Skip to main content

With hands like Shaq that could catch any ball thrown in the paint and silky-smooth post moves that remind you of Wilt Chamberlain, Lusia “Lucy” Harris quickly became one of the best basketball players in the country while she was in high school.

Screen Shot 2022-04-21 at 1.00.26 AM

Along with her physical gifts, Harris had great instincts for the spacing on the court — knowing when to cut, which way to drive in the post, and when to pass out of a double team. In all aspects, Harris played with a high motor and passion, and these traits helped her to be the best basketball player on the best team in the country at Delta State University.

The extremely modest and positive-minded Harris quickly became a fan favorite for both her play and personality while at Delta State. During her freshman year in 1974, Harris’ notoriety and her team’s popularity were undeniable, helping to grow the crowd’s size to more than double that of the men’s team.

Harris and her team went on to have a winning record of 15-1 in her first season, only falling at the National Championship. The Lady Statesmen were determined to not let that happen again and for the remainder of her college career, Harris led her team to undefeated records in the postseason with three-straight national championships titles, two of which came against Immaculata College, the team that handed Delta States’ only loss during the 1974/1975 season.

After her junior season with the Lady Statesmen, Harris was selected as a starter for the inaugural women’s Olympic team for the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. During Team USA’s historic women’s basketball game, Harris scored the first basket on a left-handed layup against Japan. Harris and her team went on to win a silver medal for the United States.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

Screen Shot 2022-04-21 at 1.00.11 AM

Upon graduating from Delta State with an incredible resumé as a three-time national champion, Olympic silver medalist, and the greatest women’s basketball player in history, Harris knew her journey in basketball wasn’t over yet. Unfortunately, there was no WNBA at the time, which didn’t give Harris any opportunities to pursue a professional playing career. Accepting the possibility that this was the end of her journey in basketball, Harris married her high school sweetheart, George Stewart, and started a family. Eventually, Harris got a job as the head coach of the women’s basketball team at her old high school, but little did she know that she was about to make history.

As Harris was adjusting to life as the head coach for her old high school’s basketball team, she was being drafted by the New Orleans Jazz in 1977 and invited to tryouts. This made Harris the first, and only, woman to ever be drafted by an NBA team. Harris however doubted her skills and worried that this was more of a publicity stunt than a team wanting to actually have her on the roster, so she decided not to try out.

After her playing career was over, Harris went on to have a long coaching career at both the high school and collegiate levels. Even as her time as a basketball coach came to an end, Harris went on to have a career outside of sports. In 2021, the New York Times made a short documentary chronicling the basketball life and legacy of Harris, titled “The Queen of Basketball”.

Harris passed away on January 18, 2022, and shortly after her death, the documentary won an Oscar for Best Short Documentary. When all is said and done, one thing is for certain: Harris’ legacy will always be cemented as one of the greatest women’s basketball players in history.

Photo credit: Fangirl Sports Network’s Instagram