MODEL ATHLETE LISA LESLIE, the starting center for the defending world champion Los Angeles Sparks, sashays into the Compaq Center on May 27 to play in the Houston Comets’ season opener.

First of all, let me congratulate you on winning the WNBA title.
Thanks. It’s a pretty great feeling. Our team had a really wonderful year, and we look forward to doing it again.

Did it make your off-season more enjoyable?
I had a lot of fun this off-season. I did what I normally do, though, which includes a little acting and a little modeling.

When did you first get into that?
I started modeling when I was twelve years old. I did a few fashion shows, but it was only local, in L.A. I didn’t start modeling professionally until 1995, when I signed a contract with Wilhelmina Models in New York. I’ve done runway shows, and I’ve modeled for Tommy Hilfiger and Anne Klein. I’ve also done some really great fashion shoots with Herb Ritts and Annie Leibovitz.

What’s easier? Hitting a jump shot or walking down the runway?
Modeling definitely comes a lot easier than basketball, and I enjoy it for that reason. There’s not as much pressure. It’s time-consuming, but it’s a lot of fun.

When you played in high school, you once scored 101 points against a team in the first half. Can you explain that?
At our school the senior captain would go for as many points as possible. The underclassmen would get the rebounds and then pass it to the senior. We were number two in the nation at that time, and we did a good job of pressing, and my teammates got me the ball. I was the senior captain—and I’m thinking, “Oh, God, I could go out there and stink it up,” because you just don’t know if you’re going to shoot well or not—and I just got hot. I may not be a shooter, but I’m a pretty good scorer.

The Sparks and the Comets are the only teams in the WNBA to have won a championship. Does that make you prepare a little harder for them?
Houston and L.A. have built a pretty good rivalry because every year the Comets won their title, they had to go through L.A. We’re two of the top teams in the league, and when we meet, it’s going to be a battle. Playing at the Compaq Center is always interesting—maybe more for me because the fans really hate me. Houston and Phoenix seem to be the only two places where the fans don’t care to boo the team; they just want to boo me. It’s not a bad thing. That’s how they choose to react. I look at it like, “I’m the player you love to hate because I can give you problems.” I take all the boos as total compliments.

(See Houston: Sports)