"Nancy's a great gimmick," says Al Lewis, who has been scouting basketball players for more than 30 years but is better known for playing Grandpa on The Munsters. "She's always been a pugnacious s.o.b., but she doesn't have the speed or strength to compete with these men. It's genetics." And who knows genetics better than a guy whose son-in-law was assembled in a basement lab?
The Brooklyn-born Lieberman once spoke in an accent that would have lent authority to a subway cop on the BMT Brighton line, but she now favors the drawl of her adopted hometown of Dallas. Before catching on with the USBL, Lieberman played in two women's pro leagues, both of which went broke. The defunct Dallas Diamonds, in fact, will pay her $60,000 this year on a guaranteed contract that expires in 1987. Between Lieberman's forays into pro basketball, she was housemate, conditioning coach and psychic booster to Martina Navratilova. She moved out of Navratilova's house when she joined the Diamonds three years ago. "I was losing my identity," she says. "I don't want to be remembered as Martina's coach. I want to be remembered as a great basketball player."
Her greatest basketball achievement so far has come in the not-yet-released movie Perfect Profile, the story of a woman who accidentally made an NBA team because the owner thought she was a guy. Two weeks after she finished shooting the film, the Fame called. Ironically, her new team took its name from the local Basketball Hall of Fame, which inducted its first women in 1985 only after feminists picketed.
Lieberman's first appearance with the Fame was in Springfield's lone exhibition game, a 135-115 rout of Westchester's rotten Golden Apples, on June 6. Bibby used the occasion to showcase her for nearly 25 minutes. At first Lieberman appeared listless. She was tentative, dribbled into traps, and was stationary on defense. She missed all four shots she took in the first half but swished an open jumper with 9:28 to go in the fourth quarter and finished 4 for 12 with 10 points and 2 assists.
Lieberman blamed her shaky start on nervousness caused by the presence at the game of her father and mother, who hadn't seen each other in 15 years. She said, "I envisioned a New York Post headline that read: WOMAN MAULS EX-HUSBAND IN GYM."
As a kid, Nancy dreamed of playing in the same New York Knick backcourt as her idol, Walt Frazier. She now wears Clyde's number—10—and endorses his brand of sneakers. Maybe someday an NBA team looking for some attention will sign her to a 10-day contract. "Then I'll know there is a God," says Lieberman. But she also says, "The party's just starting, and I'm ready to dance."