40 greatest female athletes: Ann Meyers Drysdale

Ann Meyers had a mix of strength, finesse and unyielding competitive zeal that helped propel women's basketball during the early Title IX era. AP Photo/Reed Saxon

ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.

If you're wondering who deserves credit for elevating women's basketball, start with Ann Meyers Drysdale.

Meyers entered college as the first woman to earn a full athletic scholarship to UCLA, and the No. 17 woman in ESPN's countdown left as a four-time All-American. While in Westwood, she led the Bruins to the 1978 AIAW national title as a senior. She also still holds school records for career steals and blocked shots.

Later, she became the first woman to try out for an NBA team. Today, she is the general manager of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, who have won two titles under her watch, in 2007 and 2009.

"It doesn't matter if you didn't see her play in her prime," says Nancy Lieberman, who won a silver medal with Meyers at the 1976 Montreal Games. "She's more than just an athlete. She's an icon."

Read the full story from espnW here.

Earlier in this series:

No. 40: Diver Fu Mingxia

No. 39: Jockey Julie Krone

No. 38: Gymnast Mary Lou Retton

No. 37: Hockey player Cammi Granato

No. 36: Soccer player Kristine Lilly

No. 35: Basketball player Diana Taurasi

No 34: Volleyball player Flo Hyman

No. 33: Soccer player Abby Wambach

No. 32: Swimmer Mary T. Meagher

No. 31: Marathoner Joan Benoit

No. 30: Sprinter Gail Devers

No. 29: Basketball player Nancy Lieberman

No. 28: Marathoner Grete Waitz

No. 27: Soccer player Michelle Akers

No. 26: Basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw

No. 25: Swimmer Dara Torres

No. 24: Golfer Nancy Lopez

No. 23: Swimmer Tracy Caulkins

No. 22: Soccer player Marta Vieira da Silva

No. 21: Tennis player Venus Williams

No. 20: Figure skater Michelle Kwan

No. 19: Skier Lindsey Vonn

No. 18: Softball player Lisa Fernandez