Lisa Leslie Earns Second WNBA All-Star MVP Award

July 16, 2001

By Barry Rubinstein

ORLANDO, Fla. -- She is used to seeing the opening tipoff from center court, not the bench. But the change in perspective didn't faze Lisa Leslie (USC '94) - not in the least.

And by the time the final buzzer blared at the end of the 2001 WNBA All-Star Game on Monday night, all the Los Angeles Sparks center did was score a WNBA All-Star record 20 points, grab nine rebounds and block three shots to lead the Western Conference to an 80-72 victory over the Eastern Conference at the TD Waterhouse Centre in Orlando.

All of that came in 23 minutes off the bench, as Leslie captured her second All-Star MVP award, after claiming the prize in the Inaugural All-Star Game in New York two years ago.

(All three WNBA All-Star MVP awards have been won by former Women of Troy: 1999 - Lisa Leslie, 2000 - Tina Thompson, 2001 - Lisa Leslie.)

'What I tried to do was focus and decided, OK, I'm going to come off the bench,' said Leslie. 'What can I do to help this team? I can get out there, still score points, rebound and block shots. I did play with a lot of emotion, but I thought, 'I hope Coach [Michael] Cooper doesn't bring me off the bench [for the Sparks]. But I was focused on what I wanted to do and my goal was to try to be MVP.'

Mission accomplished, as the West - and Coach Van Chancellor - recorded their third triumph in as many WNBA All-Star Games. All of which made the victorious Western Conference locker room a gleeful place, indeed.

'It didn't matter who started tonight,' said Sacramento's Yolanda Griffith, who scored 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting after being voted by the fans as the West's starting center. 'Everyone had the same amount of minutes [between 19 and 23], and it was all about team effort tonight.

'Anybody could have gotten MVP tonight. I'm happy for Lisa, and I'm just happy that we won. Coach Chancellor said, 'I want to go home 3-0.' And we did it for him.'

Rookie Lauren Jackson of Seattle scored 11 points in her All-Star debut, while four players reached double figures for the East: Cleveland's Merlakia Jones had 12, and Miami's Elena Baranova tallied 10, as did the hometown Orlando duo of Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Nykesha Sales.

In the end, Adubato joined the long list of those paying homage to Leslie.

'We've played against her enough, I've seen enough performances by her to know that she plays the game with a passion,' he said. 'She's out to prove something every night. She's out to lead her team to a championship, and I think she wanted to make a big showing in the All-Star Game.'

No matter where she was when it began.

In a unanimous decision (13-0) by a panel of media members, Los Angeles Sparks' Lisa Leslie was selected for her second All-Star MVP award. She had a record-setting night in the West's victory. Her 20 points is a new WNBA All-Star record. Also, the West set a record with 80 points.

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