Remembering an Olympian, Hall of Famer, Legend, and Neighbor: Lusia “Lucy” Harris
Lusia Harris is a name not many outside the Greenwood, Mississippi, city limits recognizes at first. Residents who know “Lucy,” as so many called her, might have known her as mother to Crystal, Christina, George Jr., and Christopher. Or maybe as the local special education and high school basketball coach. They may just remember her for her infectious smile and laugh. Ask someone outside of the city limits if they recognize the name however, and they might respond, “oh yes! The Olympian.”
Recognized by many past coaches, teammates, and sports fans as the “Queen of Basketball,” it is a marvel this small-town Delta girl isn’t a household name. A three-time A.IA.W. National Champion (the women’s league equivalent to the NCAA before its first women’s tournament in 1982), and a serious threat on the court, Lucy paved the way for women’s basketball and athletics.
Lucy went on to represent the United States in the Montreal Olympics in 1976, where she scored the first ever point in the event. “That’s a record that can never be beat,” Lucy reflected with a smile in the 2021 short film “The Queen of Basketball.” Lucy and her teammates brought the silver medal home to the States that year. The first silver ever to be awarded in the event.
Outselling the men’s team at Delta State, Lucy and her teammates broke record after record for the school. So much so, the women’s team would be flown to games while the men rode busses. “I guess the women were bringing in the money,” said Lucy with a wink.
Given that the WNBA was decades away from formation, after Lucy graduated from college, she had nowhere to continue her game. That is, her game playing with other women. After her final game at Delta State, Lucy was chosen in the seventh round of the N.B.A draft by the New Orleans Jazz, making her the first woman ever to be officially drafted by the N.B.A. Given her natural size and ability, it was believable to most that she could succeed. But viewing the Jazz’s choice to draft her as nothing more than a publicity stunt, Lucy declined and instead opted for a smaller life, dedicated to her family. At the time, she was quoted by the Associated Press saying, “I play pretty well on the women’s level, but with the men, well, that’s something different.”
Even though Lucy never played professional basketball, she was still inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, escorted by her hero, Oscar Robertson.
We often wonder what life would have been like if we were born in a different time, or under different circumstances. How would our talents propel us forward? What opportunities would we not have? It’s easy to assume Lucy had these same thoughts but when asked in the Shaquille O’Neil-produced short film, she had a simple, and characteristically humble response. “Maybe the world would’ve known my name, had I continued playing… but I didn’t,” she said with a giggle. “So I don’t speculate.”
All of us who live in Greenwood are proud to have a legend, Olympian, and trailblazer associated with our small town. But what makes us beam is the fact that she called Greenwood her home. Lucy was an amazing ball player, yes, but more so than that, she was a great neighbor and friend to all of us in little ole Greenwood, Mississippi.
Come see the place Lusia loved most, by planning your own visit to Greenwood today. For more information about Greenwood, Mississippi click here.