Catching Up with Lisa Leslie

Later this month, WNBA icon and Hall of Famer  Lisa Leslie takes her place among some pretty sharp company with her role as Betty Lou in the movie Uncle Drew. Appearing alongside NBA luminaries Kyrie Irving, Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Miller and Chris Webber (who plays Preacher, Betty Lou’s husband), Leslie portrays an older, but still ferocious lady. The movie surrounds Irving’s character visiting old friends in the hope of getting them to return to the court one more time. Leslie won’t say whether she hoops it up, but she did take time to talk about her busy life as a wife, mother, broadcaster and real estate agent in Florida.

What brings you to New York?

I’m here to promote the movie Uncle Drew, which is in theaters on June 29. I’m really excited, not just because we’re in a movie, but it’s a really good movie that feels good. It’s good for a family. It has a great message and it is laugh out loud funny.

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

Please tell me about your role in Uncle Drew? Who is Betty Lou?

She is the first lady of the church. She’s married to the preacher, who’s played by Chris Webber. She’s quite feisty and it’s all about supporting her husband.

Do you get on the court?

You have to wait and see. Betty Lou is pretty tough.

The film’s star Tiffany Haddish is so hot right now. Did you get to work with her?

I did. I watched her get her lines and know her lines within probably two minutes and then ad lib her lines into something else that was amazing. It was great having the chance to work with her. I hope I get a chance to work with her more in the future.

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate
L-R: Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving), Lights (Reggie Miller), Boots (Nate Robinson), Big Fella (Shaquille O’Neal), Dax (Lil Rel Howery), Preacher (Chris Webber), Maya (Erica Ash), and Betty Lou (Lisa Leslie)

What was it like to work with the NBA guys?

It was great to be with so many Hall of Famers. The guys were so respectful of me and my game and what I bring to the game. It was so much fun. I think the highlight for me was being on the court with Kyrie Irving. To see him play on television is one thing, but to see him in person and his ability to dribble the ball, it’s just unfortunate he wasn’t able to play in these playoffs because it’s possible it would be a different team in the championship.

The film involves a Rucker Classic Street Ball Tournament in Harlem. Have you ever played at the actual Rucker Park?

[No, but] I played in the [West 4th St.] cages here in New York. We actually shot a commercial, “We Got Next,” one of the first WNBA commercials, directed by Spike Lee. We played all day in those cages against men—four-on-four, three-on-three. As the commercial said: “At the end of the day, basketball is basketball.”

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

It is now nine years since your last WNBA season. Do you miss playing?

I never miss playing, but I do miss my teammates. I miss the camaraderie. I miss the bus rides and laughter. I’m still in shape. I play tennis probably three days a week. I do CrossFit. I can still play basketball. I chose not to play anymore because I have kids and I really enjoy the time that I spend with them. I don’t miss being out there competitively. The game is constantly changing. It’s moving really fast.

How are your kids? Daughter Lauren is about to turn 11 and son Michael is eight.

We’re going to be going to a Sparks game soon (Leslie’s former team). We live in Boca Raton, Florida. I’m a real estate agent for luxury realty with Keller Williams.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

How do you continue to bring that team mentality into your daily life?

I’m Lisa Leslie Lockwood (working together with husband Michael Lockwood) as a realtor. I get to help people find their beautiful homes and condos. I’m also working with athletes and entertainers. Florida is the place to be. I get a chance to be a role model to other people who may not know what they want to do after they retire.

The other thing is being a broadcaster. I just signed a deal with FOX, so I’ll be covering the Orlando Magic this coming season for around 30 to 40 games. I do public speaking. I love all these opportunities that I get.

Acting really lights a fire. Acting is the closest thing I’ve come to the feeling of actually being on the court. I love acting. I have a little spot in What Men Want (coming in 2019) starring Taraji P. Henson. Hopefully, I’ll get more opportunities.

How much WNBA action do you get to see?

I have the app on my phone. I check all the scores. On my talk show, We Need to Talk (CBS’s first all-female sports talk show), we cover all sports. I watch the WBNA. I’m so happy to see Chiney Ogwumike back on the court. Diana Taurasi has always been one of my favorite players in the group that came after our group. It’s been to amazing to see that she’s taken the number one spot in scoring. I’m proud of her.

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
Leslie joined Shaquille O’Neal, Derek Fisher and Brent Barry during a Players Only broadcast on NBA TV this season.

How would you play some of today’s post players, like Brittney Griner and A’ja Wilson?

Each person is different. I’ve always been a person who’d read the defense and I would attack their weaknesses. I know A’ja likes to go left, so I would definitely force her to go right. She likes to shoot with her left hand. By forcing her to go right…I’m a good right-hand blocker. I’m sure I’d be able to block her shot.

As far as Brittney Griner, Brittney’s a little bit tough. I would think more about how she would have to guard me. I would pull Brittney out and go around her. Do a lot of reverse lay-ups that get her in foul trouble. As far as guarding her, she’s tough. I’d have to keep her off the block. She doesn’t fight a lot for the position she wants; she takes the position that you give her. By having a low base and keeping her out further from the basket would be probably how I’d do it.

What impresses you most about the WNBA, which is now in its 22nd season?

I’m most impressed by the talent level. It keeps growing. Back when the WNBA began, we had a lot of specialists on the bench. We had players that could only shoot three-pointers. We had players that were only lock-up defensive players. Now, these players are multi-faceted and I love that they can play both ends of the floor or their strength is both shooting threes and maybe they score inside making layups. So, I really believe player-for-player the WNBA is stronger now. I think we played a much more physical game. Just like the NBA now vs back in the day. It’s just a much more finesse game.

What do you think the WNBA still needs to work on?

The WNBA is really in good hands. I like Lisa Borders as a president. She’s really pushed the envelope on our women and getting us out there. Just continue to realize that they are a thread and part of the society in bringing awareness that women deserve an opportunity to play. I’m excited and I’m a fan.