Legendary career keeps rolling along for Lieberman

If you look at Nancy Lieberman’s career you might think it would be difficult for her to accomplish anything more than she already has. But at age 53, Lieberman keeps contributing to the sports world, and after an illustrious career in women’s basketball, she is now working in the front office of the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League.

Lieberman’s accolades started rolling in during her early playing days in Harlem, N.Y., where she made a name for herself playing at the legendary Rucker Park. At just the age of 15, Lieberman secured a spot on the U.S. National Team, becoming the youngest player ever to do so, and just three years later she became the youngest player (male or female) in Olympic history at 18 years old.

Lieberman never slowed down, and now, over 35 years later, she has accumulated a prestigious list of accomplishments matched by no other. Hall of Famer, two-time Olympian, three-time All-American, WNBA head coach and GM, NBA D-League head coach and GM, broadcaster, motivational speaker, writer and author are all positions and achievements Lieberman boasts on her impressive resume.

Chicago Sky fans had the opportunity on Tuesday night to meet and hear from Lieberman as she promoted her book, “Playbook for Success” prior to the Sky vs. Connecticut game at Allstate Arena. The book was released in late October and is about achieving success in whatever you do whether it is sports or in the business world, for men or for women.

“Whether you are black, white, blue, girl, boy, the response that I got from the book has been so overwhelming that it’s almost gender and age free,” Lieberman said. “My book challenges you on a lot of levels. It’s not like, ‘oh you’re going to be okay.’ It’s like, ‘you know what? Figure it out. Make a rebound, and we are going to do it together.’”

But “Playbook for Success” did not initially have a message intended for everyone. When Lieberman ran into a legendary couple, the path of her book took a turn for the better.

“I initially started writing the book for corporate women, for business women,” Lieberman said. “It was Muhammad Ali and his wife Lonnie that I heard from when I was on a plane one day in Washington D.C., and they were doing an endorsement for the book. I got this long email from Lonnie and she goes, ‘this book is great, but it’s not just for women. It’s for men.’”

Lonnie Muhammad also told Lieberman that if she did not get the book into the hands of 10 to 15 year-old kids, the book was going to miss out on an entire generation, therefore lessening its impact.

“My book is my legacy and we all have one,” Lieberman said. “A legacy is a measure of what you leave behind for others. I was the poor Jewish kid from New York, growing up in New York City, taking the train by myself at night to Rucker Park at 11 or 12 when they were turning the heat, lights and everything off at my home. How am I here doing this interview with you? That book is a map system to be successful.”

Lieberman added, “The bigger picture is you want to be able to help people.”

Lieberman has made an impact on her share of people over the course of her career and is currently doing the same in the NBA D-League. The Hall of Famer became the first woman head coach in NBA or NBA D-League history in November of 2009 with the Texas Legends and recently was promoted to become the team’s assistant general manager.

Before receiving her promotion, Lieberman told Legends’ co-owner and Dallas Mavericks president Donnie Nelson she would be stepping down from her head coaching position in order to spend more time with her son, T.J. Cline.

“I signed up to be [T.J.’s] mom first and foremost,” Lieberman said. “I feel so honored to work for Donnie because Donnie sees a lot of pictures, but he sees family first. The good news is I’m leaving on my terms and having been successful. The fact that Donnie really wanted me to stay within the organization and thought highly of me to say, ‘we’re not losing you, we’re going to promote you,’ those are people you want to hug and just say thank you.”

Despite her move to the NBA, Lieberman will always have a direct connection with women’s basketball and the WNBA, and on Tuesday night Sky fans got the chance to learn a little more about the legendary Hall of Famer.

Lieberman also weighed in on the state of the WNBA which is celebrating its 15th year of existence.

“We’re a work in progress. 15 years is baby years in terms of a business,” Lieberman said. “We have a solid foundation with great leadership, and the greatest thing about the WNBA is we have this infrastructure now that’s going to get bigger, better and stronger.

In a career of firsts, it is never safe to say Lieberman is done breaking the mold. Her visit to Allstate Arena on Tuesday was just one more step along the way of a storied, and everlasting, legacy.