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NEW YORK, Feb. 18, 2024 – The WNBA announced today that Naismith Memorial and Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer Annie Meyers Drysdale has been named the recipient of the 2024 Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award for her continued contributions to the advancement of girls’ and women’s basketball. Meyers Drysdale, a vice president and longtime broadcaster with both the Phoenix Mercury and the Phoenix Suns, has consistently broken barriers and fought for equality in sports during her storied basketball career. 


WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation Executive Director Kat Conlon will present Meyers Drysdale with the award tonight during the 2024 NBA All-Star Game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.  Meyers Drysdale is the third recipient of the annual honor, joining Chris Paul (2022) and Pau Gasol (2023). 


The Kobe and Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award honors advocates and influencers who use their time, talent and platform to raise awareness for the WNBA and girls’ and women’s basketball, like Kobe Bryant was so committed to doing.  Kobe was a major contributor to the growth of the women’s game at every level, helping train and mentor middle school, high school, college and WNBA players.  The Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award highlights Kobe’s legacy as a coach and mentor and Gigi’s inspirational, relentless commitment to playing at the highest levels of the game. “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,” said Vanessa Bryant, Chair of the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation.


“Annie Meyers Drysdale is a pioneer who has had a profound impact on our game and influenced generations of athletes,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert.  “She has worked tirelessly to elevate girls and women’s basketball during her decorated career as a player, executive and broadcaster.  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.”


“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,” said Meyers Drysdale.  “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.”


Meyers Drysdale’s trailblazing accomplishments include being the first high school basketball player to make a U.S. National Team, the first female athlete to receive a full athletic scholarship to UCLA (where she competed in basketball, volleyball and track & field) and the first college basketball player to be named to the All-America Team in four consecutive seasons.  She also made history as the first woman to sign an NBA contract when she joined the Indiana Pacers in 1979.


As a basketball executive, Meyers Drysdale was general manager for the Mercury’s first two WNBA championships (2007 and 2009) and vice president for the franchise’s third and most recent championship (2014).


Meyers Drysdale’s pioneering achievements extend to her award-winning broadcasting career.  She was the first woman to broadcast an NBA game, as a color commentator for the Pacers.  Meyers Drysdale has served as an analyst for several national networks across a variety of sports, including assignments at six Summer Olympics. 


In 2012, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association renamed its women’s Division I college basketball National Player of the Year award in honor of Meyers Drysdale.  The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s annual award recognizing the top collegiate shooting guard is also named for Meyers Drysdale.


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