Written by Nicole Powell
On Thursday, March 30, the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA), the official alumni association of former NBA, ABA, WNBA, and Harlem Globetrotters players, hosted in collaboration with the NCAA and Nancy Lieberman Charities, a VIP kick-off party ahead of what became an epic women's Final Four and national championship weekend in Dallas.
The gathering, which was a celebration of women's basketball, was held at Star Power -- and members from the WNBA, NBA, and Harlem Globetrotters communities swelled the room in support of NBRPA Secretary, Sacramento Kings Assistant Coach, and Hoop Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman.
Visibly excited about the NCAA's decision to bring the women's championship games to the city of Dallas, Lieberman shared what the weekend meant to her:
"As a lot of you know, I'm from New York City, and I've been here since 1980. This town was so far ahead in embracing women in sports," said Lieberman. "I was drafted by the Dallas Diamonds, and at that time, we played at SMU and averaged over 6,000 [attendees] a game before the amazing NCAA took over women's basketball, and took us to another level. This city was ahead in its vision of what we could be as women."
The two-time Wade Trophy winner all-time career assists leader at Old Dominion University thanked the NCAA selection committee for bringing the games to the city, and strongly urged everyone in the room to keep a continued interest in women's basketball beyond the weekend by supporting the WNBA's Dallas Wings.
"If you care about women, if you care about sports, if you care about supporting a pro team, I challenge everyone in here to go to a game next season," Lieberman said. She also gave high praises for newly-appointed Wings head coach, Fred Williams, who she described as a supporter of women's basketball for the more than 22 years. Lieberman knows that Williams is the right fit to coach a WNBA team in Dallas.
NBRPA Vice President of Membership and Programming Kenny Gattison, who Lieberman called a "true friend," and also supported the Hall of Famer's aspirations to coach in the NBA, highlighted the importance of WNBA members joining the NBRPA.
"We've set our mission to try to help former professional basketball players’ transition from the court to real life and have over 20 programs that help, including degree completions, mental wellness and professional development. It's a priority of ours that we continue to outreach and bring in and grow our WNBA members," said Gattison.
Anucha Browne, Vice President of the NCAA Women's Championships, who has known Lieberman since she played basketball on New York City's playgrounds as a teenager, chimed in to touch on how monumental the city of Dallas has been in supporting the women's Final Four weekend.
"The fact that the women's championship is in Dallas is pivotal; we are sold out for both games, which is a testament to the support we have in Dallas," said Browne. "It's not just about people coming in from out of town, it's about the support of this community, and the history of this city's support of women. If the opportunity becomes available, the women's Final Four will return to Dallas."
Not taking the success of the women's Final Four weekend for granted, Browne reminded everyone in the room the significance of Title IX -- the legislation enacted in 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity -- and the challenges women like Lieberman faced growing up in that era.
"Prior to 1972, the most popular sports for women and girls were cheerleading and square dancing," Browne recalled. "When you think about that, and the fact that Nancy came up in that era, she's a Title IX baby. She took a stand and decided 'I'm gonna ball in New York City,' long before there was a true leveled playing field for women."
Browne also touched on Lieberman's toughness and grit, and what it took for her to go after her dream.
"It's not easy playing ball in the parks in New York City. I recall getting punched in the face playing ball simply because they did not want a girl on the court," Browne shared matter of factly. "Nancy learned and honed her skills on those courts and she is powerful and confident."
The NCAA executive spoke highly of Lieberman's life outside of sport and her dedication to helping those in need through her charities.
"The most important thing about Nancy is she also lives a life of service to others. That is really what defines you," said Browne. "It's not about the game, it's about what you do with the game: that's what Nancy's about. It's about impacting other people, and lifting as you rise."
About the National Basketball Retired Players Association
The National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) is comprised of former professional basketball players from the NBA, ABA, WNBA and Harlem Globetrotters. It is a 501(c) 3 organization with a mission to develop, implement and advocate a wide array of programs to benefit its members, supporters and the community. The NBRPA was founded in 1992 by basketball legends Dave DeBusschere, Dave Bing, Archie Clark, Dave Cowens, and Oscar Robertson. The NBRPA works in direct partnerships with the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. Arnie D. Fielkow is the President and CEO, and the NBRPA Board of Directors includes Chairman of the Board Dwight Davis, Vice Chairman Mike Glenn, Treasurer Casey Shaw, Secretary Nancy Lieberman, Rick Barry, James Donaldson, Spencer Haywood, LaRue Martin Jr., David Naves, Johnny Newman, and Eldridge Recasner.
About Nancy Lieberman Charities
The Nancy Lieberman Charities is a 501 (c)3 organization funded by charitable donations and committed to promoting and developing healthy lifestyles and educational opportunities for young girls and boys. Nancy Lieberman Charities is dedicated to expanding and ensuring that educational and sports opportunities exist for economically disadvantaged youth. Approximately 85% of the students that we serve with our basketball camps, clinics, Dream Courts™, college scholarships, and school supply programs, throughout the United States, are from low-to-moderate income families.