Unfortunately, we lost a legend from the game of basketball as of late. Luisa Harris holds respect amongst all ballplayers around the world. However, her passing came at the ripe age of 66. Harris isn’t a household name by any means, but she should be. Her legacy and accomplishments elevated the game of basketball to new heights. Not just for people of color, but also for women around the world as well. She led her college, Delta State University, to three championships in the 1970s, per WNYC radio . Not to mention, she scored the first points in the history of Olympic women’s basketball. In 75 years o the NBA draft, she still is the only woman to be selected.
“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 family said in a statement shared by Delta State University, her 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 remembered vividly staying up to watch the 70s legends play. Her most iconic heroes were Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, and several other heroes. She looked up to the greats and destined herself for similar greatness along her journey.
Louisa Harris’s Childhood
Harris stood six feet and three inches. Unfortunately, her height caused her to be ade fun of often. However, this proves to be a huge asset going forward playing the game of basketball. The new law passed, Title IX, which allowed Harris to play in college. She was the only African-American on the team at the time, yet, quickly became the key player.
“One of the greatest centers ever to play women’s basketball, Lusia Harris-Stewart was big, relentless, and dominated the painted area like no woman before her,” says her entry on the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame website.
“During her four-year career at Delta State University … Harris-Stewart changed the face of women’s basketball. Opponents called her unstoppable but even that barely described her approach to the game,” continued the entry.
According to Rachel Triesman, Harris averaged 26 points, and 15 rebounds and shot 63 percent from the field. There’s no doubt she’s a Delta State legend, she remains the university’s career record holder in points (2,891 and rebounds (1,662).
Some of my favorite shots. Here's one that tells a story. Towering over the competition. pic.twitter.com/E9SmF3o2fn
— Ben Proudfoot (@bgproudfoot) January 19, 2022
Harris’s Experiences and Achievements in the Olympics
She represented the U.S. at the 1976 Olympics. She was in the first-ever Olympic games to feature women’s basketball. Therefore, she made history by scoring the first basket ever. Ultimately, the team took a silver medal, however, it was more important the message she sent to the masses instead of the trophy itself.
She later ended her collegiate career, and sadly her hooping career as well.
“I wanted to keep playing, but there was no place to go,” she told filmmakers. “There was no WNBA when I came along. It didn’t exist. … If I was a man, there would have been options for me to go further and play.”
“I would have had money, would have been able to do a lot of things that I would have wanted to do,” she continued.
Harris Joined the NBA
After starting a family, in 1977, she received a call from the New Orleans Jazz asking her to try out. Technically, the only other woman drafted was Denise Long to the San Francisco Warriors, however, the pick was vacated by the league, per sources.
“I just thought it was a publicity stunt, and I felt like I didn’t think I was good enough,” Harris said. “Competing against a woman, yes. It’s a different story competing against a man. So I decided not to go.”
Sadly, she began battling her mental health and eventually return home to her family. Instead of the NBA, she decided to take a coaching job near her household and doesn’t regret her decision one bit.
“Not even a little bit,” she said. When asked why, she pointed to the accomplishments of her children: One is a lawyer, one has a master’s degree, two have their doctorates.