SPARKS HISTORY

Quick Facts

Founded: 1997
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Home Court: STAPLES Center
Colors: Purple, Gold, & Teal
WNBA Championships: 2 (2001, 2002)
Conference Championships: 3 (2001, 2002, 2003)
Playoff Appearances: 12 (1999-2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012)
Head Coach: Penny Toler
General Manager: Penny Toler
Ownership Group: Investment Group Led By Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Mark R. Walter

Highlights

  • June 21, 1997...The Los Angeles Sparks and the New York Liberty tip-off the first WNBA game at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles. Sparks Guard Penny Toler scores the league's first basket at 19:01.
  • June 19, 1998...Sparks Center Lisa Leslie sets a WNBA record by pulling down 21 rebounds in the Sparks' victory over the New York Liberty.
  • June 21, 1998...Sparks Center Lisa Leslie notches her seventh straight double-double , setting a WNBA record.
  • August 11, 2001...Sparks become the first WNBA team to go undefeated at home for an entire season, finishing 16-0 at the STAPLES Center.
  • September 1, 2001...Sparks claim their first WNBA Championship to give the city a sweep of professional basketball titles.
  • September 1, 2001...Lisa Leslie becomes the first WNBA player to capture all three MVP awards (regular season, post season, All-Star) in the same season, joining NBA greats Shaquille O'Neal, Michael Jordan and Willis Reed as the only professional basketball players to accomplish this feat. Won the regular season MVP award, the WNBA playoffs MVP, and the WNBA All-Star Game MVP - making her the first player ever to win all three awards in the same season.
  • July 22, 2002...Sparks Center Lisa Leslie becomes the first WNBA player to record 3,000 points during the Sparks' 92-84 victory over the Orlando Miracle at the STAPLES Center. Leslie also records 24 points and 21 rebounds, tying the league record she set on June 19, 1998.
  • July 30, 2002...Sparks Center Lisa Leslie becomes the first WNBA player to dunk in a game when she throws down a one-handed breakaway layup with 4:44 remaining in the first half in Los Angeles' 82-73 loss to the Miami Sol at the STAPLES Center.
  • August 29, 2002...Sparks rookie guard Nikki Teasley nails the game-winning shot in the waning seconds of Game 2 of the WNBA Finals to give the Sparks their second consecutive WNBA Championship, defeating the New York Liberty.
  • August 29, 2002...Sparks Center Lisa Leslie earns Finals MVP honors for the second straight year.
  • July 12, 2003...Sparks Guard Nikki Teasely earns All-Star MVP honors.
  • August 25, 2003...Sparks Guard Nikki Teasely finishes the year averaging 11.5 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.1 rebounds becoming the first player in WNBA history to average more than ten points, five assists, and five rebounds in a season.
  • July 29, 2004...Sparks Center Lisa Leslie scores her 4,000th career point becoming the first WNBA player to reach the milestone.
  • September 10, 2004...Sparks Center Lisa Leslie records the WNBA's third tripe-double, tying Margo Dydek's record for blocked shots in the process as her 29 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 blocked shots leads the Sparks to an 81-63 victory over the Detroit Shock.
  • March 25, 2005…Sparks trade forward DeLisha Milton-Jones to the Washington Mystics for Chamique Holdsclaw.
  • Chamique Holdsclaw leads the Sparks in points and FT’s made in 2005
  • Sparks finish 17-17 in 2005 and barely make the playoffs as the #4 seed only to lose to eventual Champion Sacramento Monarchs.
  • June 14, 2006… Lisa Leslie is named to the WNBA’s All-Decade team
  • Lisa Leslie becomes first player in WNBA history to score 5,000 points and the Sparks home court at the STAPLES Center is dedicated to her and is name, “Lisa Leslie Court”.
  • August 1, 2006… Lisa Leslie earns three Player of the Week awards in 2006 behind her 3rd MVP performance year, weeks: 5/30/06, 6/19/06, 6/26/06, 7/17/06.
  • June 14, 2006… Lisa Leslie is named to the WNBA’s All-Decade team.
  • Sparks finish 2006 season 25-9 before losing to the Sacramento Monarchs for the second straight year in the second round of the WNBA playoffs.
  • December 7, 2006… WNBA approves the sale of the Los Angeles Sparks from Lakers to Katherine Goodman and Carla Christofferson.
  • Former Sparks Coach and two-time WNBA Champion Michael Cooper rejoins the Sparks organization as Head Coach.
  • Lisa Leslie announces that she will take 2007 off to have her first child, Lauren
  • Sidney Spencer leads the Sparks in total points (327) and is a Rookie of the Year Finalist.
  • Sparks finish 2007 at 10-24 and miss the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
  • October 23, 2007… Sparks win the top pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft.
  • April 9, 2008… Los Angeles Sparks select College Player of the Year Candace Parker as the #1 draft pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft.
  • April 22, 2008… All-star forward DeLisha Milton-Jones rejoins the Sparks in a trade with the Washington Mystics.
  • May 17, 2008… Candace Parker has a near triple-double in WNBA debut at Phoenix with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists.
