I first met Nancy Lieberman at Shea Stadium in the summer of 1974. No, I wasn’t at a Met game. The reality was that Yankee Stadium was being renovated so the Yankees were playing their home games at Shea.
Nancy was a big Yankee fan as were her friends Carmen and Barbara Wood, who were with her that day. Barbara would eventually become my girl friend so naturally I got to hang around Nancy a lot.
I would find out that this girl was an incredible athlete who not only was a great basketball player but she was also a terrific baseball player. Nancy would come to some of my practice sessions and proved to be as good if not better than most of the guys there.
The first time I saw Nancy on a basketball court I said to myself that this can’t be real. Here was a Jewish girl, outplaying all the real good basketball players from Queens. Nancy was so good that she had to get on the A train from Far Rockaway to go all the way to Harlem to play the best of the best. She would generally be the only girl playing against all the brothers from basically around the world. Sometimes she even played against some of the professionals from the NBA.
I remember getting back to the Yankee Clubhouse and telling Gene Michael and Thurman Munson about Nancy and they thought that I was exaggerating. Don’t forget that both Gene and Thurman were big time high school and college basketball players.
One Saturday afternoon Nancy came to a Yankee game so I asked Thurman if he would say hi. So Thurman walked out with me and went up to Nancy and said that he had to see this girl with the magic jump shot. After a little chit-chat, Thurman said “Nice to meet you Nancy, however there is no way that you’re gonna be able to shoot over me.” Nancy said “Let’s find ou,” and Thurman winked. It was a sweet moment that not too many people got to have with the wonderful Thurman Munson. “Lady Magic” can always say she did.
Nancy Lieberman would go on to star at Old Dominion University and be selected to play in two Olympics. She would become the first woman to play in a men’s professional basketball league. She would be a star in the WNBA. She would go on to coaching and become one of the first woman coaches in the NBA. She has been one of the best woman broadcasters in the game and today she is also coaching under Ice Cube in that Three on Three league called “Big Three.”
In the middle of all this, Nancy makes a priority of doing an incredible amount of charity work through her foundation, “Nancy Lieberman Charities.” Thanks to Nancy, countless number of kids have been to college and over six million dollars has been raised for different causes. Let me add that eighty-eight parks have been built for children. Nancy is a firm believer that you have to take the kids away from the video games and out to the parks.
Watching the philanthropic ways of Yankee owner George Steinbrenner really had an affect on me. At this stage of her life, Nancy says it has been about three parts.
1. Learning as a kid. 2. Earning an income to deal with life 3. Returning or giving back because of her good fortune. Sounds like the Boss.
Nancy has forever been a Yankee fan and had always idolized Bobby Murcer and Thurman Munson. Nancy has a wonderful friendship with Kay Murcer (Bobby’s wife)
and can’t wait to meet Thurman’s wife Diana.
Nancy has received hundreds of awards through the years but says that on February 4 she won’t be able to hold back her emotions because this might be the award that she might be the most fond of.
“I loved Thurman Munson and everything that he represented as an athlete and as a man,” she said. “I worked that much harder because of Thurman and I couldn’t be more proud and happy to be receiving the Thurman Munson award.”