Lisa Leslie

Lisa Leslie

Leslie in December 2010
Personal information
Born (1972-07-07) July 7, 1972
Gardena, California
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Listed weight 170 lb (77 kg)
Career information
High school Morningside (Inglewood, California)
College USC (1990–1994)
WNBA draft 1997 / Allocated
Selected by the Los Angeles Sparks
Playing career 1997–2009
Position Center
Number 9
Career history
19972009 Los Angeles Sparks
Career highlights and awards
Stats at
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
Women's Basketball Hall of Fame

Lisa Deshaun Leslie (born July 7, 1972) is an American former professional basketball player who played in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). She is a three-time WNBA MVP and a four-time Olympic gold medal winner. Prior to her WNBA career, she attended both high school and college with fellow WNBA player Tina Thompson. The number-seven pick in the 1997 inaugural WNBA draft, she followed her career at the University of Southern California with eight WNBA All-Star selections and two WNBA championships over the course of eleven seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks, before retiring in 2009.[1] Leslie, a 6'5" center, is the first player to dunk in a WNBA game. She was considered a pioneer and cornerstone of the league during her WNBA career. In 2011, she was voted in by fans as one of the Top 15 players in WNBA history. In 2015, she was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Early years

Leslie is the daughter of Christine Lauren Leslie, who stood 6 ft 3 in, and Walter Leslie, a semi-professional basketball player. Christine started her own truck driving business to support her three children. Walter left the family when her mother was four months pregnant with her.[2] Leslie has two sisters: Dionne, who is five years older, and Tiffany, who is eight years younger. She also has a brother, Elgin, who is now the Carondelet high school basketball coach. Lisa played basketball on an all-boys basketball team in middle school. She also played on an all-girls team with the record 33-1.

Middle school

By the time Leslie was in middle school in California, she had grown to over 6'1" but never participated in athletic activities besides tetherball and double Dutch. Her dream then was to be a television weather reporter.[3]

During the first few weeks of middle high, a classmate begged Leslie to help out the basketball team.[4] On her first day of basketball tryouts, team members were told to split into two groups for layup drills: lefties and righties. Leslie was the only lefty in the group, so from then on, she decided to become right-hand dominant so she would not have to stand in a line by herself. That decision worked to her advantage, as she became ambidextrous.[5]

In eighth grade, she transferred to a junior high school without a girls' basketball team, and joined a boys' basketball team. Her success there contributed to her confidence in her playing abilities.[5]

High school

At 14, before Leslie had even started high school at Morningside, she received more than a hundred college recruiting letters, including some from top Division I programs at the University of Tennessee and Stanford University.[5]

Leslie continued her education in 1986 by enrolling at Morningside High School in Inglewood, California.[2] She made an immediate impact on the basketball program, starting every game for the girl's varsity team. She also found time to join the volleyball team and compete in track and field. She ended up being a state qualifier in the 400-meter run and the high jump.[3]

By the time she was a sophomore in high school, she was able to dunk the ball in the open court, even though she was not able to palm the ball. She was her team's leading scorer and rebounder and led them to the 1989 California state championship. Leslie was so talented that she was invited to participate in the USA's Junior World Championship team.[3] Entering her senior year, she developed into the top player in the country. She led her team to a state championship averaging 27 points and 15 rebounds per game.[2]


Leslie decided to stay close to home and attend women's basketball powerhouse the University of Southern California from 1990–1994.[6] She graduated from USC with a bachelor's degree in communications and later completed her master's degree in business administration[7] from the University of Phoenix.[8][9]

Leslie played in a total of 120 college games, averaging 20.1 points, hitting 53.4% of her shots, and knocking down 69.8% of her free throws. She set the Pac-10 Conference records for scoring, rebounding, and blocked shots accumulating 2,414 points, 1,214 boards, and 321 blocked shots. She also holds the USC single season record for blocked shots (95).[6]

During her college career, USC compiled an impressive 89–31 record. They won one Pac-10 conference championship and earned four NCAA tournament appearances. Leslie was honored with All-Pac-10 recognition all four years, as well as becoming the first player in Pac-10 history to obtain first team all four years and earn the prestigious Rookie of the Year award in 1991.[10] Leslie was also honored on the national platform by earning the National Freshman of the year award in 1991, and recognition as the nation's best female basketball player earning the National Player of the year in 1994. In 1992, 93, and 94, she earned All-American Honors as well.[10]


