home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


September 3, 2006

Lisa Leslie

Donna Orender


MODERATOR: We welcome everybody to the 2006 WNBA Finals presented by Vonage here at Arco Arena, home of the Sacramento Monarchs and a special welcome to everybody watching on NBA TV. I'm Rick Kamla, very happy to be here.
Now the 2006 WNBA season, the tenth anniversary season was filled with awesome moments and today is no exception. So we would like to bring to the podium right now WNBA President, Donna Orender, for this very special presentation. Donna?
DONNA ORENDER: Thank you very much. Hello everyone, good afternoon. It's nice to see all of our friends in Sacramento and everywhere else for joining us today.
Today I have a really terrific opportunity and privilege, if you will. You know, the WNBA really embodies inspiration, and today our award winner, I think for all of you who know, here is the ultimate example of inspiration. Her numbers are outstanding, and we'll certainly share them with you, but what's more important is that Lisa leads with her heart, her soul and it's her inspiration that makes her team, I think for all of us who saw the Sparks play this year know that extremely well, as well as this league, succeed. I'm happy to quote Johnny Buss today when he said, "You cannot measure the inspiration that Lisa has brought to the City of Los Angeles. She captures everything that any town would want in a local hero."
On the court, well, we all know that despite her being in the league for ten years, she's got a young heart and a young body. She shot 51 percent from the field, as well as averaging 20 points per game, 3.2 assists, all of them personal bests. She's been a seven-time All-Star, has played in every All-Star Game the WNBA has hosted and is a member of the WNBA All-Decade Team. She also became the first player in league history to reach 5,000 points, and tops the all-time charts in career scoring and rebounding.
Under her leadership, the Sparks posted the best record in the Western Conference and she also becomes the second player in league history to garner the MVP award three times. It is truly an honor and a privilege to present to you the 2006 WNBA Most Valuable Player, Lisa Leslie. (Applause.)
LISA LESLIE: Thank you, Donna, it's an awesome honor to receive this MVP award for my third time, but it's even more amazing to do it in our tenth anniversary season. And having you as our president has been an amazing year, and I wanted to be at my best for you and for our league, and for our fans.
I think when I think about playing basketball and everyone, a lot of the reporters asked me this year, why are you still playing and what are you playing for and what motivates you? And my motivation is just simple: It's all about the fans, and I believe that as an athlete, I owe the fans my best, and I think that it's important for each athlete out there to continue to improve the product that we put out on the floor.
And then I thought this year, we had a lot of trades and I wasn't sure exactly who my teammates were going to be, but I knew that I was going to be in my Sparks uniform and I wanted to show up and be at my best and try and make whatever players our management decided on better.
So that was my main goal. I wrote down these three goals I wanted to do, improve my field goal shooting percentage, I wanted to improve my offensive rebounding, and lastly I wanted to improve my assists, my ability to pass the basketball. I'm always being double-teamed and I hoped to get better in these three areas. Honestly that was what my focus was every game, try to get better, try to do better. When you write down a goal and you really focus on it, I believe you can achieve anything, and that's kind of one of the messages that I share with a lot of the young kids that when I have an opportunity to speak in the community, it's about writing down your goals and achieving those goals and no matter what it is that you want to do in life, if you can write it down first, you can make it tangible and then you go after it.
And that's exactly what I did. I try to be an example for those kids out there and for my niece, who is in the audience, explain that life is what you make of it, and an opportunity -- when you have an opportunity and you prepare for it, it equals success. I was just prepared to come out and be as successful as I could in our tenth anniversary, and I just thank God for winning this MVP trophy and I'm also thankful for my teammates for making all those shots and passing me the ball and our new coach, Jellybean Bryant. We obviously fell short, a game or two away from being in The Finals ourselves. It was amazing and to play at my best in the tenth anniversary of the WNBA, I couldn't be happier. So thank you for this award and God bless you all.
I'm a little disappointed though, I guess I should, we don't have any keys. We lost our General Motors, what is it, our sponsor, so we've got to get back out there. We need a car dealership to make sure you come back and sponsor the WNBA, because I worked hard for that car. I was kind of disappointed. (Laughter) I need keys now.

