words // Nick Engvall

As the WNBA moves into its final weeks of the 2011 season, it seems as if Maya Moore and the Minnesota Lynx have this year’s best record on lock, slightly ahead of the Indiana Fever. Moore’s rookie season will undoubtedly land her this year’s WNBA Rookie of the Year Award, and if all goes well in the playoffs, her first WNBA Championship.

Back in the late ’90s and early 2000s, there were many players in the WNBA that helped pave the way for current WNBA stars like Maya Moore and Candace Parker, and in 1998 two of the pioneers in the league were featured in the Eastbay catalog: Lisa Leslie, who was one of the original players that helped make the announcement of the WNBA’s formation in 1996, and Cynthia Cooper, one of the most popular players in the history of the league.

Leslie, playing for the Los Angeles Sparks, and Cooper, playing for the Houston Comets, racked up a total of five WNBA MVP Awards between the two of them (three for Leslie, two for Cooper). Leslie led the Sparks to two WNBA titles, while Cooper led the Comets to three, alongside Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson. Leslie and Cooper not only helped launch the WNBA, but also laid the foundation for women’s basketball shoes from Nike Basketball, wearing silhouettes like the Air Run ’em Up and the Total Air 9.

Eastbay Memory Lane: WNBA Greats, Lisa Leslie and Cynthia Cooper