  • June 22, 2008… Candace Parker records the leagues second dunk in history with a slam over Indiana in the final seconds of the game.
  • June 24, 2008… Candace Parker records the leagues third dunk and first in back to back games with a slam over the Seattle Storm.
  • August 1, 2008… The Sparks send Lisa Leslie, DeLisha Milton-Jones and Candace Parker to Beijing to compete in the 2008 Olympic games.
  • August 23, 2008… US wins gold, Lisa Leslie captures her fourth gold medal in a row and improves her Olympic record to 32-0. Milton-Jones gets her second gold and Parker gets her first.
  • August 28, 2008… Lisa Leslie records 17 blocked shots in three games between 8/30-9/1 with 8 apiece coming against the Monarchs and the Lynx.
  • September 19, 2008… The Sparks make their 9th playoff appearance and defeat the Seattle Storm in the first round before losing to San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals.
  • September 19, 2008… Lisa Leslie is name the WNBA’s Defensive Player of the Year after recording 97 blocks and 49 steals.
  • October 1, 2008… Candace Parker and Lisa Leslie are named First Team All-WNBA.
  • October 3, 2008… Candace Parker becomes the first player in WNBA history to be named Rookie of the Year and WNBA MVP in the same year.
  • June 2009... Forward Candace Parker nominated in the "Best WNBA Player" category for ESPN’s annual ESPY Awards, which honor the year’s best athletic performances. Parker has previously won ESPYs in 2008 for "Best Female Athlete" and "Best Female College Athlete," and in 2009 for "Best WNBA Player."
  • June 5, 2009... The Los Angeles Sparks reach an agreement with the Farmer’s Insurance Group of Companies to become the second team to secure a marquee partnership and wear branded jerseys. The Farmer’s Insurance Group of Companies name and logo will appear on player jerseys.
  • September 26, 2009... Lisa Leslie tallies 22 points and 9 rebounds in the final game of her WNBA career as the Los Angeles Sparks are defeated by the Phoenix Mercury in the Western Conference Finals. Leslie had previously announced that 2009 would be her final season, and retires as the all-time WNBA leader in points (6,263) and rebounds (3,307).
  • July 24, 2010... Marie Ferdinand Harris hit the 750 rebound and 300 steal milestone in her career with the W.N.B.A. after grabbing 3 rebounds and 1 steal in the Sparks win over the Sun.
  • August 4, 2010... Ticha Penicheiro set a franchise record of 15 assists in a game against Chicago.
  • August 8, 2010... With 5:01 left in the 3rd quarter against San Antonio, forward Tina Thompson hit a 16 ft jump shot and became the all-time leading scorer in WNBA history surpasing former teammate Lisa Leslie.
  • August 8, 2010... DeLisha Milton-Jones hit her 700 career assist milestone after recording 3 assists in the loss to San Antonio. Milton-Jones also recorded her 500th career steal this season.
  • August 10, 2010... "Lisa Leslie Day" - The Sparks family proudly honored Lisa Leslie retiring her number 9 jersey which now hangs in the rafters at STAPLES Center.
  • August 20, 2010... The Sparks 98-91 victory over the Minnesota Lynx clinched a playoff spot for Los Angeles. The Sparks made the playoffs for the third consecutive year and the 11th time in franchise history.
  • August 9-22, 2010... Tina Thompson wins back to back player of the week honors.
  • February 2, 2011...After seven seasons in Indiana, Harbor City, Calif., native and USC alum Ebony Hoffman returns to Southern California as the power forward siogns as a free agent with the Sparks.
  • February 17, 2011...Farmers Insurance renews and expands its marketing partnership with the Sparks, becoming the first presenting sponsor in team history.
  • February 17, 2011...Farmers Insurance renews and expands its marketing partnership with the Sparks, becoming the first presenting sponsor in team history.
  • June 3, 2011...Sparks open their 15th season with an 82-74 win at STAPLES Center over the eventual WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx, rallying from 11 points down in the third quarter in front of a season-high crowd of 13,589.
  • June 21, 2011...In the WNBA's 15th Anniversary Game between the Sparks and New York Liberty, played 15 years to the day of the league's inaugral game between the same two teams, Los Angeles outlasts its longtime rivals 95-91 at STAPLES Center. The halftime ceremony featured a roundtable discussion with Lisa Leslie and inaugural Liberty player Rebecca Lobo.
  • July 23, 2011...Former Sparks Lisa Leslie and Teresa Weatherspoon, and current players Tina Thompson and Ticha Penicheiro are named as four of the Top-15 WNBA Players of all-time in halftime a ceremony during the All-Star Game in San Antonio.
  • August 12, 2011...Jantel Lavender scores 25 points and grabs 10 rebounds off the bench in 93-90 victory over Phoenix, the highest totals by a Sparks rookie since Candace Parker in 2008.
  • August 24, 2011...Candace Parker is named WNBA Western Conference Player of the Week after averaging 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in her first two games back from an extended injury absence.
  • August 26, 2011...In a surprise halftime announcement, Lisa Leslie is introduced to the STAPLES Center crowd as the newest member of the Sparks' ownership group, becoming the first former player to invest in a league team.

