Broadcaster Lisa Leslie remembers Prince, loves Nilla wafers — and ‘Gidget’
‘Me and Jesus go way back,’ says the WNBA Hall of Famer, ‘so I’d like to have a few words’
Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie is proof that life doesn’t end after retirement from professional basketball. The former Los Angeles Sparks center, who put in 12 seasons before hanging up her sneakers in 2009, may be busier now than she was during her time on the court, when she was a member of four gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic teams, led a team to the WNBA championship in 2001 and received three MVP awards. Shortly after retiring, Leslie became an in-studio sports analyst for ABC, Turner Sports and CBS Sports Network. And the grind hasn’t stopped for the 44-year-old wife and mom of two. These days, Leslie co-hosts the all-woman CBS Sports Network talk show We Need To Talk, is an ambassador for The Players’ Tribune and most recently co-authored the self-help book From the Court to the Boardroom with business partner Bridgette Chambers. “Eventually, anyone can have these certain levels of success,” Leslie said. “It’s not based on luck. It’s strategy.” When she manages some downtime, you can find Leslie listening to her favorite Les Miserables songs, binge-watching Netflix series and kicking butt while playing board games with her family.
What’s one thing you did in the past year that you never thought you’d do?
Move across the country [to Florida]. I never thought I’d leave Los Angeles.
Which pro athlete would you never want to trade places with?
Any of those boxers, probably. Or MMA fighters. Ronda Rousey. I’d never want to be in the ring, because they take some serious beatings. I’ll pass on that sport.
What are you looking forward to achieving this year?
I’m actually about to go back to school to get my real estate license for the state of Florida. I’ll have to go to class for a month. My husband and I have had properties in California. … I like the whole idea of investing … flipping properties. That’s probably my biggest focus this year. Trying to get people to move to Florida.
Are there any habits you developed in the WNBA that you still find yourself doing now?
Yes. I tie my shoes too tight. Because when I would play, I had to tie my shoes and retie them three times before jump ball. I [was] just so neurotic about my shoes being tied tight before I played, that now sometimes I catch myself and my shoes will be too tight and I’m like, ‘What is wrong? I’m in pain.’ I have no game to play.
Which current WNBA athletes remind you most of yourself?
[Los Angeles Sparks forward] Nneka Ogwumike reminds me of myself. She’s tenacious and plays both ends of the floor, and she just has heart and a will that she doesn’t give up. She’s a hard worker. I was a hard worker, and I like that.
If you could go to dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
Jesus. Me and Jesus go way back, so I would just like to have a few words. Face to face would be great. Get a few answers.
Have you ever been starstruck?
Yes. I met the late Michael Jackson, and I met Janet Jackson. I met a lot of the Jacksons, but Michael was so cool. Michael wanted some Kentucky Fried Chicken, I remember that. He liked chicken, and he had really big hands. I also met the late Prince, who was supercool. Prince was the symbol at the time, but he was very militant and very beautiful. He was really the most beautiful person I ever met … his face was gorgeous. It was ridiculous. He looked like a porcelain doll, and I don’t think he ever had any work done. I’m looking at him, and of course he’s like 4-11 and I’m 6-5. We’re both leaning against this wall, and we were chatting it up. He was really nice and super down to earth.
Who would you want to play you in your biopic?
That’s so funny because I don’t know if anyone’s actually tall enough. But Gabrielle Union is the only celebrity I know who actually has some game, and can shoot and play. She’s a little short for me, but everything else is there. She has the right color, she’s got swag. She can do it.
What’s the worst purchase you’ve ever made?
You don’t want to know. And this was a true accident. In the Tiffany’s store, I accidentally bought some diamond earrings that were like $32,000 and I thought the lady was saying that they were $3,200. I was trying to buy my mom some real diamond earrings. The lady was like, ‘These are 2, these are 3, and these are 4.’ How was I supposed to know the 2, the 3, and the 4 were $20,000, $30,000 and $40,000? That lady took my American Express and put $30,000 and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. I’m walking out of here today, but we’re bringing these back.’ That may be my most embarrassing moment too. I know there’s people that do that, but I’m not them; $30,000 was a big stretch.
What is the most embarrassing music you admit to listening to?
It’s not embarrassing to me, but my family, kids and all, they hate when I put on Les Miserables. I listen to ‘Bring Him Home’ and they hate it. My kids are like, ‘Mom. No.’ I think it’s so beautiful. It’s such a spiritual song, and I’m a spiritual person. Nobody wants to hear Les Mis in the house, though.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Things I don’t ever get to have. Hostess powdered doughnuts, when they’re fresh. A box of Nilla wafers, when they’re fresh. Come on. That’s old school. Red Vines, not Twizzlers.
What will you always be the champ of?
Clue. In my family, nobody will play me because I beat everyone. I get the answers right every time, and they get so mad at me. We play a lot of board games: Life, Monopoly, Taboo. We play a homemade game called Fishbowl, which is a mixture of Taboo and charades. We’re competitive. The problem is, everyone thinks I cheat in Clue. Even if I leave the room and let them shuffle and put it all together, I figure it out. I’m brilliant.
The last show you binge-watched?
I was watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, and I’m also watching This Is Us. And then, I didn’t finish binge-watching Narcos. I’m on season two. I completed Power and now I’m like, damn, I can’t do without Power. My No. 1 show is Game of Thrones. I also finished Insecure, which is excellent.
What’s your favorite throwback TV show?
Probably be an episode of Martin because my husband loves it. Now something I’d seek out — I’m so corny — but mine would be I Love Lucy. And if I really throw it back, I would probably sit and watch an episode of Gidget. No one would know that.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Keep God first.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.