Former No. 1 pick dies at 37

BRISBANE, Australia -- Margo Dydek, a 7-foot-2 former WNBA player who led the league in blocks nine times, died Friday after being placed in a medically induced coma following a heart attack a week ago. She was 37.

Her death was confirmed to The Associated Press by Cathy Roberts, operations manager of the Northside Wizards in the Queensland Basketball League, where Dydek was the coach.

The Poland-born Dydek, pregnant with her third child, was stricken with a heart attack May 19 and collapsed at her home in Brisbane. Dydek was early in her pregnancy and the fetus died, Roberts said.

Dydek was once said to be the tallest active professional female basketball player. She was the No. 1 pick in the 1998 WNBA draft by the Utah Starzz. She also played for San Antonio, Connecticut and Los Angeles.

"She was a tremendous person, role model and athlete who touched the lives of her many fans and made an indelible mark on women's basketball around the world," WNBA president Laurel Richie said.

Dydek held the record for most blocks in a WNBA career (877 in 323 games) and led the league from 1998 to 2003 and again from 2005-07. In 2008, Dydek signed with the Los Angeles Sparks following time away from basketball to give birth to her first son.

"Not only was Margo a great basketball player, she was one of the kindest people I had the opportunity to play against and later work with," said Sparks general manager Penny Toler, who also played with Dydek.

"I was saddened to hear about her passing at such a young age. Her memory will live on, not only with the Sparks but with the entire WNBA. Our deepest sympathies go out to her family."

Tina Thompson, a former teammate on the Sparks, said on the WNBA's Twitter feed: "My condolences to the family of Margo Dydek, may she rest in peace!"

According to Dydek's Facebook page, she was born to a 6-7 father and 6-3 mother. Her oldest of two sisters, Kashka, played for the Colorado Explosion of the now defunct ABL and in Poland.

The Brisbane-based Wizards said on their website that Dydek died "peacefully and surrounded by her family."

"Always in our hearts -- Margo. ... You were a much-loved member of our community and we will miss you greatly," the team said.

She is survived by her husband, David, and two sons, David, 3, and Alex, 7 months.