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Women's basketball legend Lusia Harris dies at age 66

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

Lusia Harris is regarded by many as the queen of basketball, the first and only woman ever to be officially drafted by an NBA team. Harris died on Tuesday at the age of 66.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Born in Mississippi in 1955, the 6-foot-3 star played basketball when women's sports were almost an afterthought. But that didn't stop Harris from being great. In a New York Times Op-Docs series, she recalled her basketball career.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LUSIA HARRIS: It just came natural.

ELLIOTT: Lucy Harris played college ball at Delta State University, where she became a three-time national champion.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Their main weapon is No. 45, Lusia Harris - always a dominating inside force.

ELLIOTT: Harris also starred on the international stage at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, leading the U.S. team to a silver medal.

MARTINEZ: It was the first time women's basketball was played at the Games, and Harris set a record that will never be broken. She scored the first points in Olympic women's basketball history.

ELLIOTT: But after the Olympics in college, her basketball career hit a dead end.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARRIS: I wanted to keep playing, but there was no place to go.

ELLIOTT: The WNBA did not exist until 1996, but the New Orleans Jazz knew talent. The NBA team drafted her with their seventh-round pick.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARRIS: I just thought it was a publicity stunt, and I felt like - I didn't think I was good enough, so I decided not to go. Yeah, I said no to the NBA.

MARTINEZ: Harris said she never regretted that decision. She did play one season for a professional women's league and later was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARRIS: Maybe the world would have known my name had I continued playing. But I didn't, so I don't speculate (laughter).

MARTINEZ: The queen of basketball, Lucy Harris - she was 66 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.