The WNBA was incorporated in 1996 and began playing in 1997. Leslie was drafted on January 22 by the Los Angeles Sparks as part of the Initial Allocation phase of the draft. She helped the Sparks make the playoffs five consecutive times, but the team did not win a WNBA title until 2001.[11] That year, Leslie was named the 2001 Sportswoman of the Year (in the team category) by the Women's Sports Foundation.[12]

On July 30, 2002, Leslie became the first woman to dunk the ball in a WNBA game.[13] That same year she became the first WNBA player to score over 3,000 total career points and contributed to the Sparks winning their second straight WNBA championship that season. Two seasons later, she became the first player to reach the 4,000-career point milestone.[11] Leslie remains the Sparks' career scoring and rebounding leader, as well as the all-time league leader in rebounds.[6] In the 2005 WNBA All-Star Game, Leslie had also became the first WNBA player to dunk in an all-star game.[14] On August 11, 2009, Leslie became the first player to score 6,000 points in a career.[15] Earlier that month she was the first player to reach 10,000 career PRA (points + rebounds + assists), a statistic fundamental to the WNBA "Pick One Challenge" fantasy game.

Lisa Leslie announced her retirement effective at the end of the 2009 season on February 4, 2009.[16] The Sparks held a farewell ceremony for Leslie during their final home game of the season in September.[17] She finished holding the league records for points (6,263), rebounds (3,307) and PRA (10,444).[18] In 2011, she was voted in by fans as one of the Top 15 players in the fifteen-year history of the WNBA.[19]

WNBA award[10] years
MVP 2001, 2004, 2006
WNBA Titles 2001, 2002
Finals MVP 2001, 2002
All-WNBA First Team 1997, 2000–2004, 2006, 2008
All-WNBA Second Team 1998, 1999, 2005, 2009
All-Star Game MVP 1999, 2001, 2002
All-Star Games 1999–2003, 2005, 2006, 2009
All-Decade Team 1997–2006
Defensive Player of the Year 2004, 2008
All-Defensive First Team 2006, 2008
All-Defensive Second Team 2005, 2009
Player of the Week 15 (league record)

USA Basketball

Leslie playing against Spain during the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Leslie was named to the USA Basketball Women's Junior National Team (now called the U19 team). She was 17 at the time, the youngest player on the USA team. The team participated in the second Junior World Championship, held in Bilbao, Spain in July 1989. The USA team lost their opening game to South Korea in overtime, then lost a two-point game to Australia. After winning their next game against Bulgaria, behind 22 points and nine rebounds from Leslie, the USA team again fell in a close game, losing by three points to Czechoslovakia. After beating Zaire in their next game, the USA team played Spain, and fell three points short. Leslie led the team in scoring, rebounds, and blocks, averaging 13.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game and recording 21 blocks over the course of the event. The USA team finished in seventh place.[20]

Leslie was a member of the USA team competing at the 1991 World University Games held in Sheffield, England. Leslie was the second leading scorer on the USA squad, averaging 13.0 points per game, and helped the Tara VanDerveer-coached team to an 8–0 record and the gold medal.[21]

She competed with USA Basketball as a member of the 1992 Jones Cup Team that won the Gold in Taipei for the first time since 1987.[22]

Leslie has made four consecutive Olympic appearances, and has earned four gold medals. She was the second female basketball player ever to earn that many gold medals, after Teresa Edwards. Leslie has also made appearances with the United States national women's basketball team where she won gold medals in 1996 and 2000, and has also earned a world championship.[1] Leslie scored 35 points against Japan in the semifinals of the 1996 Olympics to set an American Olympic women's scoring record.[2]

Leslie is one of seven USA Basketball's three-time Olympians, and one of two players with four gold medals. She led the U.S. team in scoring during the 2004 Olympic Games. During her third Olympic completion, she became the USA's all-time leading scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker in Olympic competition. Every time she has competed in a major international event, she has compiled double-digit scoring averages. Leslie, at age 20, was also the youngest player to participate at the USA Olympic Trials in 1992.[10]

During the 2008 Beijing Olympics medal awards, despite being requested by officials not to, Leslie wore her gold medals from past Olympics while being awarded her team's current win. Leslie's actions were viewed by members of the Australian national team, her opponents in the gold medal game, as grandiose and poor sportsmanship.[23]

Leslie has had a fierce rivalry with Lauren Jackson ever since the 2000 Olympics, when the Australian star ripped out Leslie's hair extensions during a game.[24][25]

