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The WNBA announced on Sunday that Ann Meyers Drysdale has been named the recipient of the 2024 Kobe and Gigi Bryant Advocacy Award. She will be presented with the award during the 2024 NBA All-Star Game in Indianapolis on Sunday night by WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert. 

"Annie Meyers Drysdale is a pioneer who has had a profound impact on our game and influenced generations of athletes," Engelbert stated in a press release. "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."

Meyers Drysdale, a vice president and commentator for both the Phoenix Mercury and Phoenix Suns, was a star during her playing days and consistently broke barriers. 

She went to UCLA, where she became the first woman in the country to receive a four-year athletic scholarship, and led the Bruins to the national championship in 1978. A year later, she became the first woman to sign an NBA contract when she inked a $50,000 deal with the Indiana Pacers, though she ultimately did not make the team. On the international level, she was the first high school player to suit up for Team USA and helped the Americans win a silver medal at the 1976 Olympics and a gold medal at the 1979 FIBA World Championship. 

After her playing career, Meyers Drysdale was the general manager for the Mercury when the team won WNBA titles in 2007 and 2009, and was a vice president during their 2014 title. She is also the first woman to broadcast an NBA game, which she did for the Pacers. 

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 in 2012, and 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. 

She was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993. 

"Having been around the WNBA since its inception, I am truly humbled to accept the 2024 Kobe and Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award and to be viewed as an advocate for girls and women in sports," Meyers Drysdale stated. "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."

Previous Kobe and Gigi WNBA Advocacy Award winners:

  • 2022: Chris Paul
  • 2023: Pau Gasol