High-SchoolGirl: Women's basketball

Sheryl SwoopesBill Baptist/NBAE/Getty ImagesIn 1997, Sheryl Swoopes was the first player to sign a contract in the new WNBA.
ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.

Sheryl Swoopes' legendary career began in high school, when she led Brownfield (Texas) to its first girls' basketball state title.

From there, the No. 16 woman in ESPN's countdown went on to win an NCAA championship at Texas Tech, three Olympic gold medals, four WNBA titles with the Houston Comets and three MVP awards.

"In my mind, the thing that always separated her was how she could elevate her game when the pressure was highest," says Marsha Sharp, who coached Swoopes at Texas Tech. "The spotlight spurs her to a different level."

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
No. 17: Basketball player Ann Meyers Drysdale
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

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