By Caitlin Swieca
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — When Ann Meyers Drysdale took the stage at El Chorro restaurant to close out the 2013 AWSM convention, she wasn’t there to talk about the athletic accomplishments that made her a trailblazer for women in sports.
Instead, like so many other notable pioneers who spoke over the course of the conference, she deferred credit to the women who came before her.
“People will think I’m a pioneer, but there were so many others who opened the door for me,” Meyers Drysdale said. “I just came along at the right time.”
Even if her good timing played a role, Meyers Drysdale certainly took advantage of all the opportunities Title IX opened up for women in 1972.
She was the first woman to receive a four-year athletic scholarship to UCLA, and she became a four-time All-American as a member of the Bruins women’s basketball team. A 1976 Olympian, she is still the only woman to sign a free-agent contract with an NBA team, trying out for the Indiana Pacers in 1979.
After more than 26 years as a broadcaster, Meyers Drysdale serves as vice president for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and NBA’s Phoenix Suns.
Her story is chronicled in her recent book, “You Let Some Girl Beat You?: The Story of Ann Meyers Drysdale.” Meyers Drysdale signed copies of the book and spoke with AWSM convention attendees before the closing meal.
“I never wanted to write my story,” she said. “I didn’t think it was important. (Co-writer Jodi Ravenna) pulled a lot out of me that I never wanted to talk about.”
Meyers Drysdale’s journey began at age 4, when she read a book about Babe Didrikson Zaharias. She said it changed her life and gave her a dream.
In her speech, Meyers Drysdale spoke at length about the keys to her success, including persistence, attitude and consistency.
She also spoke about the ongoing struggles of women’s sports to garner media coverage and about the Mercury’s star rookie, Brittney Griner.
When Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban floated the idea of giving Griner a tryout, Meyers Drysdale said she wasn’t focused on whether Griner could have made the NBA team.
“My attitude was the fact that she had an opportunity,” she said. “That’s all I looked at. Someone was giving her an opportunity.”
She also spoke of opportunity when she echoed another theme of the convention, urging women to pass on their success to others.
“You always have to help somebody,” she said, “because someone helped you along the way.”