Q+A With Lisa Leslie
A sit down with one of the best athletes in L.A. history.
by Nima Zarrabi / @NZbeFree
Lisa Leslie is the perfect Los Angeles success story—born and bred in LA, playing her High School, College and Pro ball in the city of angels. She was raised by a single mother, Christine, who started her own trucking business to support Lisa and her two sisters. Leslie would go on to star at Morningside High School and USC before becoming a four-time Olympic Gold medal winner and three-time WNBA MVP with the Los Angeles Sparks. Leslie retired from the WNBA following the 2009 season and will always be considered one of the city’s most remarkable athletes. Since her retirement, she has worked in broadcasting as a commentator for the Pac-10 women’s basketball tournament and locally for ABC sports.
SLAM caught up with Leslie last week in LA while she made an appearance at the Gatorade Player of the Year luncheon in Los Angeles.
SLAM: I noticed on your web site you have a campaign encouraging your fans to tweet the people at TNT and share why you should be on the set with Ernie, Kenny and Charles. Are you still hoping to someday get that opportunity?
Lisa Leslie: Absolutely. I love watching TNT and watching basketball. I’m very passionate about it. I had a chance to work with ABC this year. For me, this is what I do. I sit at home and watch basketball and talk basketball all the time. The response has been very positive. I’ve just tried to be truthful about what I see and explain the game. Men really respect it and women are supportive as well.
SLAM: Having watched the guys on TNT a bunch, what do you think you would bring to that set?
LL: You know, you have to give the guys a hard time. Charles about his weight, getting him doughnuts every now and then. We would reminisce on what we did on the court and what the guys are out there doing. I think its all fun and games—it’s not rocket science. People love to be able to laugh and be entertained. I think it would be great to have a woman’s perspective on there and kind of keep the guys in line every now and then.
SLAM: Is there a fine line you have to toe when you are a former player commenting about your peers?
LL: Absolutely. You have to always remember that you are dealing with someone’s child out there. Those people out there on the court are doing their best. Nobody comes out there and intentionally misses shots or free throws—right Dwight Howard? Right? [smiles] You try to be your best. At the same time, because you are paid so much money, you have a certain responsibility to work hard and give the fans the appreciation. And the third thing is to hone your skills. If you have the time to improve, you should be doing that. So when you watch year after year and some players don’t improve, we have the right to say that and call them out on that. I think people respect that. They get paid a ton of money—more than what most people make in a lifetime. And people pay a lot of money to watch. So that gives us the right to be able to comment.
SLAM: One of the hottest topics in the NBA has been LeBron’s decision to head to Miami. What do you think about the way things went down?
LL: I think it was a tough decision for LeBron to leave Cleveland, his hometown where he has so much loyalty. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if this is going to make you happy and if it will be worth it. He’s not guaranteed to win by going to Miami. He just seemed like maybe he was unhappy in Cleveland. Have you been to Cleveland? [smiles] Sorry Cleveland, but it’s a little tough. Maybe he made the move for himself. It’s a hard line: are you trying to please other people or yourself? At the end of the day I think he made the move that was best for him. It’s going to be awesome to watch. I think it made the NBA that much better and more exciting. I’m interested to see who the Lakers will be playing on Christmas day. Is it going to be Boston or will it be Miami?