Illustration by Art Seiden

Jewish Heroes and Heroines in America

World War II to the Present:


Nancy Lieberman: A Great Women's Basketball Star

by Seymour "Sy" Brody

Nancy Lieberman was the greatest woman basketball star produced in the United States. She broke the professional gender barrier with her debut in the United States Basketball League.

Nancy was born in Brooklyn, New York, and she was raised by her mother after her parents were divorced. She was always to be found in the neighborhood playgrounds playing basketball days and nights. At night she played and practiced "radar ball" because you couldn't see the ball go through the basket, but you could hear it.

Basketball was an outlet for her consuming ambition to be the best in the game and she would always play against the boys' strongest opposition to improve her skills. She did not give an inch against the boys and would sometimes be in a fist fight with them. She did not play against the girls until she was on the girl's high school basketball team. Lieberman went to Old Dominion University where she was the star of the girl's basketball team. She made All-America three times: 1978, 79 and 80. Her asphalt arrogance and hawklike intensity made her the outstanding women basketball player in America. Her style of playing and basketball court personality earned her the name of "Lady Magic" as she was compared to the Los Angeles star "Magic" Johnson. She had his crowd-pleasing passing skills and court demeanor.

One of Nancy Lieberman's ambitions was to play on an American women's basketball team in the Olympics. She was made the United States Olympic squad in 1976 when she was a senior in high school. She was also on the 1980 squad but the United States decided to boycott the games because Russia had invaded Afghanistan.

Lieberman was disappointed as she was at the height of her career. After trying a number of things, she made her debut in the United States Basketball League. She was the first woman to play in a men's professional league. She was twenty-seven years old when she joined the Springfield Fame's which was short-lived.

She became actively involved in the business world. She managed to arrange for book and film deals, owned two sporting goods stores and owned real estate in Texas and St. Croix. She endorsed many products and there were times that she was wealthier than the owners of the women's professional teams for whom she played.

When she graduated college in 1980, Lieberman received many awards. She received the Wade Trophy for outstanding women's basketball player in America, The Broderick cup, presented annually to the top AIAW athlete of the year, The Maccabee Award for the Jewish Athlete of the Year and she was named for every All-American women's basketball squad during her college career.

Nancy Lieberman rose to stardom along with other women of seventies and eighties. They also achieved the monetary gains that come when you are an exceptional athlete. Nancy Lieberman has made it possible for other Jewish women to become recognized for their athletic skills and abilities.

This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes and Heroines of America, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.

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