This year, Title IX is celebrating its 40th year of existence since passing in 1972. Title IX allows women to have the opportunities that men have for a college education and college athletics. The product of the law is female athletes defying odds and inspiring fans while converting skeptic on-lookers waiting for them to make mistakes, all while getting a college education. Title IX also helped pave the way for professional women’s sports, like WNBA.
Lisa Leslie is just one of the many female athletes who have done incredible things through sports, but she couldn’t have done it without Title IX.
Without it, she might not have ever stepped on a basketball court after high school. We would not have been proud Americans when the USA’s women’s basketball team won Gold in the 2004 olympics, where the men only walked away with bronze medals. A crowd at the Staples Center, home of the LA Sparks, would never erupted with excitement over seeing the first woman ever to dunk in a WNBA game. And without Title IX, Leslie would have never gone to college and then earned a Master’s.
Now, the retired four-time Olympic Gold medalist and two-time WNBA champion, is a WNBA executive as co-owner of the LA Sparks. She is also on the advising committee for the Capital One Cup which rewards NCAA Division 1 athletics (both men’s and women’s) for their achievements on the field with scholarship money for student-athletes.
She does all this while proving commentary for LA Lkaers games, running her year-round Basketball and Leadership Academy (starting on March 31), and raising two children, but she remains as humble as ever when talking about her career highs.
Check out this Q&A with her on Wednesday, March 28.
AH: When you were little you probably had no idea what Title IX was, but as you grew older did you ever think you’d have a chance to play college basketball, or even professionally?
LL: I did not start playing until I was 12. I became aware of Title IX in high school, and it was at that time that I decided I wanted to win an Olympic gold medal.
AH: How big of an impact did Title IX have on you? Does it go beyond the sport?
LL: It definitely goes beyond the sport because we have to fight to have the legislature passed, which is unfair. It is not our fault that we were born girls; we just want to play too.
AH: What are some of the most important things you can take from being a professional athlete into your role as co-owner of the LA Sparks?
LL: Teamwork, leadership, and work ethic. All of those things apply in both sports and business.
AH: Basketball has come a long way for women. What are the main differences you see in the game today?
LL: Players are running faster, jumping higher, and they are much more creative than technical and skilled, which can be good and bad.
AH: Any guesses as to who will take the NCAA Women’s Basketball national championship this year?
LL: Baylor, but I would not be upset if Stanford won. Baylor has been outstanding all year.
AH: Being it that it’s an Olympic year; can you talk about what it is like representing your country? And what does it mean to you to achieve winning Gold for the USA?
LL: It is awesome. It is one thing to represent your state, but it is another honor to represent your country. It was amazing hearing the national anthem playing as we had gold medals placed around our necks.
AH: When people refer to you as one the greatest, if not the greatest, female basketball players ever, what goes through your mind?
LL: I am glad you think so. Thank you and I appreciate it.
AH: What is one of the most important lessons you take from your professional basketball career?
LL: That you cannot teach heart and effort.