Nancy Lieberman

Last updated

Nancy Lieberman
Nancy Lieberman by Gage Skidmore 2.jpg
Lieberman in 2018
Personal information
Born (1958-07-01) July 1, 1958 (age 64)
Brooklyn, New York
Listed height5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Listed weight175 lb (79 kg)
Career information
High school Far Rockaway
(New York City, New York)
College Old Dominion (1976–1980)
WNBA draft 1997 / Round: 2 (Elite) / Pick: 15th overall
Selected by the Phoenix Mercury
Playing career1980–1987, 1997, 2008
Position Point guard
Coaching career1998–2000, 2009–2011, 2015–present
Career history
As player:
1980–1981, 1984 Dallas Diamonds
1986 Springfield Fame
1987 Long Island Knights
1997 Phoenix Mercury
2008 Detroit Shock
As coach:
19982000 Detroit Shock
2009–2011 Texas Legends
20152018 Sacramento Kings (assistant)
Career highlights and awards
As player:
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
Women's Basketball Hall of Fame

Nancy Elizabeth Lieberman (born July 1, 1958), nicknamed "Lady Magic", is an American former professional basketball player and coach in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) who is currently a broadcaster for the Oklahoma City Thunder of the National Basketball Association (NBA) as well as the head coach of Power, a team in the BIG3 which she led to its 2018 Championship. [1] [2] Lieberman is regarded as one of the greatest figures in American women's basketball. [3] [4]


In 2000, she was inducted into the Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame. Lieberman is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, [5] the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame [6] the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, [7] and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame. [8]

Early life

Lieberman was born in Brooklyn, New York to Jerome and Renee Lieberman. She is Jewish (and described herself as "just a poor, skinny, redheaded Jewish girl from Queens"). [9] [10] Her family lived in Brooklyn when she was born, but soon moved to Far Rockaway, Queens, where she grew up with her older brother Clifford. [11] She lost great-grandparents in the Holocaust, and her paternal grandparents, who survived, had concentration camp numbers on their wrists. [12]

Her mother brought up the children after a separation and divorce. [13] While growing up, she was interested in a variety of sports, playing baseball, softball and football with boys, before settling on basketball as her primary sport. [13] She played basketball primarily on pickup teams with boys, not playing on a girls' team until she was a high school sophomore. [13]

Lieberman's mother Renee was not supportive of her daughter's interest in basketball. Once, when Lieberman was practicing dribbling techniques indoors because it was cold outside, her mother demanded she stop dribbling because of all the noise. When she did not stop, her mother punctured the basketball with a screwdriver. Lieberman found another ball and continued, but her mother punctured that one as well. This continued until five balls were ruined. Lieberman then decided she had better go outside before she ran out of basketballs. [14]

Playing career

High school career

While attending Far Rockaway High School in Queens, she established herself as one of the top women's basketball players in the country by earning one of the 12 coveted slots on the USA's National Team. In 1975, while still in her teens, Lieberman was named to the USA Team designated to play in the World Championships and Pan American Games, where the team won a gold medal. [15]

During the school year, she played for her high school team, but in the summer, played with an Amateur Athletic Union team in Harlem, the New York Chuckles. [16]

She told former Knick Walt Frazier that he was her hero and that it was because of him that she wore No. 10, saying: "You might not even know this, but you thought you were affecting young guys but you were affecting young, white Jewish women, not just boys." [17]

College career

From 1976 to 1980, Lieberman attended Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and played on the women's basketball team there. [18] During that time, she and her team won two consecutive AIAW National Championships (1979, 1980) [19] and one WNIT (Women's National Invitation Tournament) Championship in 1978. She was the first two-time winner of the prestigious Wade Trophy, [20] a national player of the year award in college women's basketball, and was selected as the Broderick Award winner for basketball as the top women's player in America. [21] Lieberman also won three consecutive Kodak All-America awards (1978, '79, '80). [22] Lieberman was one of six young adults to win the Young American Award from the Boy Scouts of America in 1980. [23]

Lieberman earned the nickname "Lady Magic," a nod to Earvin "Magic" Johnson of NBA fame. [24] Lieberman set a school record for career assists (961) that still stands today. She led the team in assists each of the four years she was on the team—in her sophomore year she averaged 8.9 per game. [25] Lieberman amassed 2,430 points along with 1,167 rebounds in her collegiate career, producing an average of 18.1 points per game. [25] Lieberman achieved a triple double (40 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists) against Norfolk State in her sophomore year. [25] Lieberman stole the ball 562 times and assisted a basket 961 times in her college career, believed to be modern records. [13] She is the holder of several single-game and single-season records, including best free-throw shooting percentage in her freshman and sophomore years. [25]

