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40 greatest female athletes: Nancy Lieberman

Nancy Lieberman, a pioneer of the women's game, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996. Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images

ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.

To the asphalt warriors (all men) on the pickup courts of New York City, the red-haired girl from Far Rockaway, Queens, was just another player. It was there that Nancy Lieberman, No. 29 in ESPN's countdown, honed her electric all-around game and her legend was born.

At 17, she was named to the U.S. women's national team, which took silver a year later at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. She then enrolled at Old Dominion, where she led the Lady Monarchs to two AIAW national championships (1979 and '80) and became the first two-time winner of the Wade Trophy as the country's best player.

"Nancy was the face of the game," says Marianne Stanley, who coached Lieberman at ODU. "She was a relentless competitor, always seeking to improve. You had to chase her out of the gym. You could find her in there at 1 a.m."

Read the complete story from espnW here.

Earlier in this series:

No. 40: Diver Fu Mingxia

No. 39: Jockey Julie Krone

No. 38: Gymnast Mary Lou Retton

No. 37: Hockey player Cammi Granato

No. 36: Soccer player Kristine Lilly

No. 35: Basketball player Diana Taurasi

No 34: Volleyball player Flo Hyman

No. 33: Soccer player Abby Wambach

No. 32: Swimmer Mary T. Meagher

No. 31: Marathoner Joan Benoit

No. 30: Sprinter Gail Devers