Storm's Jackson is runner-up
UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Lisa Leslie was selected the WNBA's most valuable player for the second time in her career.
The Los Angeles Sparks center, the league's MVP in 2001, received 425 points and 33 of a possible 48 first-place votes from a national media panel Friday. Seattle's Lauren Jackson, last season's MVP, was second with 351 points.
Leslie led the league in rebounds (9.9) and blocked shots (2.88) and finished third in scoring (17.6).
She received $15,000 and a sport utility vehicle for winning the award and found herself nearly speechless at the ceremony held before tipoff of Game 1 of the WNBA Finals between Connecticut and Seattle.
"It's not often than I'm at a loss for words," Leslie said, the SUV keys dangling from her hand. "I'm just thankful that I've been blessed to play a sport that I really love, that I'm really passionate about."
The 6-5 Leslie earned her third Olympic gold medal with the U.S. team in Athens this summer. The league took a monthlong hiatus for the Olympics and Leslie returned stronger than ever, playing her best basketball after the break. She averaged 22.8 points and 9.5 rebounds in September.
The Sparks finished with a league-best 25-9 regular-season record but were eliminated from the playoffs by Sacramento in the first round.
Leslie is among the original members of the league when it was formed eight years ago and she led the Sparks to the title in 2001 and 2002. In 2002 she became the first player to dunk in the league.
"It's hard to put into words Lisa's value to the league," WNBA commissioner Val Ackerman said. "In a league that has undergone extraordinary change over the past eight years, Lisa has been aconstant. We could not have asked for a better, more eloquent, tireless ambassador. She's the real deal."
Joining Leslie and Jackson on the All-WNBA first team were Tina Thompson of Houston, Sue Bird of Seattle and rookie Diana Taurasi of Phoenix.
The second team was Tamika Catchings of Indiana, Swin Cash of Detroit, Yolanda Griffith of Sacramento, Nikki Teasley of Los Angeles and Nykesha Sales of Connecticut.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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