Lisa Leslie gained two championships, three MVP awards and two Defensive Participant of the 12 months honours with the Los Angeles Sparks from 1997 via to 2009. Her introduction to basketball, nonetheless, was a tumultuous one.
“I used to be the one left-handed participant at my follow in junior excessive, so I made a decision to study with my proper hand too. I did not perceive on the time how particular I used to be”.
Leslie additionally defined the issues she confronted as the one woman taking part in with a gaggle of boys.
“They did not cross to me for fairly a while, I consider for 2 or three video games no less than. However they did not know what my abilities have been. I used to be 6ft 5ins, taller than anyone else. I used to be by no means born to slot in, I used to be born to face out.
“Sooner or later, I stole the ball on a cross meant for a team-mate and scored. By the point I would put in a couple of performs, the group was yelling ‘give it to the woman’ as a result of I might really rating the basket higher than the boys. So, issues modified rapidly.
“We ended up dropping the championship that yr. It was the primary time I would actually skilled a loss. However I knew I cherished taking part in and it did not matter if I performed with boys or women. I would fallen in love with the sport.”
This led her to turn out to be a distinguished determine within the College of Southern California’s girls’s basketball crew, with whom she gained the 1994 Participant of the 12 months trophy.
Leslie additionally obtained All-American honours for 1992, 1993 and 1994, setting convention information for scoring, rebounding, and blocked pictures. She additionally turned the primary participant to make the primary all-conference crew in every of her 4 years, graduating with a bachelor’s diploma in communications.
On the time, there have been no alternatives for ladies to play skilled basketball within the US. So, like many different faculty stars, Leslie signed with a crew within the European girls’s skilled league. She joined Sicilgesso, based mostly in Alcamo, Italy, for the 1994-95 season.
“Having the chance to play abroad is wonderful as a result of not all people could make it to the NBA or the WNBA. I am completely happy that I acquired the prospect to play in Italy and meet some wonderful folks. Selecting up that basketball has allowed me to journey the world so I by no means have any regrets”.
When the WNBA was established in the summertime of 1997, Leslie, together with Sheryl Swoopes and Rebecca Lobo, turned the face of the brand new league. Leslie anchored her hometown crew, the Sparks.
“I am actually completely happy that the WNBA got here round in ’97. I am completely happy that we had the platform to be position fashions to the remainder of the world. The WNBA had the most effective gamers on this planet on the time and now we’re showcasing that very same expertise.
“That is the fantastic thing about it, we have been in a position to develop this sport, it is 26 years younger, however we’re grateful that David Stern has allowed us to take action.”
Leslie additionally had extra to say concerning the work the NBA is doing alongside the WNBA.
“The WNBA and the NBA have teamed up in such a good way, we’re a drive,” she mentioned. “We’re discovering extra methods to be inclusive with girls, we’re seeing girls that performed within the WNBA now working within the NBA, on the benches.
“Perhaps in 5 or eight years, there will be younger women selecting up the ball as soon as we depart, persevering with to hone their abilities and hopefully make it to the WNBA. The sky is the restrict.”
Leslie now operates as one among solely two feminine head coaches within the males’s skilled sport, main the Triplets within the BIG3 skilled league.
She added Coach of the 12 months to her listing of accolades after her very first season on the bench in 2019, and had this to say on the marketing campaign forward: “Being the coach, I am all the time considering of successful the championship. The participant who might help me do that’s Joe Johnson, so I am hoping he’ll be again to hitch us.
“However total, it is the BIG3, there’s a lot expertise, each crew is competitors. There isn’t any weekend you possibly can take off since you simply by no means know who’s going to win. It’s totally powerful to foretell who’ll be the most effective, however Staff Triplets shall be on the high!”