By P.K. Daniel
Ann Meyers Drysdale’s name was inked alongside the likes of her childhood hero, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, and tennis legend Billie Jean King when Time Magazine released its “Top Ten Female Sports Pioneers of All Time” in 2010.
“You Let Some Girl Beat You?” is Meyers Drysdale’s autobiography chronicling her pioneering career. It was released in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of Title IX last May. On the book’s back cover, Boston Celtic great Bill Russell says: “Annie was one of the best players ever. I didn’t say male or female; I said ever.”
Meyers Drysdale, who will sign copies of her book and speak on the closing night of AWSM’s summer convention, has accomplished a dizzying number of firsts in her Hall of Fame basketball career. The self-described tomboy played seven sports at Sonora High School in La Habra, Calif. — basketball, volleyball, softball, track, tennis, badminton and field hockey. She was the first high school player to compete for the U.S. national basketball team.
Meyers Drysdale, who was the sixth of 11 children, was the first woman to receive a four-year Division I athletic scholarship to UCLA. On her way to becoming the first player (man or woman) to be a four-time Kodak All-American in basketball, the 5-foot-9 point guard recorded the first quadruple-double in Div. I history in a 1978 game where she scored 20 points and recorded 14 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals. Meyers Drysdale, who also played volleyball for UCLA, led the Bruins to a national track title in 1975. And as a senior, she led UCLA to its first women’s AIAW national basketball championship in 1978.
Her brother David also was an All-American at UCLA. He won two championships under legendary coach John Wooden, who once described Meyers Drysdale as “the one who really got women’s basketball going.”
She got it going when she led the U.S. to a silver medal in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, the first time women’s basketball was included in the Games. And she got it going again when she became the first and only woman to sign a free-agent contract with an NBA team. While she was cut by the Indiana Pacers, she made an impact. And she parlayed that opportunity into becoming the first woman NBA color commentator when she worked six games for the Pacers in 1979. That ended when the short-lived Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL) called, and Meyers Drysdale became the No. 1 overall pick. In 2012, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association renamed its women’s national Player of the Year award after her.
But eventually Drysdale would return to sports broadcasting where she’s enjoyed a career spanning more than 30 years. Last summer, she worked her fifth Olympics in London on NBC. She joined the Suns’ broadcast team as a color analyst last year. Her resume also includes the titles of vice president of both the Phoenix Mercury and the Phoenix Suns, becoming the only female VP of an NBA team. And in five seasons as general manager for the Mercury she built the franchise’s two WNBA championship teams in 2007 and 2009.
Meyers Drysdale competed in five ABC’s Superstars events. She won three consecutive titles and was the only woman to compete in the men’s competition. That’s where she met her late husband, Dodgers great and Hall of Famer Don Drysdale, who was covering the event. They’re the only spouses to be inducted into their respective Hall of Fames.
#AWSM2013 Agenda: Tentative schedule for three-day convention.