To kickstart our Black History Month we’d like to recognize Lisa Leslie—a Women’s National Basketball Association legend. At an early age, she became the face of the WNBA and ranked one of the greatest basketball players of all time by ESPN —some of the many achievements include winning four-time consecutive Olympic gold medals, two-time world champions, and set the record for the first woman in the WNBA to slam-dunk during an official game. Leslie was also the first Sparks player to get a statue in front of her team’s home arena.
Born on July 7, 1972 in Gardena, California, Leslie was raised by Christine Lauren Leslie and Walter Leslie, a former professional basketball player. Inheriting her mothers tall height, Leslie stood six feet by seventh grade. Leslie later picked up basketball in middle school and joined the boys’ basketball team in 8th grade—there she found confidence in her playing abilities. By the age of 14, she received more than a hundred college recruiting letters from top Division I programs. As a sophomore in high school, she was invited to participate in the USA’s Junior World Championship team, dunk the ball in the open court and was her team’s leading scorer and rebounder. Entering her senior year, she was the top player in the country and led her team to a state championship.
Life After Pro Basketball
Leslie retired in 2009 as one of greatest basketball players of all time and was placed into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015. Leslie valued the importance of family, and shifted her main focus being a wife and mother to two beautiful children after her career. Her success continued to grow as she went on to release an autobiography after retiring, “Don’t Let the Lipstick Fool You”—this touched on her journey through her career, an empowering story that teaches finding grace under pressure, balancing a life without losing yourself, while exceeding even your own expectations. Additionally she is the head coach for the Triplets in the BIG3 professional basketball league, a color commentator studio analyst for Orlando Magic broadcasts on Fox Sports Florida and an investor and part owner of the Sparks. She has dedicated her life to leading the next generation of young people in basketball and will continue to be a strong influence to women of color.
This article was written by our amazing intern, Tonia Bouyakzan