Debbie Mason, also known as “Little Pearl” for her fancy moves with the basketball, became the third woman to be inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame. During her acceptance speech, Mason, who graduated from Bryant High School in Queens, thanked God for allowing her to be there. She also thanked her mother, sister and her two nephews “and the best coach I ever had, Lucille Kyvallos.”
It was another happy reunion for the legendary Kyvallos after coaching Mason at Queens College.
The other women athletes to be inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame as players were Nancy Lieberman, inducted in 1993, and Gail Marquis, a 2009 inductee who was a member of the 1976 USA Women’s Basketball Team, the first-ever women’s basketball team to represent the United States in the Olympic Games.
Mason did have one regret. “I wasn’t able to attend when my 1972-1973 Queens College teammates were inducted as a team in 2004,” she said. After leaving Queens College, Mason played pro ball in Sweden. “I only played one season. I was so lonely over there.”
One evening, Mason received a phone call about the start of a professional basketball league for women. She then left Sweden in 1975 and was drafted by the New York Stars, joining her college teammate Marquis once again.
The team was coached by Dean Meminger. They finished second in the East Division in the 1978-79 season and won it all the following season.
“We went out with a bang,” she laughed as she moved around the small but intimate library tucked away inside the New York Athletic Club, where the 2011 class of the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame met with the media.
The team disbanded after winning the championship, beating San Francisco in two games, then beating Iowa 125-111 to win the title. Now, with the WNBA in the midst of their championship playoffs and the New York Liberty being eliminated in the first round, Mason admits, “I really missed playing. It was the greatest time of my life and I’m so happy I was selected to become just the third female to join the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame.”