Building A Dynasty

Established in 1997 as one of eight original teams in the Women’s National Basketball Association, the Los Angeles Sparks tipped off the WNBA’s inaugural season on June 21, 1997 versus the New York Liberty at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, CA. A crowd of 14,284 watched as Sparks guard Penny Toler scored the first basket in league history, although the Liberty prevailed 67-57. Los Angeles compiled an impressive 45-17 record in four seasons at the Great Western Forum before following their NBA counterparts, the Los Angeles Lakers, to STAPLES Center, located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles.

Led by 2001 WNBA Coach of the Year Michael Cooper and MVP Lisa Leslie, the Sparks went on to tie a league record and franchise-best 28 wins in their debut season at STAPLES Center. Posting a record-breaking 9-0 start to the 2001 campaign, Los Angeles completed the regular season undefeated at home with a WNBA-best 16-0 mark. The Sparks also topped the League in points (76.3), defensive rebounds (.720), total rebounds (.39) and assists (18.3) per game and captured their first-ever WNBA championship – sweeping the Eastern Conference Champion Charlotte Sting in the Finals. After retiring in November 1999 to serve as the Sparks General Manager, former Los Angeles point guard Penny Toler became the fastest player-turned-manager in any men’s or women’s league to assemble a championship team (two years). Toler is also the first WNBA player in the league’s history to go from the hardwood to the executive suite as General Manager of Player Personnel.

In 2002, the Sparks became the second team in WNBA history to repeat as champions – going undefeated (6-0) through the playoffs en route to a sweep of the Eastern Conference Champion New York Liberty. Los Angeles held an impressive 12-1 playoff record during its back-to-back championship seasons.

The 2003 season proved to be an injury-riddled one for Los Angeles. Resiliently, the Sparks overcame their injuries and went on to win the Western Conference Championship for a third consecutive year. The Sparks had a convincing Game 1 victory over the Detroit Shock 75-63. They were then faced with the scenario of trying to become the first team in WNBA history to win the championship on the road. This feat nearly came to fruition as the Sparks overcame a 19-point deficit in Game 2 at Detroit; however, the Shock pulled out the nail-biter 62-61 to force a deciding Game 3. The championship game, held at The Palace at Auburn Hills, proved to be a historic event as it was played before the largest crowd in WNBA history – 22,076. The Shock’s victory was sealed by Deanna Nolan’s three-point basket with 53 seconds remaining and perfect free-throw shooting down the stretch.

