In 2009, Lisa Borders ran for mayor of Atlanta, and lost. Today, she's presiding over a different kind of constituency, as president of the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA).
Borders is focused on building the WNBA fanbase and making sure young girls have a seat at the table in the sport. Moving forward, she wants to expand female athlete equality, pushing more leagues to embrace female athletes. “This is about enabling, empowering, and inspiring women,” she says. “We want to be an example for other sports to bring women into the arena.”
In the video above, Borders talks about learning from failure, and details the plans she has for the future of her league. “Failure is not fatal, it’s feedback,” she says.
Hoop history: “The WNBA was formed and founded in my home city in Atlanta in 1996,” Border says, explaining her connection to the sport. Though the WNBA has already made history as the first and longest-running professional league in the world, Borders wants to emphasize the importance of not making it the last. “We can be the first, we can be the longest, we should not be the last,” she says. “We want to endue for centuries and be equally, if not more successful than our male peers,” she says. “Hear that, men? We’re coming for you.”
Best advice: Borders says that she's had plenty of people in her life not see her full potential, which is why she works so hard to make sure her players see potential in themselves. “I’m a girl, I’m a person of color, and nine times out of 10, I’ve been underestimated,” she says. “The way to overcome that is to deliver results.”
And deliver she has for the WNBA, which has recorded unprecedented attendance since she took over in 2016.
The grind: Though it’s necessary, Boarders says that dishing out discipline is the toughest part of her job. But, she says, “adversity is very much like the agitator in the washing machine: it beats the heck out of the clothes, but they’re clean when they come out.”
Failure feedback: “It was very difficult to embrace the fact that I didn’t win,” Border admits of her political loss in the 2009 Atlanta mayoral race. “But, in retrospect it was absolutely the right thing to happen [because] here I sit today as the president of the WNBA: the longest running women’s professional league in the history of the world.” Borders adds that she’s exceptionally proud of her league, noting that she feels her position is even better than being governor.
Sweet home Atlanta: Atlanta may have been the capitol of the “New South,” but it was also heavily segregated in the '50s and '60s. Borders says her paternal grandfather’s involvement in the civil rights movement shaped her drive for social justice. “It really instilled in me a sense that fairness is important, opportunity is important, rules are important,” she says. “It really made me amp up my game from a very young age.”