High-SchoolGirl: Nancy Lieberman

Ann MeyersAP Photo/Reed SaxonAnn Meyers had a mix of strength, finesse and unyielding competitive zeal that helped propel women's basketball during the early Title IX era.
ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.

If you're wondering who deserves credit for elevating women's basketball, start with Ann Meyers Drysdale.

Meyers entered college as the first woman to earn a full athletic scholarship to UCLA, and the No. 17 woman in ESPN's countdown left as a four-time All-American. While in Westwood, she led the Bruins to the 1978 AIAW national title as a senior. She also still holds school records for career steals and blocked shots.

Later, she became the first woman to try out for an NBA team. Today, she is the general manager of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, who have won two titles under her watch, in 2007 and 2009.

"It doesn't matter if you didn't see her play in her prime," says Nancy Lieberman, who won a silver medal with Meyers at the 1976 Montreal Games. "She's more than just an athlete. She's an icon."

Read the full 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
No. 29: Basketball player Nancy Lieberman
No. 28: Marathoner Grete Waitz
No. 27: Soccer player Michelle Akers
No. 26: Basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw
No. 25: Swimmer Dara Torres
No. 24: Golfer Nancy Lopez
No. 23: Swimmer Tracy Caulkins
No. 22: Soccer player Marta Vieira da Silva
No. 21: Tennis player Venus Williams
No. 20: Figure skater Michelle Kwan
No. 19: Skier Lindsey Vonn
No. 18: Softball player Lisa Fernandez
Nancy LiebermanBarry Gossage/NBAE/Getty ImagesNancy Lieberman, a pioneer of the women's game, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996.
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

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