A SoCal Exclusive: Q & A with Lisa Leslie


To make a long story short, former Los Angeles Sparks center Lisa Leslie is helping to promote a new website called MyLiverCancerOptions.com, which will provide liver cancer victims with information regarding various treatment options. As part of her promotional efforts, a few bloggers such as myself were given the opportunity to individually interview her for about 15 minutes. We conducted the interview earlier today, where we discussed several topics such as her legacy with the Sparks, experience playing with newcomer Candace Parker, and expectations regarding the future of the USC women’s basketball program under her former coach Michael Cooper. I hope you enjoy.

Q: Retirement provides us fans and media members the opportunity to take a look back on a player’s career and evaluate his/her legacy and impact on the game. Seeing that you are retired now, what do you regard as your greatest contribution to women’s basketball and highlight of your professional career?

A: Personally, my greatest accomplishment has been representing my city [Los Angeles], playing for the USA team, winning gold medals and traveling the world.

Q: When a lot of people think of Lisa Leslie, one of the first things that come to mind is the fact that you became the first woman to ever dunk in a professional basketball game. In some ways, your career is defined by “the dunk” as opposed to all the “on-the-court” success the Sparks enjoyed during your time with the team. Does this ever bother you?

A: Not at all. I think the dunk has just added to the different accolades I’ve accomplished. For me it’s not really even about the awards as it is as much about the rewards. It’s definitely rewarding to play sports and be a role model for some many young people. It’s great for me to pay others back in ways I never even dreamed of.

Q: This past season has to be a bit of a disappointment for you, seeing as if it was your last season playing for the Sparks and last opportunity to earn your 3rd WNBA title. But there were a lot of reasons to be proud of your performance as well. What are your thoughts on your final professional season in Los Angeles?

A: Well, I think it is very difficult to try and sum up our year. I would have never really predicted getting injured and missing thirteen games this season. But my comeback was pretty good also and I was able to return and help my team in a very good way offensively and defensively. So we tried to pull it together at the end. Getting to the playoffs was a pretty good accomplishment for us. We fell short, but I felt really good about my effort. I felt like I left it all on the floor every single time I stepped out on the court. That’s pretty much all you can ask for. I was happy with my performance.

Q: You had the opportunity to play with Candace Parker for the final two seasons of your career. What do you think Candace’s impact has been and will continue to be on women’s basketball?

A: I think Candace and I had a really blessed time to be together. For me to be a mentor for her. For her to pick my brain and ask me so many questions. I really look forward for her to continue to flourish her career. The only advice I’ve ever given her is to focus on her work ethic. She definitely has the talent and tools she needs to be one of the best players ever. Work ethic is going to be important for her to build on that.

Q: What was it like being a mentor for Candace for the final two years of your career? A lot of times, veterans feel insulted that they have to spend time tutoring younger players. But sometimes, they are up to the challenge. What was your experience in helping with Candace’s development like?

A: I think it’s part of my personality. I’m a helper, I’m a giver. For me it was a no brainer to share what I knew about the game with her after we drafted her. I knew it was a good thing. It wasn’t this thing, where I was so full of myself and I couldn’t help someone else because I’ve had my time. I’ve always felt like you can’t blast someone. What’s for me is for me and what’s for her is for her. It was very easy for me.

Q: Your former head coach Michael Cooper is headed off to coach the USC women’s basketball team this season? What kind of impact do you anticipate him making for the Trojans?

A: Well, that’s hard to predict, but it’s USC, so we obviously hope we’re close to where we are going. We would love to get to the point of having a championship caliber team soon. However, it’s not going to be easy to rebuild, but at least with Galen Center and the different facilities we have now, maybe we can be a little more attractive for a lot of the different high school all-Americans.

Q: Living in Los Angeles, you’re reasonably close to both the facilities for the Sparks and USC women’s basketball team? Do you envision yourself ever having some sort of front-office or coaching role with either?

A: Well, you never know what the future holds. I think the Sparks have obviously been a part of the family since day one and there may be something we consider in the near future.

Q: Living cancer patients are obviously close to heart, especially after your father’s ordeal with the disease. With October being Liver Cancer Awareness month, what message do you have for those suffering from the illness?

A: I think after experiencing it first hand and watching someone you love pretty much die in a very short period of time, we didn’t really feel as if we had any options. So I have worked with a health care company that is launching a web site called MyLiverCancerOptions.com. Really, it’s just about helping other people, creating that awareness, and letting them know that they do have options. Letting them know that there is a place for them to go. We encourage them to visit the website to learn more. It’s going to be important for us to get the message out there.

To keep tabs on Lisa Leslie, feel free to visit her website LisaLeslie9.com