As in, out of the closet? For hoops legend Nancy Lieberman, it’s still a game

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer

Dr. Pepper Ballpark,
7300 RoughRiders Trail, Frisco. June 26 at 6 p.m. $5–$15.

Nancy Lieberman

JUMP SHOT | Lieberman plays with the boys at the Reebok Heroes Celebrity Baseball game, but we wonder if she likes to play with girls, too.

I have to admit: When I booked an interview with basketball legend Nancy Lieberman, I didn’t realize she wasn’t officially playing for our team. I assumed a lot based on nothing but speculation and simple gay math: She’s worked with the HRC, she’s an athlete and well, then there’s her scandal.

This came to mind as she tries a different game this weekend. She’ll play for the home team at the 9th Annual Reebok Heroes Celebrity Baseball game in Frisco, benefiting children’s charities The Heroes Foundation and the Mike Modano Foundation. She’ll play for the White Sox home club, but why can’t we get an answer on what other teams she might play for?

Lieberman is to women’s basketball what Michael Jordan is to men’s. She’s decorated with a gold medal from the Pan American games and a silver Olympic medal as the youngest basketball player in Olympic history. She’s set records, won championships and been elected into several basketball halls of fame. She’s got cred.

Then Sports Illustrated published a 2001 article revealing that she’d had an affair with Anna DeForge, one of the players Lieberman was coaching on the WNBA Detroit Shock team during the 2000 WNBA season. The buzz unraveled the team and Lieberman’s contract wasn’t renewed. But by the end of it, we knew little more about Lieberman personally … other than that she was divorcing her husband of 13 years.

Since then, Lieberman has thrived as an ESPN reporter and was recently named as the first female head coach in the NBA’s D-league, coaching the Texas Legends.

Caught up? OK, so, the question is, at this point in her career, and if she identifies as either lesbian or bi, what could be preventing her from coming out — even as straight?

The incident with DeForge gained Lieberman some fans in the community. Despite no definite answer, the hope that she could be one of ours was enough for the community to embrace her as one of its own. Instead, she appears to be pulling a Sean Hayes (and we all know how that turned out).

Lieberman even made an appearance earlier this year at a bachelorette auction fundraiser for Her HRC, an initiative to get more women involved with the Human Rights Campaign. Not only that, she had the winning bid at $4,000. Seriously, that says something, right?

We like Nancy, we really do. Heck, even I have a slight crush on her. But her lack of candor also feels like a slap in the face, or at least a smack of a wet towel on the backside. After a while, hiding is a little embarrassing. At this point, practically not even being around women anymore (Texas Legends plays men’s hoops), how could it hurt her career?

A community is like a team. LGBT civil rights are moving along but we can’t go into the fourth quarter two points behind when our star player could pull off a three-pointer in the last seconds. If we’re going to win, it would help to know who our MVPs could be to help get to that championship.

That goes the same for even coming out as straight.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 25, 2010.