Nancy Lieberman

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Nancy Lieberman
Nancy Lieberman by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg
Lieberman in 2018
Personal information
Born (1958-07-01) July 1, 1958 (age 62)
Brooklyn, New York
Listed height5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Listed weight175 lb (79 kg)
Career information
High schoolFar Rockaway
(New York City, New York)
CollegeOld Dominion (1976–1980)
WNBA draft1997 / Round: 2 / Pick: 15th overall
Selected by the Phoenix Mercury
Playing career1980–2008
PositionPoint guard
Coaching career1998–present
Career history
As player:
1980–1981, 1984Dallas Diamonds
1986Springfield Fame
1987Long Island Knights
1997Phoenix Mercury
2008Detroit Shock
As coach:
19982000Detroit Shock
2009–2011Texas Legends
20152018Sacramento Kings (assistant)
Career highlights and awards
As player
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
Women's Basketball Hall of Fame

Nancy Elizabeth Lieberman (born July 1, 1958), nicknamed "Lady Magic",[1] is an American former professional basketball player and coach in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) who is currently a broadcaster for the New Orleans Pelicans of the National Basketball Association (NBA) as well as the head coach of Power, a team in the BIG3 which she led to its 2018 Championship.[2][3] Lieberman is regarded as one of the greatest figures in American women's basketball.[4][5]

In 2000, she was inducted into the Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame. Lieberman is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame,[6] the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame[7] the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (inducted in 2014),[8] and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.[9]

Early years[edit]

Lieberman was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Jerome and Renee Lieberman. She is Jewish (and described herself as "just a poor, skinny, redheaded Jewish girl from Queens").[10][11] 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.[12] She lost great-grandparents in the Holocaust, and her paternal grandparents had concentration camp numbers on their wrists.[13]

Her mother brought up the children after a separation and divorce.[14] 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.[14] She played basketball primarily on pickup teams with boys, not playing on a girls' team until she was a high school sophomore.[14] 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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17]

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."[18] 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.'"[19]

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."[13] 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."[20]

USA Basketball[edit]

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.[21] 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.[21]

Lieberman continued with the USA team to the 1976 Olympics in Montreal in the first-ever Women's Olympic Basketball Team Competition.[22] 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.[23]

Lieberman was named to the team representing the US 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[24]

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.[25]

College years[edit]

From 1976 to 1980, Lieberman attended Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and played on the women's basketball team there.[26] During that time, she and her team won two consecutive AIAW National Championships (1979, 1980)[27] and one WNIT (Women's National Invitation Tournament) Championship in 1978. She was the first two-time winner of the prestigious Wade Trophy,[28] 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.[29] Lieberman also won three consecutive Kodak All-America awards (1978, '79, '80).[30] Lieberman was one of six young adults to win the Young American Award from the Boy Scouts of America in 1980.[31]

Lieberman earned the nickname "Lady Magic," a nod to Earvin "Magic" Johnson of NBA fame.[32] 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.[33] Lieberman amassed 2,430 points along with 1,167 rebounds in her collegiate career, producing an average of 18.1 points per game.[33] Lieberman achieved a triple double (40 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists) against Norfolk State in her sophomore year.[33] Lieberman stole the ball 562 times and assisted a basket 961 times in her college career, believed to be modern records.[14] She is the holder of several single-game and single-season records, including best free-throw shooting percentage in her freshman and sophomore years.[33]

Lieberman earned her degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Old Dominion University on May 6, 1980.[34] She was inducted into the ODU Sports Hall of Fame in 1985.[35]

Old Dominion University statistics[edit]


  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
Year Team GP Points FG% FT% RPG APG BPG PPG
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
Career 134 2430 47.2% 75.7% 8.7 7.2 0.3 18.1

Awards and honors[edit]

Professional career[edit]

Lieberman presenting trophy to Moriah Jefferson.

In 1980, Lieberman earned a slot on the 1980 Olympic team, but withdrew from the squad in support of U.S. President Jimmy Carter's boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.[40]

In the 1980s, Lieberman dropped out of college to embark on a professional career in basketball. In 1981, she played for the Los Angeles Lakers Summer Pro League team.[41] She played for several basketball teams and leagues, including the Dallas Diamonds of the Women's Pro Basketball League (WBL),[42] a men's league called the United States Basketball League (USBL),[43] and also with the Washington Generals,[44] who served as the regular opponent of the Harlem Globetrotters. She was the number one draft pick of the Dallas Diamonds.[45] One of her teammates with the Generals was Tim Cline, whom she married in 1988,[46] taking the surname Lieberman-Cline until the couple's divorce on March 15, 2001.[47] 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.[48][49]

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).

She was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame[6] as a player in 1996 and to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame[7] in 1999.

In the newly formed WNBA's inaugural year in 1997, Lieberman played for the Phoenix Mercury.[50] At the age of 39, she was the WNBA's oldest player.[5]

In 1998, she was hired as general manager and head coach of the WNBA's Detroit Shock. She coached for three seasons. After leaving the Shock, Lieberman worked as a women's basketball analyst on ESPN.

On July 24, 2008, at 50 years old, Lieberman signed a seven-day contract with the Detroit Shock,[51] 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[edit]

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.[52] 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.

