Lusia Harris was an American athlete and the professional Queen of basketball player.
As a kid, Lusia “Lucy” Harris would often bury her head under a quilt at night, being rocked to sleep by her favorite lullaby—the sound of NBA basketball games.
Little did that little girl know at the time, she, too, would become a basketball legend idolized by many; a player, whose planted seeds of success, would be at the root of women’s basketball blossoming into what it is today.
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That is the legacy so many of us cling to when reminiscing about Harris, 66, who passed away on Jan. 18.
“We are deeply saddened to share the news that our angel, matriarch, sister, mother, grandmother, Olympic medalist, The Queen of Basketball, Lusia Harris has passed away unexpectedly today in Mississippi,” the Harris family said in a statement released by the Delta State University, Harris’ alma mater. “The recent months brought Ms. Harris great joy, including the news of the upcoming wedding of her youngest son and the outpouring of recognition received by a recent documentary that brought worldwide attention to her story.”
Harris’ basketball accomplishments on their own, merit a moment to pause and reflect upon her greatness.
But with Harris, there was more to her and her legacy.
Harris is considered to be one of the pioneers of women’s basketball. She played for Delta State University and won three consecutive Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) National Championships, the predecessors to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships, from 1975 to 1977. In international level, she represented the United States’ national team and won the silver medal in the 1976 Olympic Games, the first women’s basketball tournament in the Olympic Games. She played professional basketball with the Houston Angels of the Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL) and was the first and only woman ever officially drafted by the National Basketball Association (NBA), a men’s professional basketball league. For her achievements, Harris was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
Harris graduated from Delta State University with a bachelor’s degree in health, physical education and recreation in 1977. After graduation, she worked for Delta State as an admissions counselor and assistant basketball coach. She earned a master’s degree in education from Delta State in 1984. After leaving the assistant coaching post in Delta State, she served as the head coach at Texas Southern University in Houston for two years. She then returned to her native Mississippi where she worked as a high school teacher and coach at her alma mater Amanda Elzy High School in Greenwood, at the Greenville Public School District, and at Ruleville Central High School. Harris married George E. Stewart on February 4, 1977. They had four children, two sons and twin daughters.
Harris died at a therapy facility in Mound Bayou on January 18, 2022, less than a month before her 67th birthday. Photo Credit: Getty