Outtakes: Lisa Leslie
Kenny Mayne chats with a WNBA legend
This story appears in the July 13 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
KM: I remember you in college, then the Olympics and then the WNBA. You've been the constant in women's basketball. Did you always feel destined for that role?
LL: Actually, I was far from an athlete growing up. I wasn't aggressive. I didn't want to fall. I didn't want to sweat. But when I'm on the court, my "Wonder Woman effect" takes over. I change and become aggressive. It's like, Don't mess with me. I want to win.
KM: Back when you started playing, you had to be talked into it, right?
LL: Yes, absolutely. The only reason I went out for the junior high team was that there was a girl, Sharon, who was very popular because she played basketball. And even on the first day of practice, I told my coach, "If I fall down, I'm not coming back." But I never fell down, and we went 7–0 and got a trophy. Once I got that, I was hooked.
KM: I'm told your mom drove a truck as her trade. As in, a delivery truck?
LL: No, an 18-wheeler. She did cross-country routes for North American Van Lines. It was great growing up seeing my mom work a masculine job while always keeping her fingernails polished and lipstick on her lips. It really taught me how to embrace my femininity.
KM: How old is your baby?
LL: She's 2. Her name is Lauren Jolie.
KM: Do you already know whether she's going to be tall?
LL: She has no choice. I'm 6'5" and my husband is 6'7".
KM: If she ends up a skyscraper, are you going to push her toward basketball?
LL: Oh, no. We want her to try everything. My husband bought her a tennis racket and brings her out on the court, and my mom likes golf, so she bought her a plastic club set. Of course, she's picked up on basketball, too. She loves to dribble and try to shoot the ball. But we're also getting her involved in things outside sports, like the piano. We just want to expose her to as many things as possible, so she can make the choice. Though I would love for her to play tennis. Can you imagine a 6'5" female at the net? She'd be awesome.
KM: Do you ever see a female playing in the NBA, or being a wide receiver, or a pitcher?
LL: I hope not. We have the WNBA, a professional league for women. That's where we play. There's no reason for us to play in the NBA. We have a professional women's soccer league, even though not too many people even know about it yet. When it comes to sports, people make it sound like being born a girl is such a disadvantage. We just want to play, and hopefully we'll continue to have a place to do so, and the media will be accepting of it.
KM: Tell me something you're not good at athletically.
LL: I recently filmed a show called The Superstars, which premiered June 23. It featured a bunch of things I'm not good at, such as pretty much every water sport.
KM: You know, it sounds like you'd be a perfect candidate for Dancing With the Stars.
LL: I do dance a little bit. But I'd need to find the right partner if I was really going to be able to perform. Ideally someone 6'7", so I could put some heels on.
KM: Is this definitely your last year? You're not going to be like one of those boxers, or Brett Favre, who makes the announcement and then says, "Naw," right?
LL: I'm positive. I am done. I don't want to retire because I can't score or block shots. I want people to remember me playing my best, not saying, "She used to be able to do that."
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