Each week leading up to the Olympic Games later this summer, we will introduce you to the WNBA players who will be representing their countries in Athens. From first-timers to veteran Olympians, the WNBA's best and brightest stars will be showcasing their skills on the world's biggest stage.

Lisa Leslie, United States
By Matt Wurst, WNBA.com
The Basics

Country United States
Hometown Hawthorne, CA
WNBA Team Los Angeles Sparks
Position Center
Height 6-5
Weight 170 lbs.
Birthday July 7, 1972
Olympic exp. 1996 & 2000

Sparks center Lisa Leslie is the face of American women's basketball and has been for more than a decade.

In fact, the 1993, 1998 and 2002 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year is one of the most prolific scorers and rebounders in history. She has posted double-digit scoring averages in every major international event in which she has competed and boasts USA Basketball career averages of 16.0 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game. Leslie won gold medals in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, the 1998 and 2002 World Championships, the 1999 U.S. Olympic Cup, the 1994 Goodwill Games, 1993 World Championship Qualifying and the 1991 World University Games. She has been a mainstay on USA Basketball teams since being named to the 1989 USA Junior World Championship Team as a high school senior.

Leslie is one of the few remaining original WNBA players, assigned to the Los Angeles Sparks on Jan. 22, 1997. She has improved every season and ultimately won WNBA championships in 2001 and 2002. Leslie was named MVP of the regular season, the WNBA Championship and the All-Star Game in 2001, the first player to ever garner all three awards in the same season. She was also named MVP of the WNBA Championship and the All-Star Game in 2002. The 1994 U.S.C grad was the first player to ever dunk in a WNBA game and, to top things off, she became the first WNBA player to reach the 3,000 point plateau in 2002.

In playing only seven of the 13 games with the United States earlier this spring, Leslie led the U.S. team in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 18.3 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game. In the three games in Havana against the Cuban National team at the end of February, Leslie owned or shared team-high scoring honors. She was officially named to the U.S. National Team on October 8, 2003. Unofficially, she was on the team a lot earlier than that...

Leslie will be going to her third Olympics
(Bill Baptist/NBAE/Getty Images)
Up close and Personal
What is your favorite Olympic sport other than basketball?
"Track and Field. It's the most exciting event there is."

Are there any past or current athletes that you admire?
"Marion Jones. I love watching Marion. Not only is she a great athlete, but she is a great person as well. She has a wonderful personality and it has been sad to see what she has gone through with the whole USADA thing. I don’t think she is deserving of that and shouldn’t even have that associated with her name at all. She is just a great athlete."

As an experienced Olympian, have you gotten to see any other events in past Games?
"I haven’t really because I am so focused and am just very particular about my time and energy. But I do go to the men’s games because we play on alternating days at familiar venues, so I can take a quick ride to see them and then come right back. That is the only other event I have seen at the last two Olympics."

What are you most looking forward to in Athens?
"Just being safe and having a good time. I look forward to the camaraderie of the men’s and women’s team. We get a chance to hang out with the “Dream Team” and that is always fun for our friends and families to get to hang out. We always stay in the same place."

What is it like to a member of a "Dream Team?"
"When you talk about putting the best players in the WNBA together on one squad, we just have to come out with the right effort and we can beat everybody. But if we don’t show up, we can be beaten."

Are other countries narrowing the gap and closing in on the United States?
"Basketball is improving around the world in general, for both the men and women. But when you put us together, our team, where we have the best of the best at every position one through twelve. So the gold is definitely our goal, but we respect our opponents. Russia is excellent with Elena Baranova, Australia has Lauren Jackson and other WNBA players, Brazil is very strong with Janeth Arcain, and those are just a few of the top teams. So these teams have players that are familiar with us, but there is still a bit of an intimidation factor when they see all of together. Let’s hope."

Having accomplished so much in the game of basketball, where do the WNBA championships rank?
"To win a WNBA championship, that is a dream come true for me because I am amongst my colleagues and the people I play against year after year. I continue to improve my game and work hard to try and be the best center, the best player in general. To be able to help my team to the championship and to win championships is really just the ultimate accomplishment because I work so hard in the offseason to do that.

Game on Game
Tina Thompson, U.S. teammate:
"I think that she is the most versatile center in the world. She does so many things for her size. She’s 6-5 and she can do just about everything."

DeLisha Milton-Jones, U.S. teammate:
"She is women’s basketball. When you think of the WNBA, you think Lisa Leslie. And when you think of the Olympics, people come to see Lisa Leslie."

Katie Smith, U.S. teammate:
"Lisa is the backbone of our team, our go-to player. She is an intimidator and one of the leaders of our team."

Svetlana Abrosimova, Team Russia forward:
"She is a great post player -- not many like her in the world. She is also very versatile with a great hook shot and jumper and she gets all the rebounds."

USA Basketball Statistics
TEAM
G/S
FGM-FGA
PCT
3PM-3PA
PCT
FTM-FTA
PCT
RPG
PPG
AST
BLK
STL
2004 WNT
7/7
48-75
.640
1- 2
.500
31- 47
.660
6.6
18.3
8
7
11
02 WC
9/9
67- 128
.523
1- 5
.200
20- 28
.714
8.1
17.2
9
8
18
02 WCX
2/2
7- 18
.389
0- 2
.000
4- 6
.500
8.5
9.0
0
2
1
02 WNT
1/1
13- 22
.591
1- 2
.500
3- 4
.750
10.0
30.0
3
2
4
00 OLY
8/ 8
48- 98
.490
3- 7
.429
27- 39
.692
7.9
15.8
11
8
9
99-00 WNT
37/35
217- 388
.559
5- 15
.333
134- 163
.822
6.3
15.5
63
45
46
99 WNT
5/ 5
23- 44
.523
0- 1
.000
9- 14
.643
7.2
11.0
6
2
6
98 WC
9/ 9
64- 122
.525
0- 1
.000
26- 35
.743
8.8
17.1
16
8
15
98 WCP
13/12
90- 166
.542
1- 7
.143
52- 68
.765
7.9
17.9
26
25
17
96 OLY
8/ 8
64- 98
.653
0- 1
.000
28- 44
.636
7.3
19.5
19
3
9
95-96 WNT
49/42
325- 563
.577
12-31
.387
190-253
.751
7.0
17.4
80
61
59
94 WC
8/ 1
31- 54
.574
0- 0
.---
22- 31
.710
4.8
10.5
11
1
4
94 GWG
4/ 4
28- 39
.718
0- 0
.---
16- 23
.696
7.3
18.0
1
4
2
93 WCQ
7/ 6
52- 84
.619
0- 2
.000
25- 30
.833
6.6
18.4
4
3
19

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