PHOENIX MERCURY

Ann Meyers Drysdale named recipient of the 2024 Kobe and Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award

Feb 18, 2024, 12:00 PM

 

Ann Meyers Drysdale was named the recipient of the 2024 Kobe and Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award on Sunday.

Meyers Drysdale, the third winner of the annual award after Chris Paul (2022) and Pau Gasol (2023), received the honor for her “continued contributions to the advancement of girls’ and women’s basketball.”

Meyers Drysdale, who serves as the Phoenix Mercury’s vice president and a color commentator for the Mercury and Phoenix Suns, will be presented with the award during the 2024 NBA All-Star Game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Meyers Drysdale has deep ties to Indianapolis. She made history when she became the first woman to sign an NBA contract when she joined the Indiana Pacers in 1979. She took part in the team’s three-day tryouts and later became the first woman to broadcast an NBA game when she served as a color commentator for the Pacers.

“Having been around the WNBA since its inception, I am truly humbled to accept the 2024 Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award and to be viewed as an advocate for girls and women in sports,” Meyers Drysdale said in a release.

“I first met Kobe when his dad was coaching the Los Angeles Sparks, and I was on the Sparks’ broadcast team. I knew then how much passion Kobe had for the game of basketball and how that devotion ran in the family. It was a full-circle moment for me when Kobe led his daughters to the sport, and we all saw the support he gave to girls and women in the game. As someone who has also lost a husband while raising young children, I hope to honor Vanessa’s strength and bring further awareness to the ways that she continues to recognize her husband and daughter’s legacy.”

Drysdale’s husband, Don, was a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers who died of a heart attack in 1993. The couple had three children. Kobe and his daughter Gianna Bryant were among nine people who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020, in Calabasas, California.

A pioneer, Meyers Drysdale was the first high school player to make the United States national team and the first woman to receive a full four-year athletic scholarship to UCLA, where she competed in basketball, volleyball and track and field. She starred as a Bruin and was the first basketball player, male or female, to be selected to an All-America Team in four straight college seasons. In 1993, she was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Meyers Drysdale joined the Mercury organization in 2007 and has since won three WNBA titles. She served as general manager for the Mercury’s first two WNBA championships (2007 and 2009) and as vice president for the team’s third championship (2014).

Meyers Drysdale has also worked as an analyst at the 1984, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics. In addition to basketball, she has also worked as a commentator for softball, tennis, volleyball and baseball.

“Annie Meyers Drysdale is a pioneer who has had a profound impact on our game and influenced generations of athletes,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a release.

Engelbert and Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation Executive Director Kat Conlon will present Meyers Drysdale with the award on Sunday.

“She has worked tirelessly to elevate girls and women’s basketball during her decorated career as a player, executive and broadcaster,” Engelbert continued. “Presenting this advocacy award to such an inspiring leader is a wonderful way to honor the legacy of Kobe and Gigi Bryant, especially as we recognize the 45th year anniversary of Annie being the first woman to sign an NBA contract.”

Kobe was known for his advocacy and for supporting the growth of girls’ and women’s basketball at all levels. Kobe served as a coach and mentor to middle school, high school, college and WNBA players and helped train a multitude of girls and women.

The Bryant family created the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, a nonprofit organization, that provides funding to give girls equal opportunities through sports.

“Annie has been a force inspiring young girls on and off the court – something she, Gianna and Kobe shared and cared about deeply. I’m happy Annie is receiving this award in Kobe and Gianna’s memory – she is so deserving,” Vanessa Bryant, Chair of the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, said in a release.

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