hall Of Fame". ESPN. Retrieved July 29, 2009. 
  31. ^ "Old Dominion University Hall of Fame Members". Old Dominion University. Retrieved July 29, 2009. 
  32. ^ a b "PAST HONDA SPORTS AWARD WINNERS FOR BASKETBALL". THE Collegiate Women Sports Awards Program. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  33. ^ "Past Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year Winners (Honda Cup)". THE Collegiate Women Sports Awards Program. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  34. ^ "History of the WBL Third Season". Retrieved July 12, 2009. 
  35. ^ "Dallas Diamonds (1979–81)". Retrieved July 12, 2009. 
  36. ^ "Mixing It Up With The Guys". CNN. June 23, 1986. Retrieved July 12, 2009. 
  37. ^ "Lieberman, Nancy". Retrieved July 12, 2009. 
  38. ^ Skaine, p. 128
  39. ^ "Nancy Lieberman-Cline". Retrieved July 12, 2009. 
  40. ^ "An uncomfortable history lesson". Retrieved July 12, 2009. 
  41. ^
  42. ^ Skaine, p. 129
  43. ^ "2008 WNBA Transactions". Retrieved July 12, 2009. 
  44. ^ This is the first time in American history that a professional men's basketball team has ever been coached by a woman. Read ESPN report, Lieberman introduced by D-League, November 9, 2009


  • Grundy, Pamela (2005). Shattering the glass. New Press. ISBN 978-1-56584-822-1. 
  • Lieberman, Nancy (2012). Basketball for Women 2E. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. p. 272. ISBN 978-0-7360-9294-4. 
  • David L. Porter, ed. (2005). Basketball: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-313-30952-6. 
  • Skaine, Rosemarie (2001). Women College Basketball Coaches. Foreword by Betty F. Jaynes. Jefferson, N.C: McFarland. ISBN 9780786409204. 
  • Woolum, Janet (June 5, 1998). Outstanding women athletes : who they are and how they influenced sports in America (2 Sub edition ed.). Oryx Press. ISBN 978-1-57356-120-4. 

External links

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