The 2015 Basketball Hall of Fame induction class includes standout NBA players such as Dikembe Mutombo, Jo Jo White and Spencer Haywood. However, one of the most notable inductees didn’t play in the NBA. Instead, she played in the WNBA.
Lisa Leslie’s journey in the WNBA started after the 1996 Olympics. She was one of three players from that Olympic team to immediately join the WNBA following the Olympics for the inaugural 1997 season.
Leslie is most associated with being the initial face of the WNBA and setting the standard for what players should be in the league.
In a recent video debuted by the WNBA, multiple WNBA players such as Seattle’s Sue Bird and Washington’s Alana Beard talk about how Leslie carried the torch for women through the first decade of the WNBA.
Leslie’s WNBA resume is lengthy with numerous honors and records that current players strive to catch.
Leslie played her 12 years in the league with the Los Angles Sparks, and she reached the playoffs 10 times in her career and won two titles in back-to-back seasons in 2001 and 2002. She won WNBA MVP in 2001, 2004 and 2006. She was an eight-time WNBA All-Star, and she was named the All-Star Game MVP in 1999, 2001 and 2002.
Leslie’s biggest accomplishment came tacked onto the 2001 championship year for the Sparks. She managed to win WNBA Finals MVP, WNBA MVP and WNBA All-Star Game MVP on top of her championship that year.
Leslie is first in WNBA history with 3,307 rebounds, becoming the first of four players to hit the 3,000-rebound mark. The next closest player to her in this category is Tamika Catchings at 3,148.
Leslie also ranks second all-time in blocks with 822, behind only Margo Dydek. The next closest on the list is Lauren Jackson with 586. Furthermore, Leslie ranks fifth in all-time scoring with 6,263 career points. She was the first player in league history to hit the 6,000-point plateau.
On top of her major awards and gaudy stats, one of the biggest milestones in the WNBA is attributed to Leslie. On July 30, 2002 against the Miami Sol, Leslie laid down the first dunk in WNBA history.
Leslie’s illustrious 12-year WNBA career came to an end in the 2009 Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Mercury when the Mercury defeated the Sparks, 2-1.
Apart from her WNBA career, Leslie played a major role with USA Basketball. Her journey with the Olympic team started when she played on what’s now known as the U19 team when she was 17. From there, she went on to win gold four times in the Olympics, only one of two players to accomplish such a feat.
Although her playing career is over, Leslie isn’t done with the sport in any way whatsoever.
In recent interviews, Leslie has mentioned the possibility of coaching in the NBA. The former Sparks star said in an interview with Larry King that she could help the Los Angeles Clippers “immediately.” Coaching in the NBA is no longer foreign territory for women with Becky Hammon leading the San Antonio Spurs to a Summer League title and Nancy Lieberman joining the Sacramento Kings as an assistant.
But first, Leslie will go into the Hall of Fame on Friday night, and she’ll be introduced by longtime teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Dawn Staley. The two played for USA Basketball together as well as in college and even high school, and there’s no better person to officially introduce Leslie as a Hall of Famer than Staley.