WNBA legend Lisa Leslie discusses life as a Black woman: 'I try to be led by the Spirit'

As most women’s college basketball conferences wrapped up regular-season play this weekend, the season now turns to conference tournaments and then the biggest of them all, the NCAA Tournament. The final month of the season will also honor this year’s top college basketball players in the country, such as the Naismith Starting 5.

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Each year, the Basketball Hall of Fame recognizes the best men’s and women’s players by position, and each award is named after a legend who played that position. This year’s winners will be announced live on ESPN on a date yet to be determined.

The namesake of the award given annually to the best women’s Division-I center in the country is Lisa Leslie — a three-time WNBA MVP, two-time champion, four-time Olympic gold medalist and one of the greatest women’s basketball players in the history of the sport. The list of possible award recipients has recently been narrowed to 10, and includes South Carolina center and two-time Lisa Leslie Award-winner Aliyah Boston.

Leslie recently joined South Carolina women’s head coach Dawn Staley, leader of the No. 1 team in the country and a former teammate of Leslie’s, on Staley’s new podcast, NETLIFE. Leslie was the first of her weekly podcast guests, and the episode aired last month.

On the podcast, Staley and Leslie reflected on their days of dominance with Team USA as well as the importance of the WNBA for women and girls across the country and around the world.

The conversation turned to faith when Staley (who is a believer herself) asked Leslie about how she navigates life as a Black woman in a society where most people are White.

“To be really honest with you, I pray about it,” Leslie said. “I try to be led by the Spirit and I try to use my spiritual gift. … My spiritual gift is my ability to speak, and when God tells me to move, I try to move. When I’m in those spaces that make people uncomfortable, I have to realize that I’m here for a reason.”


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After all that Leslie has accomplished as a basketball player and all she’s done to advance the sport for Black women in America, she believes God has placed her in a unique position to deliver a message of equality and justice that others will listen to.

“If I come in contact with resistance, I try to think that we’re all God’s children, and every knee shall bow and it doesn’t matter what our colors are,” Leslie said. “And we can’t in one way be Christian over here and in the other way we’re like, ‘Oh, but I hate so and so.'”

She continued later: “God can change anybody’s heart. He can change a person’s heart. He can change their mind. … I just believe my divine space and my intervention of where I am and where God puts me is exactly where I’m supposed to be. It’s the message I’m supposed to be delivering.”

Staley’s full interview with Leslie is available to watch on YouTube.

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