Lieberman earned her degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Old Dominion University on May 6, 1980. [26] She was inducted into the ODU Sports Hall of Fame in 1985. [27]

Professional career

Lieberman presenting a trophy to Moriah Jefferson Moriah Jefferson receiving Nancy Lieberman Award cropped.jpg
Lieberman presenting a trophy to Moriah Jefferson

In 1980 she was selected with the first pick in the Women's Pro Basketball League (WBL) draft by the Dallas Diamonds. [28] [29] [30] She helped Dallas to the 1981 WBL finals, where they lost to the Nebraska Wranglers in five games.[ citation needed ] She was named the "rookie of the year", after averaging 26.3 points per game. [31] Lieberman's WBL career is featured in the book Mad Seasons: The Story of the First Women's Professional Basketball League, 1978–1981.

In 1981, she played for the Los Angeles Lakers Summer Pro League team. [32]

In 1984, she once again suited up for the Dallas Diamonds, signing a three-year, $250,000 contract with the team to play in the Women's American Basketball Association (WABA). [31] Averaging 27 points per game and voted the league's Most Valuable Player, she helped Dallas win the 1984 WABA championship, but the league folded after the season. [33] The final game played was between the Diamonds and the WABA All-Stars, where Lieberman scored 19 points and was named the game's MVP in the Diamonds' 101-94 victory. [34]

In 1986, Lieberman signed with the Springfield Fame of the men's professional United States Basketball League (USBL) [35] where she went on to average 1.7 points in 11 minutes per game. [29] She remained in the league the following season, playing for the Long Island Knights.[ citation needed ] Later, she toured with the Washington Generals, who served as the regular opponent of the Harlem Globetrotters, where she met her future husband, teammate Tim Cline. [31]

She was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame [5] as a player in 1996 and to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame [6] in 1999.

In the newly formed WNBA's inaugural year in 1997, Lieberman played for the Phoenix Mercury. [36] At the age of 39, she was the WNBA's oldest player. [4] On July 24, 2008, at 50 years old, Lieberman signed a seven-day contract with the Detroit Shock, [37] breaking her own previous record as the oldest player in league history. She played one game and had two assists and two turnovers against the Houston Comets. The Comets defeated the Shock 79–61.

National team career

At age 17, Lieberman was named to the USA Basketball team roster. She played for the team in the 1975 USA Women's Pan American Team, three years younger than the next youngest teammates. [38] The games were held in Mexico City, Mexico in October. The Pan Am team had failed to win the gold in 1967 and 1971. In 1975, the team was more successful, compiling a 7–0 record, and winning the gold medal for the first time since 1963. [38]

Lieberman continued with the USA team to the 1976 Olympics in Montreal in the first women's Olympic basketball team competition. [39] Shortly after turning 18, Lieberman became the youngest basketball player in Olympic history to win a medal, when the United States captured the silver medal. [40]

Lieberman was named to the team representing the US at the 1979 William Jones Cup competition in Taipei. The USA team won all six games on the way to the gold medal. Lieberman earned a spot on the Jones Cup All-Tournament Team [41]

Lieberman played with the team at the 1979 Pan American games in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Although the team easily won most of their games, they lost to Cuba, 91–86, and received the silver medal. [42]

In 1980, Lieberman earned a slot on the 1980 Olympic team, but withdrew from the squad in support of U.S. President Jimmy Carter's boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. [43] She failed to make the final roster for the 1990 Goodwill Games and the 1992 Olympics.[ citation needed ]

Coaching career


In 1998, Lieberman was hired as general manager and head coach of the WNBA's Detroit Shock. She coached for three seasons. After leaving the Shock, Lieberman worked as a women's basketball analyst on ESPN.

NBA G League

In November 2009, Lieberman became the coach of the Texas Legends in the NBA Development League (now NBA G League), an affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks, thus becoming the first woman to coach a professional men's basketball team. The team began play in November 2010. [44] She later moved to a front office position with the Legends before joining Fox Sports Oklahoma as an analyst for the Oklahoma City Thunder studio show, Thunder Live .


