Ann Meyers - Sports Career Played To Conclusion
Sports Career Played to Conclusion
In the women's league it was the New Jersey Gems that offered Meyers $145,000 to play for three years. She signed with the team on November 14, 1979. That season she was named to the All-Pro team and played for the East in the second-ever league All-Star game, held in Chicago on January 30, 1980. The West prevailed in the game, although the final score of 115-112 hinged on a controversial call over a play by Meyers.
Playing guard, and wearing jersey number 14 for the Gems, she culminated her first WBL season with an average of 22.2 points per game, to finish fifth in the league. She finished first in steals, with 4.9 per game, and third in assists with an average 5.9 per game. Additionally she was sixth in rebounds with 10.3 per game. In April 1980 she shared season MVP honors with Molly "Machine Gun" Bolin of the Iowa Comets.
As luck would have it the league was in dire straits, and teams began to fold even prior to the interim between the third and final season. Two of the 1979-80 expansion teams—the Philadelphia Fox and the Washington Metros—failed to complete their inaugural season. The Angels, the team that won the inaugural WBL championship in 1979, collapsed before the start of the 1980 season. Along with it went the 1979-80 champions, the New York Stars. Likewise the Iowa Comets and the Milwaukee Does suspended operations at that point.
When on January 20, 1980, President Jimmy Carter announced a U.S. boycott of that year's summer Olympics, the move devastated the WBL, which looked to the Olympic basketball competition to generate more interest in the women's sport. The boycott was confirmed by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) on April 21, 1980. Although the decision by the USOC brought some of the finest U.S. amateur players, such as Nancy Lieberman-Cline, into the league, it was too little and too late.
Many of the WBL players received only partial salary payments as the season concluded in the spring of 1980. Meyers lost thousands of dollars of her pay and countered by failing to return to the team training camp in New Jersey in October 1980. She sat out the 1980-81 season. Other WBL stars—including co-MVP Bolin—had signed with the newly formed Ladies Professional Basketball Association for the 1980-81 season, causing further distress to the WBL. By 1981 both leagues had folded altogether, leaving Meyers unabated in her need for athletic competition.