WNBA career statistics

  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game  RPG  Rebounds per game
 APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game  BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game
 TO  Turnovers per game  FG%  Field-goal percentage  3P%  3-point field-goal percentage  FT%  Free-throw percentage
 Bold  Career high League leader

Regular season


Personal life

Leslie was married in 2006 to Michael Lockwood. In 2007, she took a year's leave from professional basketball for a pregnancy. Leslie and Lockwood have a daughter, Lauren Jolie Lockwood, who was born June 15, 2007.[26] After having the baby, Lisa got back in shape and returned to the WNBA for the 2008 season.[5] Leslie had her second child, Michael Joseph Lockwood II, on April 6, 2010.[27]

Leslie is also a fashion model and an aspiring actress. She has been featured in Vogue and Newsweek, as well as many sports publications.[2] She has been on ESPN numerous times and has been a guest star on several television shows such as Sister Sister, The Game, and One on One. She is a guest commentator for "Sports Zone" on KABC-TV/Los Angeles and wears the Circle 7 logo from the channel when on the show. She has also acted in a variety of commercials. Early in her career she signed a modeling contract with the Wilhelmina modeling agency.[11] Lisa also was on the show, Superstars, and she and her partner, David Charvet, took 3rd place after David injured his wrist. Lisa also played herself in an episode of the TV-show The Jersey, where she switched bodies with a boy. In addition, she played herself in one episode of The Simpsons. She also starred in the hit movie Think Like A Man, and played as herself. Leslie is also a playable character in the original Backyard Basketball, alongside Kevin Garnett. She is only the fourth female pro in the Backyard Sports series, after Brianna Scurry, Brandi Chastain, and Tiffeny Milbrett. She also appeared in the 2nd episode of "All in with Cam" with host, Cam Newton.On January 28, 2016, it was announced that she will be a contestant in The New Celebrity Apprentice (also known as Celebrity Apprentice 8).

In 2009, Leslie earned a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Phoenix.[28]

She is a Christian.[29]

See also


  1. 1 2 "Lisa Leslie Bio.". NBC Universal. Retrieved December 21, 2008.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Porter p. 279–280
  3. 1 2 3 "Lisa Leslie Biography". Black Book Partners. 2008. Retrieved December 21, 2008.
  4. Grundy p. 222
  5. 1 2 3 4 Leslie, Lisa, and Larry Barnett. Don't Let the Lipstick Fool You. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2008
  6. 1 2 3 Meyer, Jan (1997). "Women in Sports". Retrieved December 21, 2008.
  7. Peter, Josh (July 21, 2008). "Day in the life of Lisa Leslie". Yahoo. Retrieved December 21, 2008.
  8. SPORTS OF THE TIMES; University Sells Itself During Playoffs NYTimes Website, Accessed March 20, 2009
  9. Los Angeles Sparks Lisa Leslie Receives her Masters at University of Phoenix WireImage Website, Accessed March 20, 2009
  10. 1 2 3 4 "USA Basketball". United States Olympic Committee. 2008. Retrieved December 21, 2008.
  11. 1 2 3 Gretchen (March 22, 2006). "Girls Can't What". Retrieved December 21, 2008.
  12. "Sportswoman of the Year Award". Women's Sports Foundation. Retrieved 2009-08-03.
  13. "WNBA's History". Retrieved July 15, 2014.
  14. Sparks Watch Day 25: Lisa Leslie was the first player to dunk in WNBA history
  15. "Sparks' Leslie becomes 1st player to 6,000 points". AP. Retrieved 2009-08-12.
  16. Lisa Leslie Announces Retirement, February 4, 2009
  17. Lisa Leslie acknowledges the fans during 'Lisa Leslie's Farewell Game'
  18. Lisa Leslie Playerfile
  20. "Second FIBA Women's U19/Junior World Championship -- 1989". USA Basketball. June 10, 2010. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  21. "FIFTEENTH WORLD UNIVERSITY GAMES -- 1991". USA Basketball. Retrieved June 12, 2010.
  22. "1992 WOMEN'S R. WILLIAM JONES CUP". Retrieved August 3, 2014.
  23. "Dan Carter signs four-deal to stay in NZ".
  24. "Video". CNN. 2004-08-30. Retrieved 2010-05-07.
  25. "Australian basketball star Lauren Jackson dreams of gold". July 20, 2008. Archived from the original on April 9, 2009.
  28. McMullen, Laura (March 2, 2012). "Lisa Leslie: From WNBA to M.B.A.". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved October 16, 2015.

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