Basketball Icon: Nera White Passes Away

April 14th, 2016

Nera White, one of the greatest women’s basketball and softball players of all time, died Wednesday at Sumner Regional Medical Center. She was 80 and had been ill since around Christmas.

Ms. White, a native of Lafayette, was the first woman inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, in 1992. In 1999 she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

A memorial service for Ms. White will take place in Lafayette. The date has not been set.

“Nera is probably the greatest athlete, man or woman, to come from this part of the country, certainly from this state,” said longtime Tennessean sports writer Jimmy Davy. “She probably did not get her due because she was a woman and women in athletics weren’t looked up to in her day like they are now. And Nera did not have a big ego. She kind of kept to herself and valued her privacy. She was a great, great softball player, but was more accomplished in basketball.”

Ms. White attended Peabody College, which is now a part of Vanderbilt and did not have a women’s basketball team at the time, so she played on an Amateur Athletic Union team sponsored by Nashville Business College.

Ms. White, who stood 6-foot-1, led Nashville Business College to 10 AAU national championships from 1955-69, including eight consecutively, was named the Most Outstanding Player in the AAU national tournament 10 times and was an AAU All-American 15 years in a row.

Ms. White was the Most Valuable Player of the World Championships in 1957-58 after leading the U.S. to a win over Russia in the title game.

The inscription on her Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame plaque states Ms. White was “a player whose skill and athleticism was before her time,” and that she was one of the best woman players in the world.

Along with her accomplishments in basketball, Ms. White was an outstanding softball player who was named All-World in 1959 and 1965 for the Amateur Softball Association Fast Pitch team. She was the first woman to circle the bases in 10 seconds.

In 2014 The Tennessean named Ms. White to its Legendary Ladies, a list of the eight greatest women associated with basketball in the state’s history.

Ms. White was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1969, the same year she retired from competition.

In 2000, Sports Illustrated ranked Ms. White seventh on its list of the 50 greatest sports figures from Tennessee. The magazine also ranked her as the sixth best women’s basketball player nationally of all-time.

The gymnasium at Macon County High, where she attended (1950-54), is named in Ms. White’s honor.

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