“She was the one who really got women’s basketball going.”
That’s what John Wooden had to say about Ann Meyers Drysdale. She has impacted the sport of basketball as a college athlete, Olympic athlete, professional athlete, and sports journalist. She currently works in the NBA and WNBA, but she has played about every role there is in the world of basketball.
Meyers Drysdale comes from an athletic family. Her father was a guard for Marquette University and also played for the Shooting Stars, a professional team in Milwaukee. She is one of 11 children and not the only UCLA standout. Her brother, Dave, also played basketball at UCLA and then went on to play for the Milwaukee Bucks.
While she was still in high school, she played for the U.S. national team, and was the first national team member to still be a high school student. She was the first woman offered a full four-year athletic scholarship at any university and, while at UCLA (1974-78), she recorded the first quadruple-double in NCAA Division I basketball history, with 20 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals. She became the first four-time All-American women’s basketball player and had a career high 82.8% free throw shooting percentage as a junior.
That’s a lot of “firsts”. But, I’m not done. Not even close.
In 1976, she was part of the first United States Women’s Basketball team to compete in the Olympic games and she led her team to win the silver medal. Her contributions to the Olympics weren’t over. She covered the Olympics as a commentator for ABC in 1984 and has also covered a variety of sports for NBC, including men’s and women’s college basketball, as well as women’s volleyball and softball. She also covered women’s basketball for NBC in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympic games.
In 1980, Meyers Drysdale broke down a major barrier by becoming the first woman to sign a deal with an NBA team. She signed a $50,000 contract with the Indiana Pacers and attended a three-day tryout, but did not make the final roster. She was then the first woman drafted by the Women’s Professional Basketball League (WPBL) in 1978 by the New Jersey Gems where she played for two years. She was the league Co-MVP for the 1979-1980 season.
In 1988, Meyers Drysdale was the first woman inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame, and, in 1990, her #15 jersey was retired alongside Denise Curry, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Bill Walton. Her recognition in the sport wouldn’t end there, as she was also inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993. With good reason, the women’s basketball practice court at UCLA bears her name.
Meyers Drysdale is currently the Vice President for both the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, as well as a broadcaster for both teams. But, before that, she was the General Manager for the Mercury for five years. During that time, her team brought home the WNBA Championship not once, but twice, in 2007 and 2009.
Her accolades as an athlete are endless, but what is so special about this woman is how she continues to give back to the community. She has been involved with Special Olympics for more than 30 years and currently serves as a Sports Ambassador for Special Olympics Southern California. She also currently serves as the chair for Hoops for Youth, a Los Angeles-based program that helps bring underprivileged children attend UCLA basketball games at Pauley Pavilion.
Why don’t we add football to the list?
On top of her contributions to basketball, Meyers Drysdale is a Board Member for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which is given annually to college football’s Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year. She is one of only two women currently serving on the Board of Directors.
Ann Meyers Drysdale is a pioneer of women’s athletics and has left her mark at UCLA and on the world. She hasn’t let anything or anyone stand in her way and continues to be a role model for athletes everywhere.