USC Women’s Basketball: Trojans Great Hailed As Best Team USA Olympic Hooper Ever

Yes, of any gender.
Aug 23, 2008; Beijing, CHINA; USA players Candace Parker (left) and Lisa Leslie (9).
Aug 23, 2008; Beijing, CHINA; USA players Candace Parker (left) and Lisa Leslie (9). / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Former USC Trojans-turned-Los Angeles Sparks star center Lisa Leslie has been singled out as the best Team USA basketball player in history by The Athletic's Joe Vardon in an exhaustive list, detailing both men's and women's star players. Leslie submitted stellar performances in the Olympics (she won four gold medals in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008, while leading those teams in scoring from 1996-2004) and the FIBA World Champsionships (she won gold medals in 1998 and 2002, plus a bronze in 1994).

Among Trojans contenders, Cheryl Miller also made Vardon's top 25 (she's No. 24). Vardon explained his thinking behind Leslie's top ranking.

"Not MJ, LeBron, nor Kobe. Not Taurasi, Swoopes, nor Miller," Vardon wrote. "No one in the 50 years of USA Basketball was more dominant each time he or she put on that American jersey than Lisa Deshaun Leslie, which was the deciding factor in her ascension to No. 1 on our list."

"Leslie, of Compton, Calif., was born just two years before USAB was incorporated, and four years prior to the first U.S. women’s team to compete in an Olympics," Vardon continued. "By the time she played her last Olympic game, on Aug. 17, 2008 in Beijing, she had scored more points (881), grabbed more rebounds (431), or blocked more shots (54) in Olympic and FIBA competition than any man or woman to suit up for the Red, White and Blue. Those records, and two dozen others, still stand."

"Pouring in points at close range, corralling others’ missed shots, and swatting away would-be attempts to that degree is the epitome of dominance," Vardon elaborated. "No one did it quite like Leslie. Her 35 points in an Olympic game are the most in U.S. women’s history, just two short of Carmelo Anthony’s record on the men’s side, and the 156 points she scored at the ’96 Games in Atlanta were equaled only by Kevin Durant at the 2012 Games in London."

The 6'5" big played for the Trojans from 1990-94, and eventually joined the Sparks in 1997 when the WNBA first began. She won two back-to-back championships with LA in 2001 and '02, being named Finals MVP in both appearances, and was named a three-time league MVP and an eight-time All-Star. She also made 12 WNBA teams (eight First Teams) and was named the WNBA's Defensive Player of the Year twice. So, yeah, she was pretty good.

Leslie herself reacted positively to Vardon's ranking on her official Instagram account.

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Alex Kirschenbaum


Tell Alex, were you in the joint the night Wilt scored 100 points? Or when the Celtics won titles back-to-back and didn't give nobody no kind of slack?