The 2004 Sparks continued their impressive streak of Playoff appearances by making it to postseason play for the sixth-straight year with a 25-9 regular-season record. However, the Sacramento Monarchs ended Los Angeles’ chances of repeating as Western Conference Champion with a first-round series victory over Los Angeles. 2004 WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie led the league in rebounds per game and was third in scoring. Leslie and teammate Nikki Teasley each received All-WNBA recognition.

2005 introduced Los Angeles to six-time WNBA All-Star Chamique Holdsclaw, who led the Sparks in points, free-throws made and consistently ranked in the top three in the league for points, minutes, and field goals that season. Sparks veteran Lisa Leslie continued to impress fans in Los Angeles with her 15.2 points per game and 71 total blocked shots. A 2005 All-Star, Leslie made history as the first player to dunk in a WNBA All-Star game. With 13 wins and 16 losses under head coach Henry Bibby, assistant coach Joe “Jellybean” Bryant took over for the final five games (4-1) allowing the team to finish squarely at .500 (17-17). With a perfectly split record, the Sparks caught a glimpse of the postseason but their tireless efforts were outmatched by the Monarch’s for the second straight year.

2006 proved to be a historic year for the Sparks as players reached career milestones and as the organization changed ownership. Lisa Leslie became the first WNBA player to reach 5,000 career points and was named the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player for the third time. Leslie’s illustrious career was honored in an on-court celebration in which then-team president Johnny Buss dedicated the court to the record-breaking center. Milestones by the Sparks did not cease there. In a historic presentation, Penny Toler’s decade of involvement with the Sparks as an exceptional player and as a dedicated General Manager was recognized when her No. 11 jersey was retired during a Sparks game, marking the first female jersey to be retired at STAPLES Center. With Coach Bryant at the helm, the 2006 Sparks boasted a 25-9 regular season record and came back to beat the Seattle Storm falling behind 1-0 in the Western Conference Semifinals. The Sparks concluded the 2006 season when they were defeated at the Honda Center by the Sacramento Monarchs, who went on to win the WNBA title.

After a decade of commitment, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Buss family sold the Sparks to a group of investors led by Carla Christofferson and Katherine Goodman. Sparks season ticket holders themselves, Christofferson and Goodman focused on connecting fans through fun and engaging experiences at STAPLES Center. The Sparks are now one of six WNBA teams to be owned and operated independently of NBA teams.

The 2007 season had its share of ups-and-downs. With Coach Cooper in place but star center and team captain Lisa Leslie out for the season on maternity leave, other players worked to fill the void. The team was hit by another surprise when star forward Chamique Holdsclaw announced her abrupt retirement from the WNBA just five games into the season. The 2007 season ended with the Sparks finishing with the worst regular-season franchise history at 10-24, breaking a string of eight straight Playoff appearances. One bright spot in 2007 was the spectacular play of rookie Sidney Spencer who led the Sparks in points (327), led WNBA rookies in free-throw percentage (88.1%), and in double-doubles (2).

The Sparks’ fortunes turned around in the off-season as they landed the No. 1 pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft, which was used to select Candace Parker fresh off leading Tennessee to consecutive NCAA titles.

That excitement carried into the 2008 season as the Sparks returned three-time MVP Lisa Leslie and All-Star forward DeLisha Milton-Jones to the floor. Meanwhile, the addition Parker had Sparks fans hoping for their third WNBA Championship in the fall of 2008. Los Angeles was led all season long by the big three as Parker paced the team in scoring (18.5ppg) and rebounds (9.5rpg), Leslie chipped in 15.5 ppg and led the team in blocked shots (3.1bpg) and Milton-Jones was also solid averaging 13.9 ppg and 6.3 boards. The Sparks finished the regular season in third place in the Western Conference and returned to the Playoffs. Taking on the Seattle Storm in the first round and winning the series 2-1 found LA back in the Western Conference Finals hoping to contend for the Championship. Fate had a different plan for the Sparks, as they were 1.3 seconds away from returning to the WNBA Finals when the San Antonio Silver Stars converted on a game-winning basket. The Sparks lost game three in San Antonio and with that, the season was over. Although the Sparks did not win their third WNBA Championship in 2008, they did take home three of the most prestigious individual league awards. Lisa Leslie won the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year award and Candace Parker became the first player in WNBA history to win both the Rookie of the Year award and the league MVP award in the same year.

