Broadway vs. Hollywood

As the New York Liberty and Los Angeles Sparks prepare to meet for their 25th all-time match-up on Thursday at Madison Square Garden, NYLiberty.com is looking back at this legendary rivalry.

It was on June 21, 1997 that a crowd of 14,284 gathered in the Great Western Forum to see the Liberty and Sparks square off in the first ever WNBA game.

"The media had favored L.A. heavily then," said former New York center Kym Hampton. "They had portrayed us as an aged and inferior team. It bothered us. It made us want to go out and prove ourselves that much more." As that ground breaking game tipped off, the Liberty used that motivation and silenced the disbelievers, earning the first victory in the young league's history. New York was led by future All-Stars Rebecca Lobo's 16 points and Vickie Johnson's eight rebounds, as Lisa Leslie added 16 points and 14 points for the hosts.

And a rivalry was born.

Since the inaugural season, the New York-Los Angeles match-up has been a gritty battle. The Liberty has taken the regular season series four times, the Sparks three times and a tie has resulted five times. The intensity didn't stop at the regular season for these two clubs. They tangoed in the 2002 WNBA Playoffs, for the Liberty's fourth Finals appearance in its then short history. Although each team drew a win in the regular season match-ups, the Sparks prevailed in the post-season and walked away with the title.

Since the beginning, a staple in this rivalry has been Leslie, a three-time WNBA Most Valuable Player. Averaging a double-double against New York in her dozen seasons, she will be absent (due to injury) from Thursday's game in her WNBA final curtain call. Despite missing a legend, fans will see the rivalry take new shape with both franchise's wave of youthful and talented players

Last season's match-ups in the Big Apple and Hollywood gave us a taste of how hungry and successful these rising stars can be in crunch time. Shameka Christon helped the Liberty battle back from an 11-point deficit in the final frame to achieve victory on July 1, 2008 at the Staples Center with her career-high 28 points. Just three weeks later in New York, it was the Sparks who had to deal with an 11-point fourth quarter shortfall before eventually being topped by the Liberty, as Janel McCarville's running lay-up over Candace Parker and Leslie with 6.4 seconds sealed the win.

"L.A. was a rough, scrappy team," said Hampton.

"Every game was really intense. You can always count on New York and L.A. to bring that."

Could Thursday night's game produce another quality moment for this rivalry? Be there to see it all! Score tickets by clicking here, stopping by the Madison Square Garden Box Office or calling 877-WNBA-TIX.

All-Time Regular Season Series History

All-Time Regular Season Series In New York

All-Time Regular Season Series In Los Angeles

Liberty leads, 13-11

Liberty leads, 8-5

Sparks lead, 6-5

x x x

Streaks

Last Liberty Win

Last Liberty Loss

Overall: Won 2

07/25/08

07/31/07

Home: Won 1

07/25/08

07/31/07

Road: Won 1

07/01/08

07/18/06

x x x

All-Time Liberty High Scorer

x

All-Time Sparks High Scorer

28, Shameka Christon, 07/01/08

x

26, Leslie, 06/06/06, 06/24/01; Mabika, 06/29/04

xx xx xx

All-Time Liberty High Points

x

All-Time Sparks High Points

92, 07/21/98

x

82, 07/20/00

x

x

All-Time Liberty Low Points

All-Time Sparks Low Points

49, 06/22/04

 

50, 08/05/97

Casey Riley & Elissa Dolacky contributed to this article.