In 2000, she was inducted into the Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame. Lieberman is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
Lieberman was born in Brooklyn, New York, on July 1, 1958, to Jerome and Renee Lieberman. She was raised Jewish, and has become a born-again Christian. Her family lived in Brooklyn, when she was born, but soon moved to Far Rockaway, New York where she grew up with her older brother Clifford. Her mother brought up the children after a separation and divorce. While growing up, she was very interested in a variety of sports, playing baseball, softball and football with boys, before settling on basketball as her primary sport. She played basketball primarily on pickup teams with boys, not playing on a girl's team until she was a high school sophomore. While attending Far Rockaway High School in Queens, New York, she established herself as one of the top women's basketball players in the country by earning one of only 12 slots on the USA's National Team. In 1975, Lieberman was named to the USA Team designated to play in the World Championships and Pan American Games, where she brought home a gold medal and a silver medal in 1979.
Lieberman's mother, Renee, was not supportive of her daughter's passion for basketball. During one instance 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. Nancy then decided she had better go outside before she ran out of basketballs.
During the school year, she played for her high school team, but in the summer, played with an AAU team in Harlem, the New York Chuckles.
At age 17, Lieberman was named to the USA Basketball team roster. She would play for the team in the 1975 USA Women's Pan American Team, three years younger than the next youngest teammates. The games were originally planned for Santiago, Chile, then Sao Paulo, Brazil and finally held in Mexico City, Mexico in October. The Pan Am team had failed to win the gold in 1967 and 1971. This year, the team would be more successful, compiling a 7–0 record, and winning the gold medal for the first time since 1963.
Lieberman continued with the USA team to the 1976 Olympics in Montreal in the first-ever Women's Olympic Basketball Team Competition. Shortly after turning 18, Lieberman became the youngest basketball player in Olympic history to win a medal as the United States captured the Silver Medal.
Lieberman finished her USA Basketball career with the Pan American Team, at the 1979 games in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Although the team would win most of their games with ease, including a 38 point win over Brazil in the semi-final, they were unable to beat the team from Cuba, and lost the title match 91–86, settling for the silver medal.
From 1976 to 1980, Lieberman attended Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and played on the women's basketball team there. During that time, she and her team won two consecutive AIAW National Championships (1979, 1980) and one NWIT (Women's National Invitation Tournament) Championship in 1978. She was the first two-time winner of the prestigious Wade Trophy, 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. Lieberman also won three consecutive Kodak All-America awards (1978, '79, '80). Lieberman was one of six young adults to win the Young American Award from the Boy Scouts of America in 1980.
Lieberman earned the nickname "Lady Magic," a nod to Earvin "Magic" Johnson of NBA fame. 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. Lieberman amassed 2,430 points along with 1,167 rebounds in her collegiate career, producing an average of 18.1 points per game. Lieberman achieved a triple double (40 points, 15 rebounds, 11 assists) against Norfolk State in her sophomore year. Lieberman stole the ball 562 times and assisted a basket 961 times in her college career, believed to be modern records. She is the holder of several single-game and single-season records, including best free-throw shooting percentage in her freshman and sophomore years.
Lieberman earned her degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Old Dominion University on May 6, 2000. She was inducted into the ODU Sports Hall of Fame in 1985.
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.
In the 1980s, she dropped out of college to embark on a professional career in basketball. She played for several basketball teams and leagues, including the Dallas Diamonds of the Women's Pro Basketball League (WBL), a men's league called the United States Basketball League (USBL), and also with the Washington Generals, who served as the regular opponent of the Harlem Globetrotters. She was the number one draft pick of the Dallas Diamonds. One of her teammates with the Generals was Tim Cline, whom she married in 1988, taking the surname Lieberman-Cline until the couple's divorce on March 15, 2001.
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.
Lieberman's WBL career is featured in the book "Mad Seasons: The Story of the First Women's Professional Basketball League, 1978–1981," by Karra Porter (University of Nebraska Press, 2006).
She was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1996 and to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.
In the newly-formed WNBA's inaugural year in 1997, Lieberman played for the Phoenix Mercury. At the age of 39, she was the WNBA's oldest player in history.
In 1998, she was hired as General Manager and Head Coach of the WNBA's Detroit Shock. She coached for three seasons but left after accusations, by unnamed players, of a sexual affair with rookie point guard Anna DeForge. After leaving the Shock, Lieberman worked as a women's basketball analyst on ESPN.
On July 24, 2008, at 50 years old, Lieberman signed a seven-day contract with the Detroit Shock, 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.
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.
In November 2009, Nancy Lieberman became the coach of the Texas Legends in the NBA Development League, an affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks, emerging as the first woman to coach a professional men's basketball team. Lieberman currently lives in Dallas, Texas, near to where she now serves as assistant GM for the Legends and runs a summer basketball camp for boys and girls. This season she will join Fox Sports Oklahoma as an Analyst on the Oklahoma City Thunder Pre & Post-Game shows, Thunder Live.
Lady Magic: The Autobiography of Nancy Lieberman-Cline by Nancy Lieberman-Cline and Debby Jennings
Hardcover: 239 pages
Publisher: Sagamore Pub Llc (September 1991)
Amazon: Lady Magic: The Autobiography of Nancy Lieberman-Cline
The story of a "street-smart New York kid" who parlayed her physical talents, determination, and drive into an out- standing basketball career, Pan American and Olympic Game medals, and a million-dollar bank balance. Nicknamed "Lady Magic" because of her exceptional basketball skills she is one of the country's top female athletes.
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