In July 2015, she was hired by the Sacramento Kings as an assistant coach, becoming the second female assistant coach in NBA history.[53] She took two leaves of absences to care for her ailing mother before stepping away from the Kings in 2017.[54] After leaving the Kings, she became a broadcaster with the New Orleans Pelicans.[55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nancy Lieberman – Dubbed "Lady Magic" – Famous Sports Stars
  2. ^ "Media Guide" (PDF). p. 12. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 4, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  3. ^ "Nancy Lieberman/ Basketball". Archived from the original on January 29, 2010. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  4. ^ "Nancy Lieberman". Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  5. ^ a b Woolum p 177
  6. ^ a b "Hall of Famers Nancy I Lieberman". Basketball Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on August 31, 2009. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
  7. ^ a b "Nancy Lieberman". Archived from the original on October 23, 2009. Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  8. ^ JCC’s Jewish Sports Hall of Fame welcomes nine new members - St. Louis Jewish Light: Local News - JCC’s Jewish Sports Hall of Fame welcomes nine new members: Local News
  9. ^ "Class of 1992 Nancy Lieberman". Virginia Sports Hall of Fame & Museum. Archived from the original on April 20, 2016. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
  10. ^ Paul Yogi Mayer (March 1, 2004). Jews and the Olympic Games: sport : a springboard for minorities. Vallentine Mitchell. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-85303-451-3. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
  11. ^
  12. ^ Woolum p 175
  13. ^ a b » Blog Archive » Interview with Nancy Lieberman
  14. ^ a b c d Porter p. 281–282
  15. ^ "Ninth Pan American Games -- 1983". USA Basketball. June 10, 2010. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  16. ^ Grundy p 171
  17. ^ Woolum p 176
  18. ^ Nancy Lieberman returns to her city roots with message of inspiration | Newsday
  19. ^ Nancy Lieberman on the Kings and breaking barriers. | Sports on Earth
  20. ^ Sports pioneer Nancy Lieberman comes to Holy Land - Sports - Jerusalem Post
  21. ^ a b "Seventh Pan American Games -- 1975". USA Basketball. June 10, 2010. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  22. ^ "Games of the XXIst Olympiad – 1976". Archived from the original on August 8, 2014. Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  23. ^ Nancy Lieberman – HowStuffWorks
  24. ^ "1979 Women's R. William Jones Cup". USA Basketball. Archived from the original on September 28, 2015. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  25. ^ "Eighth Pan American Games -- 1979". USA Basketball. June 10, 2010. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  26. ^ "Media Guide". p. 9. Archived from the original on November 15, 2012. Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  27. ^ "Lieberman Inducted Into HR Hall". Archived from the original on February 23, 2012. Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  28. ^ "The Wade Trophy". Women's Basketball Coaches Association. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  29. ^ "Honda-Broderick Cup". Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  30. ^ "Past WBCA NCAA DI Coaches' All-America Teams". Women's Basketball Coaches Association. Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved July 3, 2014.
  31. ^ "Recipients of the Young American Award" (PDF). Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  32. ^ Grundy p 175
  33. ^ a b c d "Lieberman To Be Inducted Into Hampton Roads Sports Hall Of Fame". Archived from the original on July 26, 2011. Retrieved July 26, 2009.
  34. ^ "Old Dominion: Lieberman To Be Inducted Into Hampton Roads Sports Hall Of Fame". ESPN. Retrieved July 29, 2009.
  35. ^ "Old Dominion University Hall of Fame Members". Old Dominion University. Archived from the original on May 21, 2011. Retrieved July 29, 2009.
  36. ^ "ODU Media Guide" (PDF). Retrieved September 4, 2017.
  37. ^ a b "Past Honda Sports Award Winners For Basketball". THE Collegiate Women Sports Awards Program. Retrieved May 8, 2014.
  38. ^ a b c d "Hoophall Awards". Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  39. ^ "Past Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year Winners (Honda Cup)". THE Collegiate Women Sports Awards Program. Retrieved May 8, 2014.
  40. ^ "History of the WBL Third Season". Archived from the original on June 1, 2009. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  41. ^ "Star woman eager competes on Laker summer league team". Desert Sun. Palm Springs, California. Associated Press. July 20, 1981. p. C4. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  42. ^ "Dallas Diamonds (1979–81)". Archived from the original on May 17, 2008. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  43. ^ "Mixing It Up With The Guys". CNN. June 23, 1986. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  44. ^ "Lieberman, Nancy". Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  45. ^ Skaine, p. 128
  46. ^ "Nancy Lieberman-Cline". Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  47. ^ "An uncomfortable history lesson". Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  48. ^ University of Richmond
  49. ^ Jerusalem back on track with home win - Israel News - Jerusalem Post
  50. ^ Skaine, p. 129
  51. ^ "2008 WNBA Transactions". Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  52. ^ Nancy Lieberman breaks another gender barrier as D-League coach for Dallas franchise
  53. ^ "Kings Announce Coaching Staff". July 31, 2015. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  54. ^ Nancy Lieberman’s Return to Coaching Will Come in the Big3
  55. ^ Nancy Lieberman hired as Power head coach in BIG3


External links[edit]