Charles Barkley, Lisa Leslie to be Immortalized with Statues
Two more Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers will soon live on as bronze sculptures in the cities where they began their respective professional careers. The Philadelphia 76ers will unveil a statue of Charles Barkley on September 13, while the Los Angeles Sparks are slated to make Lisa Leslie the first female athlete celebrated in Star Plaza outside of Staples Center, and the first WNBA player to be so commemorated outside of the home arena of a WNBA team.
For Charles, this honor comes 18 years after the Sixers retired his No. 34 jersey. The Alabama native and longtime TNT broadcasting fixture spent the first eight seasons of his NBA career in Philly. Chuck earned six of his 11 All-Star appearances and seven of his 10 All-NBA selections as a member of the Sixers.
His sculpture will be featured alongside those of Julius Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, Billy Cunningham, Maurice Cheeks, Hal Greer and soon-to-be Hall-of-Fame inductee Bobby Jones on the 76ers' Legends Walk at the Philadelphia 76ers Training Complex in Camden, New Jersey.
Lisa, meanwhile, will be immortalized as an all-around legend of LA basketball. The Gardena native first made a name for herself as a star at Morningside High School in Inglewood, where she once scored 101 points during a single half of one game. She matriculated to USC, where she became the first person to be named first-team All-Pac-10 (now Pac-12) for all four years in the conference’s history.
In 1997—three years after she was named the women’s National Player of the Year and graduated from school as the conference’s all-time leader in points, rebounds and blocks—Lisa was allocated to the Sparks during the inaugural WNBA draft. She spent her entire 12-year playing career in LA, where she became an eight-time All-Star, three-time All-Star MVP, 12-time All-WNBA selection, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, three-time MVP, two-time Finals MVP and two-time champion. And she had her number raised to the rafters by the Sparks in 2010.
The 47-year-old also won four Olympic gold medals and two FIBA World Championships with USA Basketball, and most recently led the Triplets to the third annual BIG3 championship as the league’s Coach of the Year.
Discussions about Lisa’s statue are currently in the early stages, so there are no concrete details about how and when her addition to Star Plaza will be revealed. All that’s certain is that she will be the 11th person so honored in front of Staples Center, joining Los Angeles Lakers players Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor; longtime former announcer Chick Hearn; Los Angeles Kings players Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille, and team announcer Bob Miller; and boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya.
Josh Martin is the Editorial Director of CloseUp360. He previously covered the NBA for Bleacher Report and USA Today Sports Media Group, and has written for Yahoo! Sports and Complex. He is also the co-host of the Hollywood Hoops podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.