Quick Trivia: Who was the only woman basketball player signed by a pro NBA team in the late 70's?
The answer is coming to the Allstate Arena on Friday night.
One of the true pioneers in women’s basketball, Hall of Famer and award-winning broadcaster Ann Meyers Drysdale is in her first season as Vice President of both the Phoenix Mercury and the Phoenix Suns.
The Phoenix Mercury (3-9) play the Chicago Sky (7-4) Friday night at the Allstate Arena.
The role follows five successful seasons as General Manager for the Mercury where she constructed the franchise’s two WNBA championship teams in 2007 and 2009.
Meyers Drysdale recently documented her five decades in basketball in her autobiography “You Let Some Girl Beat You?” released in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of Title IX.
"Before Title IX, it was against the law in some places for girls to play sports, " she told the Herald-Review, " There were places we couldn't even be spectators. Men would let women play in basketball games with them, but we could only dribble twice and then we'd have to pass. They thought we'd faint from too much exertion."
She continued, "Girls today don't know some of that existed, but I was thinking about that the other day when I saw a story on the sister of the New York Jets offensive lineman (Nick Mangold) lifting weights and playing football. I know she's been ridiculed for that. But she just wants to play. My sister Kelly needed permission to play Little League. And a few months ago, a high school in Phoenix wouldn't play a baseball team because they refused to play against a girl. " (Note: I chronicled this story in Token Female)
Her basketball life began when she became the first-ever high school player to make a United States National Team in 1974 and later was the first woman to receive a full athletic scholarship from UCLA.
At UCLA, Meyers Drysdale was a four-time Kodak All-American, the first male or female to achieve that honor. Upon graduation, she held 12 of 13 school records and led the Bruins to a national championship in 1978. Meyers Drysdale became the first female to be named in the school’s athletics Hall of Fame and had her jersey No. 15 retired. In addition to her basketball accomplishments, Meyers Drysdale competed in volleyball and won a national championship title in track in 1975.
The 5-9, 140-pound guard represented the United States in the 1976 Olympics, 1975 and ’79 Pan American Games, and the 1975 and ’79 World Championships. As part of the first women’s US Olympic Basketball team, Meyers Drysdale earned a silver medal at the Montreal Games in 1976.
She remains the only female to sign a free-agent contract with an NBA team when she signed with the Indiana Pacers in 1979.
After being released by the Pacers, she served as a color commentator for the Pacers broadcasts and was the first woman to broadcast an NBA game. In 1978 she became the first player drafted in the Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL) and resumed her playing career with the New Jersey Gems, where she was named MVP after leading the league in steals and averaging 22.2 points. She also took home the title as one of only two women to win the ABC Sports Superstars competition three years in a row from 1981-1983. She was the only woman to participate in the men’s competition.
Meyers Drysdale also established herself as an expert analyst on ESPN, NBC, ABC, FOX Sports, and CBS and has done commentary for men’s and women’s basketball, softball, tennis, volleyball, and baseball since 1979. Her illustrious broadcasting resume includes the 1984, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics as well as a stint as a broadcaster for the 1988-89 Loyola Marymount men’s basketball team, coached by former Mercury Head Coach Paul Westhead and featuring current Mercury General Manager and Head Coach Corey Gaines, a guard on the team.
In 2006, her sports journalism contributions were honored as the winner of the United States Sports Academy’s (USSA) Ronald Reagan Media Award, joining an elite group of winners that includes Howard Cosell, Bob Costas, Keith Jackson, Frank Deford and Rupert Murdoch. In 2012, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association renamed its Women’s National Player of the Year Award, the Ann Meyers Drysdale National Player of the Year Award, in honor of her impact in the sport.
She was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass as a player in 1993.
In 1986, Annie married former Los Angeles Dodgers Hall of Famer pitcher Don Drysdale and took the name Ann Meyers Drysdale. It was the first time that a married couple was members of their respective sports’ Hall of Fame. The Southern California native and Drysdale, who passed away in 1993, have three children together: sons Don Jr. (D.J.) and Darren, and daughter Drew.
As for Title IX's impact and its importance, she says, "What's so important is when something is not right, you have to stand up for it. Mind or body, it has to be even for both genders. And that's what Title IX did. Now, you have women's basketball making money for universities, fathers supporting their daughters' athletic pursuits all the way through their lives. The attitudes have changed so beautifully."