Lieberman in 2018
July 1, 1958|
Brooklyn, New York
|Listed height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
(New York City, New York)
|College||Old Dominion (1976–1980)|
|WNBA draft||1997 / Round: 2 / Pick: 15th overall|
|Selected by the Phoenix Mercury|
|1980–1981, 1984||Dallas Diamonds|
|1987||Long Island Knights|
|2000, 2008||Detroit Shock|
|2015–present||Sacramento Kings (assistant)|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Basketball Hall of Fame as player|
|Women's Basketball Hall of Fame|
Nancy Elizabeth Lieberman (born July 1, 1958), nicknamed "Lady Magic", is a former professional basketball player who played and coached in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) and currently works as an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association (NBA), as well as head coach of the Power in the BIG3, where she led them to the 2018 BIG3 Championship. Lieberman is regarded as one of the greatest figures in American women's basketball.
In 2000, she was inducted into the Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame. Lieberman is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (inducted in 2014), and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
Lieberman was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Jerome and Renee Lieberman. She was Jewish (and described herself as "just a poor, skinny, redheaded Jewish girl from Queens"). Her family lived in Brooklyn when she was born, but soon moved to Far Rockaway, New York where she grew up with her older brother Clifford. She lost great-grandparents in the Holocaust, and her paternal grandparents had concentration camp numbers on their wrists.
Her mother brought up the children after a separation and divorce. While growing up, she was very interested in a variety of sports, playing baseball, softball and football with boys, before settling on basketball as her primary sport. She played basketball primarily on pickup teams with boys, not playing on a girls' team until she was a high school sophomore. While attending Far Rockaway High School in Queens, New York, she established herself as one of the top women's basketball players in the country by earning one of only 12 slots on the USA's National Team. In 1975, Lieberman was named to the USA Team designated to play in the World Championships and Pan American Games, where she brought home a gold medal 
Lieberman's mother, Renee, was not supportive of her daughter's passion for basketball. During one instance when Lieberman was practicing dribbling techniques indoors, because it was cold outside, her mother demanded she stop dribbling because of all the noise. When she did not stop, her mother punctured the basketball with a screwdriver. Lieberman found another ball and continued, but her mother punctured that one as well. This continued until five balls were ruined. Nancy then decided she had better go outside before she ran out of basketballs.
During the school year, she played for her high school team, but in the summer, played with an AAU team in Harlem, the New York Chuckles.
She told former Knick Walt Frazier that he was her hero and that it was because of him that she wore No. 10, saying: "You might not even know this, but you thought you were affecting young guys but you were affecting young, white Jewish women, not just boys." As she describes it, "So my mother, this little Jewish lady from New York, goes up to Ali, and tells him that her daughter is the greatest of all time. Ali just looks at her and says, 'Lady, there's only one greatest of all time and that's me.'"
In 2010, she said in an interview, "I am 100% Jewish. My father’s parents were deeply religious, we had two sets of silverware when we went and ate over there. My mother’s side observed the major holidays. It was more relaxed. I went to Hebrew school as well." In 2011, she visited Israel with her mother, saying "It has changed my outlook of Israel. I know as a Jewish woman how important it is for me to be connected to this culture and to this community."
At age 17, Lieberman was named to the USA Basketball team roster. She would play for the team in the 1975 USA Women's Pan American Team, three years younger than the next youngest teammates. The games were originally planned for Santiago, Chile, then Sao Paulo, Brazil and finally held in Mexico City, Mexico in October. The Pan Am team had failed to win the gold in 1967 and 1971. This year, the team would be more successful, compiling a 7–0 record, and winning the gold medal for the first time since 1963.
Lieberman continued with the USA team to the 1976 Olympics in Montreal in the first-ever Women's Olympic Basketball Team Competition. Shortly after turning 18, Lieberman became the youngest basketball player in Olympic history to win a medal as the United States captured the Silver Medal.