In July 2015, she was hired by the Sacramento Kings as an assistant coach, becoming the second female assistant coach in NBA history. [45] She took two leaves of absence to care for her ailing mother before leaving the Kings in 2017. [46] After the Kings, she became a broadcaster with the New Orleans Pelicans. [47]


On March 21, 2018, it was announced that Lieberman was hired as a head coach of Power in the BIG3 league, replacing Clyde Drexler. [48] In her first season as head coach, she led her team to the 2018 Championship, defeating 3's Company to become the first ever female coach in the BIG3 to win a championship. [49]

Career statistics


Source [50]

  GPGames played  GS Games started MPG Minutes per game RPG  Rebounds per game
 APG  Assists per game SPG  Steals per game BPG  Blocks per game PPG Points per game
 TO  Turnovers per game FG%  Field-goal percentage 3P%  3-point field-goal percentage FT%  Free-throw percentage
 Bold Career high°League leader
1976-77Old Dominion University2756347.3%70.9%
1977-78Old Dominion University3468143.2%73.0%
1978-79Old Dominion University3662547.8%79.0%
1979-80Old Dominion University3756153.3%77.9%


Regular season

Source [51]

1997 Phoenix 25011.2.325.231.8001.
2008 Detroit 109.0.0000.
Career2 years, 2 teams26011.1.321.231.8001.


1997 Phoenix

Awards and honors

Personal life

in 1988, Lieberman married one of her teammates with the Generals, Tim Cline, [55] taking the surname Lieberman-Cline until the couple's divorce on March 15, 2001. [56]

T. J. Cline, her son. TJ Cline.jpg
T. J. Cline, her son.

Their son Timothy Joseph or T. J., played college basketball for the Richmond Spiders, and in November 2017 signed to play for Israeli team Hapoel Holon, which plays in the Ligat HaAl, the top division of Israeli basketball. [57] [58]

In religious matters, despite her Jewish upbringing, Lieberman became a Christian late in her life and was described as having embraced born-again Christianity [59] [60] and a 2015 Jerusalem Post article. [61] Nonetheless, she said in an interview in 2010, "I am 100% Jewish. My father's parents were deeply religious, we had two sets of silverware when we went and ate over there. My mother's side observed the major holidays. It was more relaxed. I went to Hebrew school as well." [12] In 2011, she visited Israel with her mother, saying "It has changed my outlook of Israel. I know as a Jewish woman how important it is for me to be connected to this culture and to this community." [62]

Lieberman was a contestant on the season 4 Gold Medal Challenge of Champions special of American Gladiators . She was eliminated after the third event with the lowest score of the three female competitors.

On August 13, 2008, she was part of the inaugural class to be inducted into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame, honoring athletes, coaches and administrators who made contributions to sports in Southeastern Virginia.

