COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee today announced the finalists for the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame Class of 2019, consisting of 15 Olympians, nine Paralympians and three teams. USA Basketball is represented among the finalists in the team category by the historic 1996 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team, as well as the late Anne Donovan and Lisa Leslie in the individual Olympic category.
USA Basketball fans can cast their vote at TeamUSA.org/Vote from today through Sept. 3 to help determine the class of 2019, which will mark the first class inducted into the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame since 2012.
“It is a privilege to introduce these deserving finalists for induction into the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame,” said Sarah Hirshland, USOPC CEO. “They represent the pinnacle of athletic achievement and personal excellence, both on and off the field of play. We honor them and are pleased to memorialize their legacy as America’s most inspiring athletes and teams.”
Anne Donovan, who was an imposing 6-foot-8 center during her playing career, first represented USA Basketball in 1977 when she was 17 years old, and she culminated her efforts by leading the USA to a gold medal as a head coach at the 2008 Olympics. During her Hall of Fame, 31-year USA career, she was a member of five U.S. Olympic teams and four USA World Championship teams as an athlete and coach. She used to say she bled red, white and blue, and in all, she claimed 16 gold medals, five silver medals and one bronze medal in various international competitions during her illustrious career. Playing professionally in Japan and Italy, Donovan was committed to representing her country, and she was a powerful female role model, for example becoming the first female coach to win a WNBA title. She passed away on June 13, 2018.
Donovan was a three-time Olympian as a player who won two Olympic gold medals as an athlete and was a member of two Olympic gold medal winning teams as a U.S. coach. While playing for the USA, she was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team that did not compete in Moscow and won gold with the 1984 and 1988 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Teams. As an assistant coach, Donovan helped the 2004 U.S. team to a gold medal and as a head coach, she led the 2008 team to gold.
She played for Old Dominion University and led her team to three Final Fours and a national championship in 1980. She was the first woman to coach a WNBA team to a championship. She was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Memorial Hall of Fame in 1995, into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999 and into the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Hall of Fame in 2015.
One of the faces of the launch of the WNBA in 1997, Lisa Leslie helped to make the birth of the WNBA possible with her popularity and her commitment to growing the game. Prior to kicking off her string of four Olympic gold medals in 1996, she was a member of the historic 1995-96 USA Basketball Women’s National Team that tallied a 52-0 record and traveled more than 100,000 miles and to seven countries while preparing for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Lisa Leslie won four-straight gold medals as a member of the 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Teams.
She is a three-time WNBA MVP who won two WNBA championships over the course of 11 WNBA seasons. She was the first player to dunk in a WNBA game, and she was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2015.
Leslie’s individual performance often was a difference maker between a U.S. win and loss. Earning her first Olympic gold medal in 1996 at 24 years old, she led the team in scoring (19.5 ppg.). Leslie went on to lead the USA in scoring in 2000 (15.8 ppg.) and 2004 (15.6 ppg.). She remained a double-digit scorer in 2008 with 10.1 points per game as the U.S. Team’s oldest member at 36 years old. She is one of just five U.S. women to have played in four or more Olympic basketball competitions.
1996 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team
The 1996 U.S. Olympic Committee Team of the Year, the USA squad captured the gold medal in Atlanta after posting a 52-0 pre-Olympic record against opponents from around the world.
En route to its gold medal, the U.S. beat eight-straight teams by 28.6 points per game and averaged 102.4 ppg. To claim the Olympic gold medal; drew a record 202,556 fans during the Olympics, averaged 25,320 fans per game and won the gold medal in front of record 32,987 spectators; and set five U.S. women’s Olympic records, including single-game field goal percentage (66.2 percent in the gold medal game) and single-competition record for points (819), points averaged (102.4) and free throws made (142) and attempted (212).
Olympic fans turned out in unprecedented numbers to support the team, and the 1996 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team was critical in popularizing women’s basketball, which helped lead to the creation of two professional leagues – the ABL and WNBA. The USA won each of its eight Olympic Games by large margins and in crowd-pleasing style. The 1996 gold medal helped restore the USA’s place at the top of the podium after bronze medal finishes at the 1992 Olympics and 1994 FIBA World Cup.