Basketball legend Lisa Leslie could be close to joining fellow legendary Los Angeles stars sculpted in bronze at the Star Plaza outside Staples Center.
Leslie, one of the most accomplished players in WNBA history who spent her entire 12-year career with the Los Angeles Sparks, would become the first female athlete honored with a statue and the 11th player overall.
LA columnist: Leslie will get statue
According to Los Angeles Times columnist Arash Markazi, the two parties who need to be involved in the decision, the Sparks and Staples managing entity AEG, are meeting later this week. The Sparks’ lease with AEG is up after this season.
In a tweet Thursday, Markazi said Leslie will get the statue and the sides will “talk about the specifics soon.” It followed a column earlier this week promoting the idea and some talk on Twitter over the weekend about the lack of a Leslie homage.
[Eric] Holoman, the Sparks’ managing partner, responded to the idea by saying, “We believe Lisa deserves a statue and plan to make that part of the lease renewal discussion with AEG which should take place in the next week or two.”
AEG, which had already committed to partnering with the Sparks if they were looking to pursue a statue for Leslie, were more than happy when I relayed the news.
“We look forward to sitting down with Sparks ownership to negotiate a new lease for the 2020 WNBA season and beyond,” said Lee Zeidman, president of Staples Center, Microsoft Theater and LA Live. “In addition, we plan to discuss the timing and placement of a permanent statue at Staples Center honoring one of the great all-time WNBA players, Lisa Leslie.”
Markazi reports a statue outside the arena costs upward of $250,000 and is usually split between the team and the venue.
The case for Leslie’s statue
Leslie, 47, is a 2015 inductee to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the most fitting first female athlete to be honored outside of Staples Center. If the deal comes to fruition, she would join Los Angeles Lakers greats Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; boxer Oscar De La Hoya and NHL legend Wayne Gretzky.
Her résumé fits the bill.
She built her career in the Los Angeles area, first as a student at nearby Morningside High in Inglewood — where she scored 101 points during a half one game — and then at USC.
In its inaugural year, the WNBA assigned players to nearby teams instead of holding a draft and Leslie joined the Sparks in 1997. She retired in 2009 with three league records as a three-time MVP (2001, ’04, ’06) and two-time champion (2001-02) with a Finals MVP as well. She was named to eight All-Star teams and was named the game’s MVP three times.
Leslie represented the U.S. at four Olympic games, beginning in 1996 in Atlanta, and won gold in all of them. The U.S. won gold at the World Championships in 1998 and 2002 as well.
She was back at Staples Center over the weekend as coach of the Triplets in the BIG3. Her squad finished the season 9-1 and won the championship, a fitting end to her Coach of the Year season.
It was her first year as the expansion team’s coach. It certainly wasn’t her first trophy at Staples.
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