Nancy Bird?

YOU might have missed it, what with all the (entirely deserved) hoopla surrounding Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics. But there was another basketball story this week: Nancy Lieberman became the first woman to play in a regular-season men's professional basketball game. Never mind that she was disappointed with her performance and didn't score a single point. She still made history in her debut with the Springfield Fame -- the pro team in the Massachusetts city where basketball was invented. And the Fame, part of the ``developmental'' United States Basketball League, did win, 122-107, against a team from Staten Island.

Nancy Lieberman, a 5-foot, 10-inch guard, grew up dreaming of playing with the New York Knicks along with Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, and Bill Bradley; she was on the two-time national champion women's team at Old Dominion and a star of the 1976 Olympics. More recently she has been involved in two short-lived women's basketball leagues.

She is a ``real player,'' untroubled by charges that ``gimmickry'' motivated the Fame to give her a year's contract for a reputed -- brace yourselves! -- $10,000.

Time will tell how many other women may follow her into the men's leagues, or what is in store for the women's leagues. But this week's game moves Lieberman closer to her big-league dreams, and dreams know no gender.

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