Leslie is up to old MVP tricks

Veteran outshines kids, but gets only boos like fellow L.A. MVP Bryant

July 16, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- After she had scored 18 points and pulled down 14 rebounds last night at the MCI Center, Lisa Leslie heard and she remembered.

That cascade of boos accompanying the award she would get for helping the West team to an 81-76 win in the WNBA All-Star Game sounded awfully familiar.

"Now I know how Kobe Bryant felt," Leslie, the Los Angeles Sparks center, said after picking up her third All-Star Most Valuable Player award, setting a game record for rebounds.

Like Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers star booed in Philadelphia after earning top honors at the NBA's All-Star Game in February, Leslie once again proved that it would be tough for the Angelenos to get any love on the East Coast.

Unlike her Lakers' counterpart, she didn't believe that the D.C. crowd had a personal bone to pick with her. "I think they were just upset about the East not winning," she said.

Leslie thwarted not only one revolution -- with the East looking to prevail at the midseason event for the first time in four attempts -- but another with the older and founding members of the league taking center stage.

Much of the excitement heading into last night's game surrounded the newer players in the league, personalities like Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson of the Seattle Storm, Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever and Stacey Dales-Schuman of the Washington Mystics.

Yet, key action went through players such as Leslie, along with fellow veterans Tina Thompson and Sheryl Swoopes as the game entered its most crucial phases.

Players like Utah's Natalie Williams and Sacramento's Yolanda Griffiths, older players who had been staples of past All-Star games, did not participate this season, creating the old guard vs. new school issue.

"It's so funny that everyone is calling us old school," said Leslie, in her sixth WNBA season.

Thompson finished with 20 points and seven rebounds while Swoopes had 11 points. "Just because a new class comes in, we're old. By no means are any of us done. C'mon, we're just getting started," Leslie said.

Williams and Yolanda Griffiths, front-court mainstays on previous All-Star teams, did not make it this season. With only three big players on the team -- Jackson and Thompson were the others -- it fell to Leslie to effect a greater presence on the inside than in past All-Star games.

She had eight rebounds in the first half, though some of the flashier stuff she'd done was over once the second half began with her team tied at 40. "I had to stay inside," she said, "no more outside shots unless it really presented itself. We were getting beat on the boards, and I'm not used to that."

Leslie established herself in the opening minutes of the second half with two baskets in the first 90 seconds, had another two-minute burst midway through the half and kept the East team off the boards.

Handling the glass sphere (for the MVP award), she could have sounded conceited, contemplating the need to "put numbers" on her awards.

Then again, if last night was any indication, she may indeed have to.

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