Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

A Reflection on Lisa Leslie's Hall of Fame Career at the WNBA Level

(Guru's note: With the arrival of induction night and related activities beginning Thursday at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., the Guru offers this tribute on WNBA great Lisa Leslie, also an Olympic standout and national collegiate player of the year at Southern Cal, from Larry Burnett who broadcast her Los Angeles Sparks career from 1998-2013 and also collaborated on her autobiography, "Don't Let the Lipstick Fool You."

The Guru's program piece for Naismith will become public this weekend.


By Larry Burnett

My most vivid memories of her playing time were Lisa's graciousness, gracefulness, kind heart and caring for others…combined with an incredible work ethic, confidence and tenacity.

Somehow, she managed to balance sensitivity and femininity with amazing intensity, physicality and a never-ending will to succeed.

I would watch Lisa prance down the court after making a basket. She could look like an elegant deer with her head high and her arms at waist level.

Then seconds later, Lisa would be in "battle mode". She would be in hand to hand, elbow to elbow, body to body contact, ready to tear an opponents head off in order to secure a rebound.

The title " Don't Let the Lipstick Fool You" came from an incident Lisa had with Latasha Byears, when Toto was playing for the former Sacramento Monarchs.

The two were jostling for position as they waited for a free throw to be shot. It was always intense when those two got together. Byears called Lisa a filthy name and Lisa responded with, "Don't Let the Lipstick Fool You. I will knock you out!"

Ironically, it was Byears who assisted on Lisa's history making first dunk in WNBA competition.

That event sticks out in my mind when I think about Lisa.

I called it from high above Staples Center, on July 30, 2002, as Lisa broke away, got the pass and took a clear path to the basket against the former Miami Sol.

Betty Lennox got the closest look at it.

I said on the air, "What's she going to do?" and then " She dunked it! For the first time in WNBA history..."

That was exhilarating! That was headline material! That was history!

Lisa had so many "moments" during her high school, college, Olympic, and WNBA career, but it was her day-to day, practice-to-practice, game- to-game consistency that was so impressive. That, and her faith and concern for others.

I did not find out until two years ago that, on the night of the dunk ( July 30, 2002) the Miami Sol team bus was harassed and threatened on their drive back to the hotel.

A driver carrying a gun forced the bus to pull over to the shoulder.

He got out of his car, brandished the gun and marched back to the crowded bus.

As this terrifying scene is unfolding, a car pulled over to the shoulder. The driver recognized the team bus and wanted to make sure that everybody was okay. That driver was Lisa Leslie.

On one of the biggest nights of her life, Lisa was driving home, by herself, on a dark Los Angeles evening.

She could have been celebrating or thinking about her accomplishment.

Instead, she took the time to care about the welfare of that night's opponents as they waited in fear in that bus on the side of the freeway.

That is the Lisa Leslie that I will always admire and remember. So much more than just a basketball player.


- Posted using BlogPress from the Guru's iPad

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