Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie is one of the greatest basketball players ever. She began her illustrious professional career at Morningside High School in Inglewood, California, where she scored a record 101 points in a single game. As a collegiate phenom at the University of Southern California (USC), she won the Naismith College Player of the Year award, the USBWA Women's National Player of the Year award, and was named to three All-American teams.
She was drafted as the number seven pick for the WNBA in the 1997 inaugural draft and would go on to win three WNBA MVP awards, earned eight WNBA All-Star selections, and two WNBA championships in 11 seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks. She also made history as the first player to dunk in a WNBA game.
After retiring in 2009, she was voted in by fans as one of the Top 15 players in WNBA history in 2011 and was inducted into both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.
EBONY spoke with Lisa Leslie about her passion for coaching, partnering with Mucinex, and the importance of Black women leading in all areas of the sports industry
EBONY: What was your fondest sports memory?
Lisa Leslie: Probably, growing up in Los Angeles and watching the Showtime Lakers, which was really inspiring. Also, I remember the excitement of the fans. I loved the way that my family and people from my neighborhood would stand around the television to watch the games. The way that sports affect the emotions of people, there's really nothing like it.
You made history as one of the first women to coach in a men’s professional league and win a championship. What drew you to coaching?
Coaching is something I'm passionate about because I get to inspire other people. I love having the opportunity to motivate and inspire people that I coach. I believe that is what my spiritual gift is, and basketball has been the platform that God has blessed me with to be able to communicate that. As a coach, I ask my players should to push through, work hard, and persevere, even when they feel like they can't get it done. That goes back to that motivation. If I'm asking that of my players, I have to also ask that of myself. That's what made me want to coach.
Why is it important for Black women to be represented in all areas of sports from coaching, management, and ownership. Why is this message important for your spread?
We're the main species on this planet. There's no human being born without women. I feel like we're always trying to create these new spaces, when in fact, we belong in all of those spaces. We're more than capable of doing any job and being in any place in sports. There's nothing that we can't do. It's really been about getting opportunities and changing the minds of people.
Recently, you’ve partnered with Mucinnex in the brand's Ultimate Comeback Pick-Me-Up campaign. How did the collaboration come about?
Mucinex is a brand that I use. It helped my family relieve some symptoms when we had COVID. So when they reached out, I was like, "Absolutely." I like to speak on things that I truly am passionate about, and I would never want to use my brand in a way that's not authentic. As we continue to power through this unprecedented season of cold and flu. We're still dealing with COVID, so Mucinex launched the Ultimate Comeback Pick Me Up campaign, and it helps get you back on your feet. When it comes to dealing with pesky cold and flu symptoms, we all want it to feel better as fast as we can.
Lastly, what advice would give to women who want to make a comeback in their careers, relationships, or any area of their lives?
I would say that you have to write down your short-term goals that you want to reach within one year, and then write down your long-term goals that you want to reach within five years. With access to so much technology and information, there's no reason that anyone can't change direction or career paths. So if you're trying to make a comeback, start there and be realistic about what your goals are and what you can achieve.
I always tell everybody, we get 24 hours in a day. You have to give up some things and make sacrifices to achieve success. When I went back to school to get my master's degree while pregnant, I had to make some sacrifices. I put my daughter to bed at 9 pm and had to do my homework right after. So the biggest thing I would encourage people to do is be willing to make those sacrifices, check on those goals, and stay consistent with where you're trying to go.
This interview was condensed for brevity.