Lieberman was named to the team representing the USA at the 1979 William Jones Cup competition in Taipei, Taiwan. The USA team won all six games en route to the gold medal. Lieberman earned a spot on the Jones Cup All-Tournament Team
Lieberman finished her USA Basketball career with the Pan American Team, at the 1979 games in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Although the team would win most of their games with ease, including a 38-point win over Brazil in the semi-final, they were unable to beat the team from Cuba, and lost the title match 91–86, settling for the silver medal.
From 1976 to 1980, Lieberman attended Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and played on the women's basketball team there. During that time, she and her team won two consecutive AIAW National Championships (1979, 1980) and one WNIT (Women's National Invitation Tournament) Championship in 1978. She was the first two-time winner of the prestigious Wade Trophy, a national "player of the year" award in college women's basketball, and was selected as the Broderick Award winner for basketball as the top women's player in America. Lieberman also won three consecutive Kodak All-America awards (1978, '79, '80). Lieberman was one of six young adults to win the Young American Award from the Boy Scouts of America in 1980.
Lieberman earned the nickname "Lady Magic," a nod to Earvin "Magic" Johnson of NBA fame. Lieberman set a school record for career assists (961) that still stands today. She led the team in assists each of the four years she was on the team—in her sophomore year she averaged 8.9 per game. Lieberman amassed 2,430 points along with 1,167 rebounds in her collegiate career, producing an average of 18.1 points per game. Lieberman achieved a triple double (40 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists) against Norfolk State in her sophomore year. Lieberman stole the ball 562 times and assisted a basket 961 times in her college career, believed to be modern records. She is the holder of several single-game and single-season records, including best free-throw shooting percentage in her freshman and sophomore years.
Old Dominion University statistics
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
|1976-77||Old Dominion University||27||563||47.3%||70.9%||10.1||7.9||0.0||20.9|
|1977-78||Old Dominion University||34||681||43.2%||73.0%||9.6||5.9||0.0||20.0|
|1978-79||Old Dominion University||36||625||47.8%||79.0%||7.7||7.1||0.4||17.4|
|1979-80||Old Dominion University||37||561||53.3%||77.9%||8.0||8.0||0.6||15.2|
Awards and honors
- 1979—Winner of the Honda Sports Award for basketball
- 1979—The Honda-Broderick Cup winner for all sports.
- 1980—Winner of the Honda Sports Award for basketball
In the 1980s, she dropped out of college to embark on a professional career in basketball. She played for several basketball teams and leagues, including the Dallas Diamonds of the Women's Pro Basketball League (WBL), a men's league called the United States Basketball League (USBL), and also with the Washington Generals, who served as the regular opponent of the Harlem Globetrotters. She was the number one draft pick of the Dallas Diamonds. One of her teammates with the Generals was Tim Cline, whom she married in 1988, taking the surname Lieberman-Cline until the couple's divorce on March 15, 2001. Their son T. J., who is Jewish, played college basketball for the Richmond Spiders, and in November 2017 signed to play for Israeli team Hapoel Holon which plays in the Ligat HaAl, the top division of Israeli basketball.
Lieberman was a contestant on the season 4 Gold Medal Challenge of Champions special of American Gladiators. She was eliminated after the third event with the lowest score of the three female competitors.
Lieberman's WBL career is featured in the book "Mad Seasons: The Story of the First Women's Professional Basketball League, 1978–1981," by Karra Porter (University of Nebraska Press, 2006).
On July 24, 2008, at 50 years old, Lieberman signed a seven-day contract with the Detroit Shock, breaking her own previous record as the oldest player in league history. She played one game and had two assists and two turnovers against the Houston Comets. The Comets defeated the Shock 79–61.
On August 13, 2008, she was part of the inaugural class to be inducted into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame, honoring athletes, coaches and administrators who made contributions to sports in Southeastern Virginia.
NBA coaching career
In November 2009, Nancy Lieberman became the coach of the Texas Legends in the NBA Development League, an affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks, thus becoming the first woman to coach a professional men's basketball team. The team began play in November 2010. She later moved to a front office position with the Legends before joining Fox Sports Oklahoma as an analyst for the Oklahoma City Thunder studio shows, Thunder Live.
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