As a kid, Lusia “Lucy” Harris would often bury her head under a quilt at night, being rocked to sleep by her favorite lullaby—the sound of NBA basketball games.

Bill Russell. Wilt Chamberlain. Oscar Robertson.

All three were larger-than-life figures who were the envy of many children, Harris included.

Little did that little girl know at the time, she, too, would become a basketball legend idolized by many; a player, whose planted seeds of success, would be at the root of women’s basketball blossoming into what it is today.

That is the legacy so many of us cling to when reminiscing about Harris, 66, who passed away on Jan. 18.

"We are deeply saddened to share the news that our angel, matriarch, sister, mother, grandmother, Olympic medalist, The Queen of Basketball, Lusia Harris has passed away unexpectedly today in Mississippi," the Harris family said in a statement released by the Delta State University, Harris’ alma mater. "The recent months brought Ms. Harris great joy, including the news of the upcoming wedding of her youngest son and the outpouring of recognition received by a recent documentary that brought worldwide attention to her story."

Image: Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Tribeca Festival.

Harris’ basketball accomplishments on their own, merit a moment to pause and reflect upon her greatness.

But with Harris, there was more to her and her legacy.

Harris did more than just break records at Delta State University in rural Cleveland, Mississippi. The 6-foot-3 Harris broke down societal barriers that obstructed the growth of female athletes, forcing a recalibration of conventional wisdom when it came to preconceived notions about female athletes.

And she could draw a crowd, which is another one of the perceived shortcomings of the women’s game.

In a recent documentary about her life, Harris talked about how the women’s basketball team was treated on many levels, better than those who were on the men’s team.

She was proof-positive that women basketball players were coming of age, a movement that was enhanced by Title IX which brought about sweeping legislative changes to college athletics which made the playing field in terms of the treatment of male and female athletes, more equitable.

Her story is one in which there are tremendous triumphs, like winning three national championships and being the first woman to score a basket in the Olympics; and tremendous heartache such as having one of the greatest collegiate careers ever and nowhere to take those talents afterward,

"I wanted to keep playing, but there was no place to go. There was no WNBA when I came along. It didn't exist," she said.

Such uncertainty about her future, impacted her mental health.

Mental illness was among the many battles fought—and won— by Harris who revealed in the documentary that she was bi-polar and at one point in her life, had a nervous breakdown.

More than anything, she just wanted to play the game and be connected to it for as long as she could.

But balancing that desire to stay connected with the game while moving on to begin having a family with her childhood sweetheart, created a crossroad moment that on many levels would define Harris.

Among them was being drafted by the New Orleans Jazz with the 137th pick of the 1977 NBA draft.

Yes, it would have been a dream come true for many, to compete at the highest level of basketball.

But Harris had other plans.

“We had already decided to start a family,” said Harris, who added that she thought the Jazz drafting her was a publicity stunt. “Competing against women, yes? It's a different story competing against a man. So, I decided not to go. I said no to the NBA.”

And when she reflected upon that decision, Harris maintained she wouldn’t have done things differently.

“The NBA, I don’t have any regret not going, not even a little bit,” said Harris who in the documentary then rattles off the degrees and academic achievements of her children. “If I was a man, there would have been options for me to go further and play. I certainly would have had money, would have been able to do things, a lot of things that I would have wanted to do. I wanted to grow up and shoot that ball just like they shoot it, and I did.”