See also


  1. "Media Guide" (PDF). p. 12. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 4, 2011. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  2. "Nancy Lieberman/ Basketball". Archived from the original on January 29, 2010. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  3. "Nancy Lieberman" . Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  4. 1 2 Woolum, p. 177
  5. 1 2 "Hall of Famers Nancy I Lieberman". Basketball Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on August 31, 2009. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
  6. 1 2 "Nancy Lieberman". Archived from the original on October 23, 2009. Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  7. "JCC's Jewish Sports Hall of Fame welcomes nine new members: Local News". St. Louis Jewish Light. July 17, 2014. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  8. "Class of 1992 Nancy Lieberman". Virginia Sports Hall of Fame & Museum. Archived from the original on April 20, 2016. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
  9. Paul Yogi Mayer (March 1, 2004). Jews and the Olympic Games: sport : a springboard for minorities. Vallentine Mitchell. p. 171. ISBN   978-0-85303-451-3 . Retrieved September 26, 2012.
  10. Lieberman, Nancy (October 29, 2015). "One of the Guys". The Players' Tribune. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  11. Woolum, p. 175
  12. 1 2 Lieberman, Nancy (November 11, 2010). "Interview with Nancy Lieberman". Jewish Coaches Association. Interviewed by Adam Rosenfield. Archived from the original on April 28, 2018. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  13. 1 2 3 4 Porter p. 281–282
  14. Grundy, p. 171
  15. "Ninth Pan American Games -- 1983". USA Basketball. June 10, 2010. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  16. Woolum, p. 176
  17. "Nancy Lieberman returns to her city roots with message of inspiration". Newsday. February 14, 2015. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  18. "Media Guide". p. 9. Archived from the original on November 15, 2012. Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  19. "Lieberman Inducted Into HR Hall". Archived from the original on February 23, 2012. Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  20. "The Wade Trophy". Women's Basketball Coaches Association. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  21. "Honda-Broderick Cup" . Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  22. "Past WBCA NCAA DI Coaches' All-America Teams". Women's Basketball Coaches Association. Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved July 3, 2014.
  23. "Recipients of the Young American Award" (PDF). Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  24. Grundy, p. 175
  25. 1 2 3 4 "Lieberman To Be Inducted Into Hampton Roads Sports Hall Of Fame". Archived from the original on July 26, 2011. Retrieved July 26, 2009.
  26. "Old Dominion: Lieberman To Be Inducted Into Hampton Roads Sports Hall Of Fame". ESPN. Retrieved July 29, 2009.
  27. "Old Dominion University Hall of Fame Members". Old Dominion University. Archived from the original on May 21, 2011. Retrieved July 29, 2009.
  28. Skaine 2001 , p. 128
  29. 1 2 Carol Sliwa (September 24, 1986). "Don´t tell her 'girls don't play'". The Berkshire Eagle . p. D2. Retrieved September 1, 2021.
  30. "Dallas Diamonds (1979–81)". Archived from the original on May 17, 2008. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  31. 1 2 3 "Lieberman, Nancy". Archived from the original on November 29, 2010. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  32. "Star woman eager competes on Laker summer league team". Desert Sun. Palm Springs, California. Associated Press. July 20, 1981. p. C4. Retrieved February 14, 2019.
  33. Stan Hovatter Jr. (December 16, 1984). "Lieberman working to help Diamonds, league improve". Fort Worth Star-Telegram . p. 16B. Retrieved September 1, 2021.
  34. Marjorie Lewis (December 17, 1984). "Diamonds defeate WABA all-stars". Fort Worth Star Telegram . p. 6D. Retrieved September 1, 2021.
  35. "Mixing It Up With The Guys". CNN. June 23, 1986. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  36. Skaine 2001 , p. 129
  37. "2008 WNBA Transactions" . Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  38. 1 2 "Seventh Pan American Games -- 1975". USA Basketball. June 10, 2010. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  39. "Games of the XXIst Olympiad – 1976". Archived from the original on August 8, 2014. Retrieved July 6, 2009.
  40. "Nancy Lieberman". HowStuffWorks. Retrieved July 9, 2008.
  41. "1979 Women's R. William Jones Cup". USA Basketball. Archived from the original on September 28, 2015. Retrieved October 17, 2015.
  42. "Eighth Pan American Games -- 1979". USA Basketball. June 10, 2010. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved October 15, 2015.
  43. "History of the WBL Third Season". Archived from the original on June 1, 2009. Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  44. "Nancy Lieberman breaks another gender barrier as D-League coach for Dallas franchise". ESPN. Associated Press. November 5, 2009. Retrieved November 5, 2009.
  45. "Kings Announce Coaching Staff". July 31, 2015. Retrieved July 31, 2015.
  46. "Nancy Lieberman's Return to Coaching Will Come in the Big3". The New York Times. March 21, 2018.
  47. "Nancy Lieberman hired as Power head coach in BIG3". ABC News. March 21, 2018. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  48. "Nancy Lieberman hired as Power head coach in BIG3". March 21, 2018.
  49. "2018 BIG3 basketball championship: Power wins title after altercation; Corey Maggette named MVP".
  50. "ODU Media Guide" (PDF). Retrieved September 4, 2017.
  51. "Nancy Lieberman WNBA Stats". Basketball Reference . Retrieved May 15, 2021.
  52. 1 2 "Past Honda Sports Award Winners For Basketball". THE Collegiate Women Sports Awards Program. Retrieved May 8, 2014.
  53. 1 2 3 4 "Hoophall Awards". Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  54. "Past Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year Winners (Honda Cup)". THE Collegiate Women Sports Awards Program. Retrieved May 8, 2014.
  55. "Nancy Lieberman-Cline" . Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  56. "An uncomfortable history lesson" . Retrieved July 12, 2009.
  57. "T.J. Cline". University of Richmond. Retrieved March 13, 2015.
  58. "Jerusalem back on track with home win". The Jerusalem Post. November 16, 2017. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
  59. "Faith Leads to True Victory, Not Score at End of Game". The Christian Science Monitor. March 26, 1998. Retrieved December 18, 2020. For the most part, "Faith in Sports" focuses on male believers, but Hubbard also connects with some women, including basketball player Nancy Lieberman Cline, a Jew turned born-again Christian...
  60. Hubbard, Steve (1998). Faith in sports : athletes and their religion on and off the field. New York: Doubleday. pp. 130–133. ISBN   0385471920.
  61. "Nancy Lieberman ready to roam the sideline for the Sacramento Kings". The Jerusalem Post. TNS. August 4, 2015. Lieberman – who was raised Jewish, but has become a born-again Christian...
  62. "Sports pioneer Nancy Lieberman comes to Holy Land". The Jerusalem Post. May 18, 2011. Retrieved April 27, 2018.

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