Lisa Leslie is the first WNBA player that comes to mind when I think of women’s basketball. I was first introduced to her back in the days of Backyard Basketball. Leslie and Kevin Garnett were the most dominant duo in the game. It was almost unfair playing with them. Even Pablo Sanchez didn’t stand a chance.
Leslie was taking kids to school long before her Backyard days. She lit it up at the University of Southern California, winning Pac-10 Rookie of the Year as a freshman and finishing her four-year career with 2,414 points (20.1 per game average), 1,214 rebounds, and 321 blocked shots.
As a senior, she won the Naismith College Player of the Year award, the USBWA Women’s National Player of the Year award, and the WBCA Player of the Year award. Leslie led the Trojans to the NCAA Tournament all four years and earned All-American honors her final three.
With a resume like that, it makes since that Leslie became the face of the WNBA when it was incorporated in 1996. She was assigned to her hometown Los Angeles Sparks in the league’s inaugural draft in 1997 — the same draft that saw current ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo go to the New York Liberty — and won her first of two WNBA championships in 2001.
The next season, Lisa Leslie made history as the first woman to dunk in a WNBA game.
Lisa Leslie’s First WNBA Dunk
A Miami Sol miss prompted a long rebound. Leslie catches the outlet pass near half court with no defenders in sight. She takes three dribbles, throws down a slam dunk, and raises her hands in triumph. She just made history. To Leslie, it was something she had been waiting to do in a game since she hammered down her first dunk as a sophomore in high school.
This feat wouldn’t happen again until 2005, when Leslie encored in the WNBA All-Star Game. Since, five other woman have dunked in a game as of 2018: Michelle Snow of the Houston Comets, Candace Parker of the Sparks, Sylvia Fowles of the Chicago Sky, Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury, and Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun.
Leslie’s dunk is the exclamation point on her exceptional basketball career. She won three regular season MVP awards and the Finals MVP for both of her championships. She was part of the U.S. women’s basketball team at the 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008 Olympic games, winning four Olympic gold medals.
Along with Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm, Sheryl Swoopes of the Comets, Storm, and Tulsa Shock, and Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury, Leslie was named one of the top 20 players in WNBA history in 2016.
Leslie remains connected to the game as a commentator for networks such as ABC, NBC, and Fox Sports. She also became a co-owner of the Sparks in 2011.
The Hall of Fame basketball player isn’t just one of the best hoopers ever, she’s one of the greatest female athletes of all time. She’s a scorer, rebounder, winner, and most emphatically, a dunker.