After presenting the high school basketball star Chiney Ogwumike with the Gatorade Athlete of the Year award, WNBA legend Lisa Leslie was able to sit down with me for a short chat. Thank goodness we were sitting, since the four-time gold medal Olympian is a whole foot taller than I am. Standing at 6' 4", the word statuesque seems apt to describe Leslie, but this belies her femininity and beauty. Since her husband is 6' 7", the first woman to dunk in the WNBA loves to wear heels.
Here's what the elegant mother of two had to say about life after retiring from professional hoops.
FitSugar: Something that I think is just striking is that you had a baby three months ago and nobody would ever be able to tell. How is that going?
Lisa Leslie: It’s getting better and better. Every day is a wonderful challenge. Having a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old . . . actually, the 3-month-old is a little bit easier because I know where he is. And my 3-year-old . . . thank goodness we don’t give her sugar! I can only imagine what would happen if she had a sip of Coke or something.
FS: Which brings me to my first question: How do you feel life on the court taught you lessons for parenting?
LL: I think the one thing is that you learn more about people during tough times. In basketball we say that, and in life. Doing one month of waking up at 3 a.m. and at 6 a.m., it’s tough but I know that I can push through it. It doesn’t last forever. So, you know, I have to tell myself those things. And then, I’m not the first woman to do this. Other women have done this. Some people have seven, five, 12, 20 kids, so I have no reason to complain and I think that in basketball it’s pretty much the same way. I have a great career. I work hard and I put the effort in and when I lose games, it’s not the end of the world. I’m going to eventually get to where I want to be. So I just often times use a lot of my experience with playing with my life now.
Learn why Leslie loves tennis and her fave P90X workout when you
FS: When you’re up at three in the morning do you see yourself in the mirror and say: "I can dunk"?
LL: No, I don’t do that but I’m like, "If I put a little makeup on, no one will know that I haven’t been asleep yet." You know, it’s free. I really love being a woman. I love the opportunity to raise my children and be a mom. I mean, it’s a life-changing experience and of course the wife’s life changes like 95 percent and the man’s life makes about a five percent adjustment, which is fine. I mean, I knew that coming in. I think that a lot of women don’t, especially young women because it’s all on you. Those children are looking to you pretty much every single day to provide and to be consistent or them. I love that.
FS: Have you figured out what’s next in your career?
LL: Yes, broadcasting. My whole goal in broadcasting is to be on TNT with Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith and talk basketball. Oh, nothing would be better. They need a woman’s perspective on there, don’t you think? I think you should write that on your blog and get people really behind that and push.
FS: Are you doing anything specific to get back in shape?
LL: PX90. I do the plyometrics one where you jump in the living room. When the baby's napping, I turn on that P90X because I had to have a cesarean so it takes longer to be able to go work out. And then, I play tennis now, that’s my new sport. Until I’m 95 I will be playing tennis because you can play doubles forever.
FS: Do you play with your husband?
LL: Yes. So I’m loving tennis right now. We’re actually going to the US Open for the first time. This is my first Summer available since I was 12. So now I get to do fun stuff that regular people do.
FS: If you could be an elite athlete in any other sport, would it be tennis?
LL: Oh, absolutely. If I could just go back and turn back the hand of time, I would choose tennis. I was 6' in sixth grade. I would've beat every 12-year-old. Playing the net, I would’ve been the best in the world like at 14. I would've been amazing.
FS: Do you do any running or anything like that as well?
LL: I do. I hate it but I do.
FS: So how do you motivate for that?
LL: Oh, you have to do what you don’t want to do in order to do what you want to do. See, I want to be able to fit into certain clothes, and I want to be able to eat certain things, so I have to do what I don’t want to do and that’s run.
FS: What are the things that you like to eat that make you need to run?
LL: Anything with whipped cream and strawberries.
FS: So, you had an incredibly long career and did so many amazing things. What would you say the secret to your longevity on the court was?
LL: Oh my gosh, prayer, number one. Ice, number two. Lifting weights and strength training. It’s essential, seriously. Weights, I mean, I trained my body to train, you know, you have to take care of your body. But the ice is amazing. Like, I ice my knees. I take ice baths soaked to my waist for 10 minutes. It’s so awesome when you get out, you feel so much better.