Lisa Leslie (born July 7, 1972 in Gardena, California) is an American Women’s National Basketball Association player currently playing for the Los Angeles Sparks. One of the original WNBA players, she quickly rose to stardom as one of the league’s most top-performing and popular players. She has won two WNBA Championships. She has also made history by becoming the first player to perform a dunk in that league.
High school years
Leslie became a famous basketball player long before her career in the WNBA began. The daughter of a female truck driver and sibling of two sisters, she was quite tall even in her youth, already standing six feet tall (1.83 m) when she started playing basketball in the seventh grade. She was a dominating player made legendary by scoring 101 points in the first half of a high school basketball game, and might have broken Cheryl Miller’s high school record of 105 points if the other team had not forfeited at halftime.
Lisa Leslie attended the University of Southern California. She was a four time All-Pacific 10 Conference first team selection.
Leslie was one of the original members of the Los Angeles Sparks when the WNBA’s first season opened in 1997. She had stated her intentions of dunking in a game before the first season even started, and she tried to dunk the ball on the first game of that season, against the New York Liberty, but she missed.
Throughout the late 1990s, the Sparks kept making the playoffs, but getting eliminated as the Houston Comets claimed every WNBA championship played in that decade. However, in 2001, the Sparks were finally able to topple the Comets, and they beat the Charlotte Sting to win the WNBA title for the first time. In 2001, she was named MVP of the league, the all-star game and the finals.
On July 30 of 2002, against the Miami Sol, she finally became the first woman to score with a dunk in a WNBA game. Teammate Latasha Byears stole the ball, while Leslie was already past half court. Byers’ outlet pass led Leslie towards the open basket running. Leslie then jumped towards the hoop and with one hand, dunked. The Staples Center crowd, and her teammates erupted into a spontaneous celebration that stopped the game for a few minutes. Eight days before, she had become the first WNBA player to have over 3,000 career points, when she scored 24 points against the Orlando Miracle. That summer, she helped the Sparks to their second straight world championship, beating the Liberty. Her WNBA dunk is the only one in WNBA history.
On July 29 of 2004, she reached the milestone of 4,000 career points, scoring 17 points in an 85-80, double overtime victory over the Sacramento Monarchs.
Leslie has also been a member of the United States’ national women’s basketball team. She helped lead them to gold medals in the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, and in the world championships of basketball.
Leslie was a member of the 2004 Olympic gold medal winner United States women’s national basketball team.
Off the court
Leslie is also a fashion model and aspiring actress on the side. During the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament in 2005 Lisa worked on the air for ESPN adding key insight and commentary. Early in her WNBA career, she signed a contract with the Wilhelmina modeling agency. She has also appeared in an episode of The Jersey, as well as various commercials.
- Position: Center
- Height: 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
- College: University of Southern California, ’94
- Team(s): Los Angeles Sparks (WNBA)
- Was the WNBA all-time leading scorer averaging 16.9 points and 10.4 rebounds in 2002
- Named MVP of the WNBA Championship and All-Star Game in 2002
- Member of Gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic teams in 1996, and 2000
- In 2002 helped the USA team clinch another gold medal finish at the USA World Championships, and was rewarded with MVP and All-Tournament team honors
- On 7/30/02 vs. Miami Sol, made history by becoming the first WNBA player to dunk in a game
- Became the first WNBA player to reach the 3,000 point plateau when she scored 24 points, and added a career-high eight assists, two blocked shots, and tied a career-high with 21 rebounds in win over Orlando 7/22/02
- Four time All-WNBA First Team selection (1997, 2000, 2001, 2002) and two-time All-WNBA Second Team selection (1998, 1999)
- Named MVP of the regular season, WNBA Championship and All-Star Game in 2001 to become the first player ever to garner all three awards in the same season.
- Led the Sparks to victory in the 2001 WNBA Championship
- Three-time All-WNBA First Team selection (1991, 2000, 2001) and two-time All-WNBA Second Team selection (1998, 1999)
- Led the WNBA in rebounds in 1997 (9.5 rpg) and 1998 (10.2 rpg)
- Member of Gold-medal winning U.S Olympic teams in 1996 and 2000
- Returned to school in the 2002 off-season to work on a Master’s Degree in Business Administration
- Signed a modeling contract with Wilhemina Models, Inc. in June 1996
- One of five Olympic athletes featured in a Herb Ritts photo spread for Vogue magazine and has modeled designs by Armani, Tommy Hilfiger, Gigi Hunter and Anne Klein
- The woman she most admires is her mom, Christine Leslie-Espinoza, a cross-country truck driver
- Lisa has two sisters and four half brothers
- Has appeared in the TV shows Hangtime, Moesha, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and the Weakest Link
- Has done color commentary for several USC basketball games and has also been a guest correspondent on NBA Inside Stuff
- Intends to continue broadcasting when basketball career is over
- Her favorite meal is Penne Pasta and Marinara sauce
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