Lisa Leslie #12, Center for the Los Angeles Sparks during the WNBA Western Conference basketball game against the Sacramento Monarchs on 22nd August 1997 at the Great Western arena in Los Angeles, California, United States, United States. The Los Angeles Sparks won the game 88 - 77 (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Allsport/Getty Images)
Photo by Todd Warshaw/Allsport/Getty Images

Lisa Leslie’s First WNBA Dunk Changed Women’s Basketball Forever

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, though. She lit it up at the University of Southern California from 1990 to 1994 and was the focal point of USA Basketball's Women's Dream Team in 1996.

So, it makes sense 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 and won her first of two WNBA championships in 2001. Winning a championship is always the ultimate goal, however. Leslie had another goal on her mind: dunk in a WNBA game. It was a goal she had since she first threw down as a sophomore in high school, and in her sixth professional season, she had a chance to accomplish that goal against the Miami Sol.

She not only accomplished her longtime dream, but she also made history. This is the story of the first dunk in an official WNBA basketball game.

Lisa Leslie: The First Woman to Dunk in WNBA History

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A Miami Sol miss prompted a long rebound. Leslie caught the outlet pass near half court with no defenders in sight. She took three dribbles, threw down a slam dunk, and raised her hands in triumph. She had just made a major breakthrough in women's basketball. The first female dunker in league history had arrived.

This feat wouldn't happen again until 2005 when Leslie encored in the WNBA All-Star Game. Since, six other woman have dunked in a game as of 2022: Michelle Snow, Candace Parker, Sylvia Fowles, Brittney Griner, Jonquel Jones and Liz Cambage. Perhaps we'll get a dunk contest in the next few years!

Candace Parker #3 of the Chicago Sky celebrates after defeating the Phoenix Mercury 80-74 in Game Four of the WNBA Finals to win the championship at Wintrust Arena

Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

As for college hoops, the history becomes a bit trickier to pin down. The first women's college basketball dunk came from Georgeann Wells of the West Virginia women's basketball team back in 1984. The first dunk in the Women's NCAA tournament came from superstar Candace Parker when she attended the University of Tennessee, before earning WNBA MVP and a WNBA title with the Chicago Sky.

Nike Commemorates Leslie's Dunk With Signature Sneaker

Nike released a Nike Dunk Low with the Sparks' colorway and Leslie's number on the outsole. According to Complex writer Brendan Dunne, it's unclear if Leslie was officially involved in the release or it was just inspired by her. Either way, she deserves a hefty paycheck.

Leslie's dunk is the exclamation point on her exceptional basketball career. 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.

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.

This article was originally published on September 4, 2020, and has been updated with even more female dunkers. 

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