After three Olympic gold medals and a world championship, the WNBA’s Lisa Leslie always delivers. Last month, the Los Angeles Sparks’ center made the biggest delivery of her life when she gave birth to a baby girl, Lauren Jolie Lockwood. ESSENCE.com spoke to the six-foot-five baller about sleepless nights, her daughter reaching new heights and exuding femininity on and off the court.
ESSENCE.com: So you're an all-star mom now. How does changing diapers compare to holding court?
Lisa Leslie: It’s really great. She’s just a pleasure to look at every day. Of course, the hardest part is getting up in the middle of the night, at three in the morning. Every four days, I’m suffering from sleep deprivation.
ESSENCE.com: Did you allow yourself to be a little spoiled while pregnant?
L.L: Usually, I’m not the one who sits around asking for help. Once, I got to the point where I couldn’t tie my shoe anymore, my husband Michael was really helpful. He was always stopping and tying my shoe for me and helping me put my undergarments on and things like that. In fact, when we were at the Super Bowl and he stopped to tie my shoe, all the guys were like, ‘Aw man, you’re making it hard for us! Don’t be doing all that!” He’s a wonderful man, so I’m thankful to have that support. A lot of women who are pregnant don’t have their man around to support them. Pregnancy is much easier to go through when you have a partner.
ESSENCE.com: What mother-daughter scenario are you least looking forward to?
L.L: Honestly, I don’t look forward to people making comments about how tall my baby is. You know she’s going to be a five-footer by the time she’s seven years old (laughs). I went through that and it was difficult, but my mom’s influence gave me confidence about being tall. I do look forward to sharing that information with her, but hearing the comments from people about how big her feet are? I see that coming in the near future.
ESSENCE.com: You’ve already accomplished so much in sports. Are you ready to hang up your jersey and focus on becoming an fulltime mom?
L.L: I see two or three years max before I retire. I definitely want to play in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing—that’s probably my number one goal. I would really like to win a fourth gold medal, and from there we’ll just play it by ear.
ESSENCE.com: Do you think it’s harder for female athletes to get respect?
L.L.: As far as media goes, yes, it’s difficult to have our place and be consistent in our country as far as the media goes. When you turn on ESPN, you don’t see WNBA highlights everyday like you do with other sports. We can see horses run, little kids play baseball, and it’s unfortunate that it takes so much for us to find our place. But it’s a fight that we’re used to.
ESSENCE.com: Many people characterize female athletes as masculine. Does this bother you?
L.L.: It bothers me when female athletes misrepresent themselves. You look at the women and they are part of that problem. You know, you should go out on the court with your hair combed. That’s important. Your shorts don’t need to hang off your butt or down past your knees. I do think we are partially responsible for those stereotypes in our appearance. My motto is: You don’t have to look like the boys to play with the boys or play a ‘boy sport.’ I really embrace the fact that I’m feminine, that I am a woman, and I love that. But I also love the fact that I can go out there and beat a guy, and play hard and gain respect based on my physical ability.
ESSENCE.com: Are people surprised when they see you off the court?
L.L: I think the comment I get most is that I look prettier in person than I do on TV. I’m always like, “Oh, okay, thanks.” But, you know, it’s hard to be pretty and play sports. I try to start off the game with my hair nice and neat and my ribbons in and my lipstick on. But I can’t tell you what I’m going to look like once I start sweating. (Laughs)
ESSENCE.com: The average man in the NBA makes more than an entire WNBA team of 13 women.
L.L: (Laughs) That is so wrong.
ESSENCE.com: Don’t you find that crazy?
L.L: That’s sad, but as a player the only thing I can do is continue to improve and do my best. Hopefully we’ll see one day, whether I’m 50 or whatever age, that there is at least a female player that makes six figures in the USA.
ESSENCE.com: Did you ever think 11 years into the WNBA, the highest salary would be only $93,000?
L.L: No. I’m glad that it’s continuing to grow. We can’t even fuss about getting paid close to $100,000, as far as the highest-paid player, because for people anywhere that’s a great income for two people in a household. Its all relative in what you complain about. Obviously, we’d love to make millions of dollars, but I think we’d probably have to play like 85 games, and it’s also based on our fan support.
ESSENCE.com: Will Lauren be shooting basketball commercials when she turns one?
L.L: Oh, I hope so, and tennis. We are really going to focus on sports with her, but she might be President in the future too. We are about academics and having well-rounded kids. In fact, my husband just finished a book called "Women Have All the Power: Too Bad they Don’t Know It", and it’s dedicated to our daughter. The book is about relationships and having high self-esteem. If nothing else my daughter will have words of wisdom from her father as she grows.
ESSENCE.com: So are you and Michael discussing how many more children you’d like to have?
L.L: No. It’s a difficult subject once you’ve just delivered one. Ask me next year.