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Ann Meyers--Still Breaking Ground

February 21, 1997|LARRY STEWART

Dick Ebersol knew how to play this one.

About three weeks ago, the head of NBC Sports called Dick Enberg to see if he wouldn't mind working a regional NBA telecast this Sunday involving the Utah Jazz at Seattle.

"He apologized and said he knew how I valued my weekends off," Enberg said. "He was having a tough time selling me until he said, 'Oh, and by the way, your broadcast partner would be Ann Meyers.'

"I thought, 'You son of a gun.' He had me. There was no way I could say no. The big right-hander would have reached down from heaven and grabbed my shoulder and turned me around a few times if I had said no."

Enberg, of course, was talking about Dodger great Don Drysdale, his former broadcast partner with the

Angels and Rams and the late husband of Meyers, whom NBC has hired as a basketball commentator.

The Utah-Seattle game, one of five NBA games NBC will televise Sunday, won't be shown in Los Angeles. Here, NBC will show San Antonio-Houston, followed by the New York Knicks vs. the Lakers at the Forum, but the Utah-Seattle regional telecast is significant for several reasons.

For one thing, there's Enberg's connection to Meyers' late husband.

For another, it is somewhat of a broadcasting breakthrough for women. Cheryl Miller worked a Miami-Clipper telecast for TBS last Nov. 27, but Meyers will be the first woman to work an NBA telecast for one of the three major networks.

She's scheduled to work another, Seattle at Portland on March 9, and will have a regular schedule of Women's NBA telecasts when NBC begins 10 weeks of Saturday coverage June 21 with a game between the Los Angeles Sparks, led by Lisa Leslie, and the New York Liberty, featuring Rebecca Lobo. The season concludes with the WNBA championship game Aug. 30.

Firsts are nothing new for Meyers.

She was the first four-time All-American basketball player--male or female--while at UCLA. In 1987, she was the first woman inducted into the UCLA Sports Hall of Fame. In 1979, she was the first--and still only--woman to sign a free-agent contract with an NBA team, the Indiana Pacers, though with no expectations of making the team.

Meyers, 43, now lives in Huntington Beach with her three children--D.J. (Don Jr.), 9; Darren, 7, and Drew Ann, who will be 4 on March 10.

Although she has made great strides as a broadcaster, she remains, first and foremost, a mother.

Two years ago, the Chicago Bulls offered her a job as their full-time radio commentator. They offered her the same job again this year.

"It was tempting, but I just couldn't see uprooting the kids," she said. "They've been through enough."


Meyers' world was shattered July 3, 1993, when Drysdale, the Hall of Fame pitcher-turned- broadcaster, died of a heart attack while on a Dodger trip in Montreal.

"You just never get over the loss of your best friend and partner," she said.

But Meyers is doing quite nicely these days, particularly since landing the NBC job, which could prove to be the big break she has been working and waiting for.

Meyers credits family and friends for pulling her through some tough times.

"You go through something like I went through and it changes your priorities," she said. "Family and friends become the most important things in your life."

Meyers has plenty of family. Her parents are divorced, but were together long enough to raise 11 children and, according to Meyers, did an amazing job.

Of Meyers' 10 siblings, the best known is brother David, a basketball star at UCLA who played five seasons in the NBA. He then became a Jehovah's Witness and quit basketball to devote more time to his family and his religion. David Meyers, now the father of a married daughter and a teenage son, is an elementary school teacher in Temecula.

Ann Meyers also has plenty of friends.

You talk to people such as NBC colleague Bill Walton, a teammate of David Meyers at UCLA in the early 1970s, and Paul Sunderland, who worked a UCLA-Arizona women's game with Meyers for Fox Sports West last Friday, and all you hear are positive things--about both Meyers the broadcaster and Meyers the person.

What Meyers did at a charity golf tournament last year, one benefiting the Special Olympics, speaks volumes about the kind of person she is.

With a crowd of 200 looking on, two Special Olympic athletes were asked to show off their golf swings.

One young athlete was so nervous his hand was shaking and he couldn't get his ball to stay on his tee. He tried several times. It was an awkward moment until Meyers emerged from the crowd.

"I think you have a bad tee," she said. "Here, let's try one of mine."

She teed the ball up, and the youngster hit it, to the delight of all those watching.

If good things happen to good people, Meyers' break with NBC has been long overdue.

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