By Victor Ochieng
Lisa Leslie has been inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame. A look at her basketball career supports that decision. Without a doubt, she gave her best to the sport, handled herself with dignity, and stood tall at all times.
Leslie began playing basketball before the WNBA became the center of the sport for women and was literally the face of the league before the likes of Maya Moore and Candace Parker came into play.
Leslie revealed that she was surprised to have been voted into the Hall of Fame. “I thought you had to be older to get into the Hall of Fame,” the 42-year-old cracked to the Associated Press.
Standing at 6’5″ and undeniably attractive, Leslie proved that she could focus and achieve things that many girls wouldn’t dare. She gave her all to the sport, even when the future didn’t look bright, particularly for women.
“There never had been a woman built like her who could do the things that she did,” championship coach Geno Auriemma of Connecticut said. “She has been the forerunner . . . The impact she had in the women’s game at the time didn’t get the attention it did now. I’m glad people remember, since sometimes people forget. I had a chance to be on the coaching staff with her in Sydney when she was on the [2000 Olympic] team. She was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of player.”
Leslie had a successful all-American basketball run at USC before joining the WNBA where she played for 13 years. She excelled in the league, having played for the Los Angeles Sparks, one of the leading franchises. During that period, she earned two championships and became the first player to dunk in a WNBA game. Leslie is an eight-time all-star and three-time MVP.
“Playing in front of 35,000 fans cheering ‘USA’ really, really always warms my heart,” she said of the Atlanta Games. “The first time they placed a gold medal around my neck. The other three were great as well, but I can’t say how much that first time with that team meant to me. We’re going on our 20-year anniversary next year.”
After all the years playing for the Sparks, she now partly owns the team after a 2011 acquisition. And to wrap it all up, she’s the WNBA’s leading rebounder of all time and is a winner of four Olympic gold medals.