In 2009, the Sparks seemingly had its greatest team ever assembled on paper. With the additions of Tina Thompson, Betty Lennox, Los Angeles native Noelle Quinn and a strong draft class, the Sparks had only one goal – to bring home a championship to the city of Los Angeles.

The Sparks had another motivation to win that season. In early 2009, Lisa Leslie announced that it would be her final season in the WNBA. With the game’s greatest player retiring, the Sparks planned to send the face of their franchise out with a spectacular championship celebration. The team came up just short again, losing to the eventual champion Phoenix Mercury in the Western Conference Finals.

An up-and-down, injury-plagued 2010 campaign still resulted in the Sparks’ 11th WNBA Playoff appearance in franchise history. Star forward Candace Parker was off to a torrid start – averaging a double-double – before her season was derailed by a separated shoulder after just 10 games. With nagging injuries to free-agent point guard signee Ticha Penicheiro, as well as other key players, the Sparks struggled to a 6-16 start before rallying for a 7-6 finish to qualify for the Western Conference Semifinals in head coach Jennifer Gillom’s first season at the helm.

One highlight of 2010 was forward Tina Thompson becoming the WNBA’s all-time scoring leader, surpassing the previous record of 6,263 points held by Sparks’ legend Lisa Leslie. Thompson’s record-breaking moment came with 5:01 remaining in the third quarter of the Sparks’ Aug. 8 game vs. San Antonio, when she buried a 16-footern in front of a roaring STAPLES Center crowd.

2011 saw the signing of Southern California native Ebony Hoffman as well as a celebration of the WNBA’s 15th season, with the Sparks being one of three original franchises dating back to 1997. Los Angeles stormed out of the gates at 4-1, including a thrilling 96-91 win over the New York Liberty on June 21, played 15 years to the day of their inaugural meeting at the Forum. However, misfortune struck just five days later in Newark, N.J., as Candace Parker suffered a knee injury vs. the Liberty that sidelined her for the next 15 games. She returned in late August and regained her old form, and although the Sparks remained in Playoff contention to the very end they came up just short.

The Sparks were well-represented on the roster of Top-15 WNBA Players of All-Time, as Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson, Ticha Penicheiro and Teresa Witherspoon were each presented with that honor during halftime of the 2011 All-Star Game in San Antonio on July 23.

Another exciting announcement was made on the STAPLES Center floor at halftime of the Aug. 26, 2011 game vs. Tulsa, as Sparks Chairperson Paula Madison introduced Lisa Leslie to the crowd as the newest member of the team’s ownership group. In doing so, she became the first former WNBA player to invest in a league team.

2012 marked a record setting season for the Sparks, and it all started when the team won the draft lottery with the lowest possible chance and turned their luck into great fortune. First step, hire Carol Ross as head coach. Second step, Ross and Toler quickly assembled a list of key veterans and free agent signings with the additions of Alana Beard, Nicky Anosike, Marissa Coleman, Ashley Shields and Sharnee Zoll. The final piece to the puzzle came on Draft Day when Toler chose Nneka Ogwumike as the #1 draft pick. With the pieces in place, the Sparks were ready to contend for the 2012 WNBA Championship. The Sparks finished the regular season with the league’s third-best record (24-10) and earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs, securing Los Angeles a return to the WNBA Playoffs after missing the 2011 postseason. Sweeping the San Antonio Silver Stars in the first round of the Playoffs, the Sparks were back in the Championship hunt. Unfortunately, LA’s trophy dreams were cut short by the Minnesota Lynx and their Western Conference Finals sweep over the Sparks. While the team didn’t win its third WNBA Championship, the accolades didn’t end there; Ross, Ogwumike and Toliver earned prestigious league awards. Head Coach Carol Ross was named the WNBA’s Coach of the Year; Sparks #1 Draft Pick, Nneka Ogwumike, earned the coveted honor as the WNBA Rookie of the Year and Kristi Toliver was named the league’s Most Improved Player.

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