Three-time WNBA MVP and four-time Olympic gold medalist Lisa Leslie says she will retire after her 12th season with the Los Angeles Sparks.The 36-year-old center announced her decision Wednesday in El Segundo, Calif., accompanied by her 19-month-old daughter and husband.
The 6-foot-5 Southern California native first grabbed headlines when she scored 101 points for her Inglewood Morningside team in 1990. Leslie stayed closed to home for college, helping USC reach the final eight of the NCAA tournament twice, in 1992 and 1994.
Leslie, who has been a cornerstone of the league since its start, guided the Sparks to the WNBA championship in 2001 and 2002 and became the first woman to dunk in a WNBA game.
Leslie says she decided to retire as it became more difficult to balance her family life and her basketball career. She took the 2007 season off to give birth, then returned last season.
In other WNBA news, the Seattle Storm released three-time WNBA MVP and three-time Olympic gold medalist Sheryl Swoopes a day before her 2009 contract would have become guaranteed.
Coach Brian Agler says the move was made to clear space under the $803,000 salary cap.
Swoopes is 37 and might now pursue something she’s talked about since September – coaching and being a full-time mother.
With these announcements, an era in women’s basketball comes to an end.