Ann Meyers Drysdale reminisces about her arrival at Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, accompanied by three male basketball players. Not your typical car ride. This was uncharted territory for a young American.
Tryouts for the Indiana Pacers were being held for three days, with the aim of filling roster spots. Drysdale broke new ground with her mere presence, as she was the first woman ever invited to participate in NBA team tryouts. The year was 1979, and she signed a $50,000, no-cut contract with the Pacers, another first for a woman.
Although the Pacers ultimately informed Drysdale that she did not make the final roster, she was left disgruntled by the decision. But more than 40 years on, as she reflects upon the past, Drysdale doesn’t like to boast about her accomplishments, despite recognizing her place in women’s basketball. She prides herself on being the first high school player to be selected for the U.S. national team and was a gold medalist at the Pan American Games in 1975, among other achievements.
Off the basketball court, Drysdale has had a successful career as a broadcaster, covering the WNBA, NBA, and Olympics as a color analyst. She has also held managerial positions within the WNBA.
One of the pioneers of American women’s basketball, Drysdale credited her success to being in the right place at the right time. Her background was rooted in a family of sports enthusiasts. Growing up, sports was the unifying language for her family, who provided her unwavering support throughout her athletic endeavors.
At Sonora High School in California, Drysdale excelled in several sports and was particularly motivated by her brother Dave, who excelled as an All-American at UCLA and later in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks. Basketball was her primary focus, and she was no stranger to competition, having played AAU women’s basketball and even participated in the boys’ varsity summer league team as a teenager.
Storytelling and recollection are intrinsic to understanding Drysdale’s impressive basketball career, which includes two Olympic appearances and being the first four-time All-American in collegiate women’s basketball. Drysdale’s determinate nature and drive to succeed set her apart in the competitive world of basketball, making her one of the most dominant players of her time.
She demonstrated unwavering belief in her abilities, from posting career-high numbers as a senior at UCLA to being selected with the first pick in the inaugural Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL) draft by the Houston Angels. Her decision to remain an amateur in order to compete for Team USA speaks volumes about her commitment to representing her country.
Despite facing trying circumstances and taking it upon herself to make challenging decisions, Drysdale always immersed herself in the sport she loved. Each obstacle she encountered only fueled her determination to succeed, making her journey to winning a silver medal in the first Olympics to include women’s basketball, one that was symbolic and significant in the history of the sport.
Her personality was a consistent thread through her athletic career. An encouraging leader, she narrates her career with quiet confidence and determination, recognizing the countless individuals who were instrumental in her successes while respecting and inspiring those who pursued the game after her.
Ann Meyers Drysdale’s journey was filled with hurdles, yet through her tenacity and grace, she solidified her place in the annals of American women’s basketball, while simultaneously paving the way for the many gifted players who followed in her footsteps, ensuring that her pioneering legacy will always be remembered.
Rachel Adams is your WNBA insider, delivering comprehensive coverage of women’s basketball. With a commitment to highlighting the talent and achievements of WNBA players, she provides game analysis, player profiles, and inspiring stories from the league.