Leslie Plays Final Regular Season Game in Phoenix

By Arash Azarmi, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: Sept. 13, 2009

Four Olympic gold medals. Three WNBA regular season MVP’s. Two WNBA championships. One giant legacy.

It’s no secret that Los Angeles’ Lisa Leslie has been one of the cornerstones of the WNBA since its inaugural season in 1997. Drafted seventh in the 1997 WNBA draft, Leslie quickly became one of the main figures of women’s basketball.

Leslie certainly didn’t hold back when playing the Mercury. The original Spark has appeared in 39 games against the Mercury in her 13-year career. Counting Sunday’s game at the US Airways Center, Leslie has lead Los Angeles to a 23-16 mark against Phoenix. She came in averaging a double-double in her career against the top-seeded Mercury, posting 17.8 points per game, 10.0 rebounds per game and 2.5 blocks per game.

“Lisa has not only been huge for women’s basketball, but women’s sports in general too,” said Mercury superstar Cappie Pondexter. “She’s a fierce competitor on the court, but does a lot of nice things off the court, as well.”

CP23 and Diana Taurasi are two of the few players in the league to both win against and with Leslie. They shared the gold during last summer’s Olympics in Beijing. While Leslie has had many great games against the Mercury in the past, she has struggled significantly in her final season against the “Mighty Mercury.” She only averaged 10.3 ppg total in her three games she played Phoenix. Her numbers drop even more drastically when playing in front of the “X-factor” this season where she averaged a very sub-par 4.0 ppg and 2.5 rpg. But that hasn’t deterred Leslie from acknowledging the fans in the US Airways Center.

“The [Phoenix] crowd has always been great,” Leslie told PhoenixMercury.com. “The team has always been quite talented, but the fans are what I will remember most overall, and just the great support that Phoenix has given.”

Assistant Head Coach Bridget Pettis was quick to remind everyone that this might not be the last time Leslie will play in the Valley. If the stars all align at the right time, Phoenix could potentially face Los Angeles in the Western Conference Finals. Pettis has a unique perspective on Leslie, because she has both played and coached against the seven-time All-Star. Asked whether it’s more difficult to prepare against Leslie as a player or as a coach, Coach Pettis was quick to answer.

“Oh, definitely as a player,” the former Mercury guard laughed. “You do not want to get hit by one of those elbows. Now when I go against her, I get to sit in a chair far away from those things.”