Q. Congratulations, a couple of questions, this is your third MVP award, how is this one different from the previous two, is it more special than the previous two?
LISA LESLIE: I think it's more special just because it's now. You know, when I won the first ones, I'm not sure what year it was, but just to be in our tenth year and to win with so much young talent and competition. I mean, Diana Taurasi was amazing this year, Seimone Augustus, Cappie Pondexter, our league is just continuing to get better and better. I was hoping to be able to play at the same speed as these girls because as they continue to come in, it's just amazing for us veterans, so to speak, to continue to play at a high level every day consistently, and that's just what I tried to do.
And with this competition, I can say, hey, I won it again in my tenth year.

Q. Now, the career-high assists at over three per game, you're a center in the WNBA. Wilt way back in the day wanted to lead the league in assists one year and upped that, and he did lead the league in assists, what he said he was going to. You wanted to set a career high in assists and you did that. Talk about that a little bit.
LISA LESLIE: The assists, I can really give a lot of credit to Jellybean. Coach Bryant, he just taught me so much about seeing the game and seeing the players. And it's almost like I see it in slow motion. I guess Magic Johnson used to say that. I'm not quite there, but just kind of seeing a play and cutting and where the open space is to pass the ball before she arrives. And I kind of got just a little bit of that this year, and I was able to find some players cutting and moving and trying to get our players to move without the ball, as well, which is not necessarily a part of our offense. But you have to learn to move without the ball regardless, to read the defense and to move without the ball. That's something that we're kind of learning. We are learning that you have to adjust, even if the offense tells you to make it, you pop out to the wing, but if the defense is already there, just cut back door. He gave us a lot of leeway in being creative this year and gave me a lot of opportunities to make passes and find players when they were cutting, even though it wasn't a part of our offense. I gave a lot of credit to him just improving my game in that area.

Q. What would you say to the 17-year-old girl who is going to be a high school senior, playing basketball going to a great college program, what would you say as for as sharpening her hopes for getting to the WNBA one day?
LISA LESLIE: I would say to that 17-, 18-year-old player who is going to college playing basketball, study the game. That's one thing, I'm a visual learner and when I watch myself or other people play, I learn more things. It's about learning the game and studying and really honing your skills, picking one thing.
For me, whether it's field goal shooting percentage, in order for me to improve I have to shoot a series of 200, 300 shots a day. If you're trying to improve your defense, you have to work on your defensive slides, you have to do it every day, 30 minutes working on whatever you want to improve on. You have to put the time into it. For that player you have to understand that. Now we have high school, then you have college basketball, from there we have a draft and you can go into the WNBA, so this is serious. To get to the next level, you have to study the game and practice it just like you do anything else, just like you do your homework.

Q. Do you have a time frame how many more years you might play?
LISA LESLIE: I really don't have a time frame. I'm really looking forward to getting some rest right now. I'm a little tired and kind of ran out of gas there towards our last two or three regular season games and into the playoffs. So a lot of basketball I've been playing since November 16.
Aside from that, I just love working out. I love lifting weights and I enjoy the stairmaster and my whole little workout routine that keeps me in shape. I enjoy playing basketball. I enjoy blocking people's shots. (Laughter) I enjoy playing against the men when I train. So those things just really keep me excited about the game. So I'm not sure when I'm going to stop playing, but I'll let you know.

