Saturday, June 4, 2011

Washington Generals Top Players: Nancy Lieberman

Photo by Koi Soijer / PR photos
While their win/loss record with the Washington Generals may be nothing to brag about, many Generals have made huge accomplishments in the sport both before and after their tenure with the Generals. But this is probably no more true with than with Nancy Lieberman.

Born in Brooklyn, NY before soon moving to Rockway, NY, Nancy was always interested in sports but settled on backetbal early on, playing mostly pickup with boys, not intimidated to play rough when required.

It wasn't until Nancy went to high school in Far Rockway High School that she finally played against other girls. Obviously those pick-up games served her well as Nancy quickly became known as one of the top players in Women's Basketball

In 1976 at only 17 years old Nancy earned a spot on the USA National Teamm. She would play for the team in the Pan America Games where she helped them win a gold medal at the FIBA World Championship For Women.

Nancy would go one to compete in the 1976 Olympics as part of the first ever Women's Olympic Basketball Team. Shortly after turning 18 Nancy won the silver medal in the Olympic games in Montreal. With that win Nancy became the youngest player in Olympic basketball history to win a medal.

Nancy continued to compete with the National Team and won the Silver Medal in the Pan America Games in 1979. She was named to the 1980 women's basketball team but did not play, along with the rest of the US Olympic team, due to the famous boycott.

From 1976-1980 Nancy played basketball for Old Dominion University. During her time on the team Lieberman earned the nickname "Lady Magic" in comparison to Magic Johnson.

While playing with Old Dominion, Nancy racked up many accomplishments including winning the AIAW National Championship in 1979 and 1980, the Womens National Invitational Tournament in 1978.

Nancy was the first two-time winner of the prestigious "Wade Trophy" and selected as the Broderick Award winner for Basketball as the top women's player in America. Nancy was also named to three consecutive Kodak All American teams in 1978, 1979, and 1980. Nancy also remains Old Dominion University's leader in assist to this day with 961 assist. Nancy eventually dropped out of college in 1980 to begin her professional career (although she did return to get her degree in 2006).

Lieberman began her professional career playing for the Dallas Diamons in the WABA. Unfortunately, she only played for one season before the league folded due to financial problems, which was typical of women's leagues of the time.

After a few years serving as the personal trainer for Martina Navratilova, Nancy once more returned to the Dallas Diamons who were by then part of the WABA. Nancy led her team to the championships and earned an MVP award before the league folded after it's first season.

In 1986, Lieberman made history when she signed with the USBL, she joined the Springfield fame becoming the first women ever to play on a mens basketball team. Nancy played for 2 years with the USBL switching to the Long Island Knights in 1987.

It was after leaving the USBL that she joined the Washington Generals for their 1987-88 season. Although the Harlem Globetrotters had women playing for them by that time, Nancy was the first and so far only woman to play for the Washington Generals, once more making history.

Usually the Generals don't get much press in their games, however the publicity for that season against the Globetrotters heavily mentioned the signing of Lieberman. TV commercials and interviews hyped her as the Generals "secret weapon" to finally gain their first illusive win since 1971.

Unfortunately, as has always been the case with the Generals, success continued to elude them. Nancy's website notes the infamous bad officiating for her teams many losses.

During her year with the Generals, Nancy played Donald "Clyde" Sinclair, future Globetrotter player and later coach of the Harlem Globetrotters. She also played with Tim Cline, whom she married in 1988. They subsequently divorced in 2001.

After leaving the Generals Nancy began a successful broadcast career, commentating on women's and mens college games as well as the NBA for ESPN and NBA-TV. She also was a commentator for the women's basketball games in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics. As well as penning several books.

Copyright © by Staci Kramer.
Used under Creative Commons.
In 1996 Nancy was elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player, and in 1999 was elected into the Woman's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Nancy returned to professional basketball with the birth of the WNBA in 1997. She became the oldest player in WNBA history when at 38 she signed on with the Phoenix Mercury. The following year Lieberman was hired as the coach and General manager of the WNBA's Detroit Shock whom she coached for three seasons.

Nancy returned to the WNBA and to the Shock once more in 2008 when she signed a seven day contract as a player. At 50 years old Nancy broke her own record of oldest player to play in the WNBA, which she holds to this day.

Never one to stop making history, in 2009 Nancy was signed as coach for the Texas Legends of the NBA Development Leagues, an affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks. With this Leiberman became the first women to coach a men's professional basketball team.

Today, Nancy is considered  by many to be one of the best, if not the best, women's basketball players in the US.

Of all the Washington Generals, Nancy has probably had the most storied and successful basketball career out of anyone to play for the team. Becoming proof that while the Washington Generals may be most famous for loosing, they most certainly aren't a team of losers.

A list of Nancy Lieberman's Books...

Playbook for SuccessLady Magic: The Autobiography of Nancy Lieberman-Cline - Basketball for Women /w Robin Roberts - Basketball My Way

Books about Nancy Lieberman...

A Drive to Win: The Story of Nancy Lieberman-Cline by Doreen and Michael Greenberg - Nancy Lieberman, Basketball's Magic Lady by Betty Millsaps Jones


1 comment:

  1. The one and only time I ever saw the Globetrotters was when Nancy was on the team. I'm not sure where they played, I was a kid and didn't drive but it was somewhere in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, probably old Reunion Arena. The main thing I remember is the hype about Nancy. I was only 7 or 8 and I hadn't heard of her but everybody was talking about how good she was. I also remember the Game Program, which had a funny team photo of all the Generals looking pissed off with a blackboard that had their W/L in tally marks, one mark under wins and countless groups of 5 under the losses.