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40 greatest female athletes: Lisa Leslie

6/18/2012
"I always felt like the biggest honor was to represent our country," Lisa Leslie says. "The desire to not lose was so strong, almost stronger than the desire to win, if that makes sense." Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.

As a senior at Morningside (Inglewood, Calif.), Lisa Leslie once scored 101 points. In the first half. The other team never even bothered to come out for the second half.

After high school, the No. 5 woman in ESPN's countdown became a three-time All-American at USC, a four-time Olympic gold medalist and a three-time WNBA MVP.

"Once I realized you get a trophy if you win, I thought, this is awesome! I got so many, I could fill my house with them," she says. "But the rewards are having the opportunity to be a role model, to travel the world. It was an honor to play this sport."

Read the full story from espnW here.

Earlier in this series:

No. 40: Diver Fu Mingxia

No. 39: Jockey Julie Krone

No. 38: Gymnast Mary Lou Retton

No. 37: Hockey player Cammi Granato

No. 36: Soccer player Kristine Lilly

No. 35: Basketball player Diana Taurasi

No 34: Volleyball player Flo Hyman

No. 33: Soccer player Abby Wambach

No. 32: Swimmer Mary T. Meagher

No. 31: Marathoner Joan Benoit

No. 30: Sprinter Gail Devers

No. 29: Basketball player Nancy Lieberman

No. 28: Marathoner Grete Waitz

No. 27: Soccer player Michelle Akers

No. 26: Basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw

No. 25: Swimmer Dara Torres

No. 24: Golfer Nancy Lopez

No. 23: Swimmer Tracy Caulkins

No. 22: Soccer player Marta Vieira da Silva

No. 21: Tennis player Venus Williams

No. 20: Figure skater Michelle Kwan

No. 19: Skier Lindsey Vonn

No. 18: Softball player Lisa Fernandez

No. 17: Basketball player Ann Meyers Drysdale

No. 16: Basketball player Sheryl Swoopes

No. 15: Swimmer Janet Evans

No. 14: Figure skater Katarina Witt

No. 13: Basketball player Cheryl Miller

No. 12: Sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner

No. 11: Tennis player Billie Jean King

No. 10: Tennis player Serena Williams

No. 9: Tennis player Steffi Graf

No. 8: Gymnast Nadia Comaneci

No. 7: Tennis player Chris Evert

No. 6: Speedskater Bonnie Blair