Q. This is monumental for you, you're a pioneer, you're an icon of this league. Seemed like you had a challenge within the league trying to keep up with the younger players, as you said earlier, seemed like it was a challenge. Switching over from how the league built its reputation on the veteran players when they first started out, now we get a good quality of college players coming out of college, going into the WNBA, what's the value of this league in this last ten years from what you have seen?
LISA LESLIE: Wow, I have no idea what your question is, but I'm just going to speak on the fact that when you look at the veteran players and those of us that are left from the ten years, the whole anniversary and the new players the last five years, starting with Sue Bird and all the Connecticut group, I just think that we really have something great here, because the product is continuing to get better.
When I talk to Sue and Tamika Catchings, they always laugh because they talk about when they watched us in the '95 training camp and going into the '96 Olympics and they were like, in the seventh grade, but now they are here playing in the league.
So those are the girls that were in high school that honed their skills and studied the game and they have gotten better. We're going to see a whole new group continue to do that in the next three, four, five years. Players are continue to go get better and better. The skills are changing, the quickness. If you saw Cappie Pondexter play, she was amazing this year. Just her quickness, her ability to create her own shot or step back, her 3-point shot, she was everywhere. And just to see one player have that type of individual skill is spreading.
So I think overall, the first ten years, we're going to look back when we played that first game, it's like, hmm, that was terrible basketball. But the product has improved player for player, and I think it's just only going to get better.
So if you're talking about looking to the future, I think our future is in pretty good hands with those players that are in college that are going to continue to come. I don't know if you had a chance to see Candace Parker, an amazing talent. We're going to be okay with our product. It's just our fans, we have to continue to make our fans comfortable and continue to increase our fans and get those soccer moms in the right seats. We've got to reach out and just continue to reach out to our communities and get more fans into our arenas.

Q. Do you think that you folks as ambassadors, aside from being just players, do you think that there's more of a responsibility on WNBA athletes than there is on, say, a male athlete to go out into the community, reach out to those people and in turn they come back and support you?
LISA LESLIE: I wouldn't say male versus female as much as I would a new league versus an old league.
We're new. A lot of times people want to compare us to the NBA, you know, but you have to look at the NBA in their first ten years and where we are in our first ten years, and we're a lot further ahead than where they were.
I've had an opportunity to talk to Bill Russell and some of those older guys, and they just talk about some of the trips that they took, the bus rides, 13-hour bus rides. We are a lot further along than they were in ten years, and so when I think about our league and what we have to do, that's who we are. We embrace having the opportunity to go out to the community and pull those little girls and boys in, having the opportunities to teach them about being fit, being active, or just sharing with them our stories. We probably have 100%, I'm not sure, graduate rate in the WNBA. The majority of us all have our Bachelor's degrees. The women, it's just something that we do. We're natural nurturers even though we play basketball, and it's a great opportunity to be able to reach those children.
A lot of us are young enough still to remember. I remember when Lynette Woodward came to Carson, California and she was with the Globetrotters and did a clinic. She was there and I was like, yeah, this is what I want to do. Just having her there speaking to me, I know what that felt like. So that's why I take it seriously to have the opportunity to be a role model, to talk to these kids. You never know whose life you're going to impact and how you're going to change the way that they are going to go.
Having played basketball and being in the WNBA has provided us with a great platform to reach children. That's just what we do. It has nothing to do with the other leagues and any comparison. We really pride ourselves on reaching out to our communities.

Q. If you were to step back, the perspective that you bring, to reach the fans and to basically expand your fan base, if there's one thing that you think is critical to this, or maybe there's a number of elements, how do you do it? You talk about being in the community, but how much do you think of the exposure is just television? What other areas do you see need to be addressed?
LISA LESLIE: Honestly, we could do better in the grass roots area. I was just talking yesterday, like, maybe if we did things like we went to Target and the whole team was there signing autographs. You have to get the people that are in your community. Television is one way. I believe that our local media could do better in the sense of Channel 7, Channel 2, Channel 5, what happened last night at the Sparks game, that's really hard to find out in our local communities. Sacramento, you can see highlights on your local news channels and that's great. Those are the types of things we have to improve on.
I don't know if it's having the team out there and having the teams do things at the local stores in the community. We need to do more things in the radius of our city. National obviously is great because we can reach more people but we can still do things right there in our own communities. It's up to each time team. I'm sure we're trying to figure out how the PR department and marketing can better utilize our marketing skills with the short period of time that we have when you have the whole group together.
There's no one right answer, but believe me, we are working as hard as we can to try and figure it out, and if you have any suggestions, we'd love to hear them. (Laughter).
MODERATOR: On that note, we'd like to wrap this up. Thank you all for coming. Lisa, congratulations on the MVP. Donna, congratulations on the tenth anniversary. The league is in great shape.

End of FastScripts...

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297