Los Angeles Sparks

Los Angeles Sparks

Los Angeles Sparks
Los Angeles Sparks logo
Conference Western
Founded 1997
History Los Angeles Sparks
Arena Staples Center
City Los Angeles, California
Sponsor EquiTrust Life Insurance
Team colors Teal, Purple, Gold
Owner(s) Guggenheim
Magic Johnson
General manager Penny Toler
Head coach Brian Agler
Assistant coaches Curt Miller
Amber Stocks
Championships 2 (2001, 2002)
Conference titles 3 (2001, 2002, 2003)
Official website

The Los Angeles Sparks are a professional basketball team based in Los Angeles, California, playing in the Western Conference in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). The team was founded before the league's inaugural 1997 season began. Like some other WNBA teams, the Sparks have the distinction of not being affiliated with an NBA counterpart, even though the market is shared with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers. As of 2015, the Sparks are the last franchise to win back to back titles.

The Sparks have qualified for the WNBA Playoffs in fifteen of their nineteen years in Los Angeles. The franchise has been home to many high-quality players such as 6 foot 5 inch center Tennessee standout Candace Parker, flashy point guard Nikki Teasley and nearby USC product Tina Thompson. In 2001, 2002 and 2003, the Sparks went to the WNBA Finals. They won the title in 2001 and 2002, beating Charlotte and New York, respectively, but fell short to Detroit in 2003.

Being in a major national market, the Sparks have always been a focal point of the league; they faced New York in the league's inaugural game on June 21, 1997.


  • Franchise history 1
    • In the shadow of the Comets (1997–2000) 1.1
    • Sparks begin to fly (2001–2002) 1.2
    • Battle for the three-peat (2003) 1.3
    • End of the glory days (2004–2006) 1.4
    • Leslie's pregnancy (2007) 1.5
    • Candace Parker joins the WNBA (2008–present) 1.6
    • Current home 1.7
    • Uniforms 1.8
  • Season-by-season records 2
  • Players 3
    • Current roster 3.1
    • Other rights owned 3.2
    • Former players 3.3
    • Retired numbers 3.4
  • Coaches and staff 4
    • Owners 4.1
    • Head coaches 4.2
    • General Managers 4.3
    • Assistant coaches 4.4
  • Statistics 5
  • Media coverage 6
  • All-time notes 7
    • Regular season attendance 7.1
    • Draft picks 7.2
    • All-Stars 7.3
    • Olympians 7.4
    • Honors and awards 7.5
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Franchise history

In the shadow of the Comets (1997–2000)

The 1997 WNBA season, the league's first, opened with a game between the Sparks and the New York Liberty at the Sparks home (The Forum) in Inglewood. The Sparks lost the game 57-67. Sparks player Penny Toler scored the league's first two points with a lay-up 59 seconds into the game. The Sparks had what many considered to be a disappointing season in 1997, finishing with a record of 14–14. The team did compete for a playoff spot, but because of a loss to the Phoenix Mercury in the final game of the season, the Sparks missed the playoffs. In the 1998 WNBA season, the Sparks finished 12–18, missing the playoffs once more.

The 1999 season featured the development of Lisa Leslie and the Sparks' first playoff berth, as the Sparks posted a 20–12 record. The Sparks won their first playoff game and series with a win over the Sacramento Monarchs. They played a competitive Western Conference Finals but fell to the defending champion Houston Comets, 2 games to 1, in the three-game series.

Lisa Leslie

The 2000 season was a record one, as the Sparks tore up the WNBA with a 28–4 record, the best in league history, and second only to the 1998 Houston Comets for best all-time. In the playoffs, the Sparks swept the Phoenix Mercury in the first round but lost in the Western Conference Finals again, when they were swept by the Comets. Ultimately, the Sparks were playing in the shadow of the Comets, as they won the first four WNBA championships.

Sparks begin to fly (2001–2002)

The 2000-01 offseason saw a move to the Staples Center and an important coaching change, when the Sparks hired former Los Angeles Lakers player Michael Cooper as head coach. During the ensuing regular season, the Sparks again posted a 28–4 record. In the 2001 playoffs, the Sparks finally eliminated the Comets, sweeping them in the first round. The Sparks took all three games to eliminate the Monarchs to earn their first berth in the WNBA Finals, in which they swept the Charlotte Sting, 2–0, for their first league championship.

In 2002, Leslie became the first woman in the league to dunk the ball during a game, and once again the Sparks dominated the regular season, posting a 25–7 record. The Sparks then flew through the playoffs, sweeping both the Seattle Storm and the Utah Starzz. In the finals, the Sparks were matched against the Liberty, who were still looking for their first championship. A late three in game 2 by Nikki Teasley gave the Sparks their second consecutive championship.

Battle for the three-peat (2003)

In 2003, the Sparks posted a 24–10 record and went into the playoffs looking for a "three-peat." Both the first and the second rounds were forced to decided third games, as they beat the Minnesota Lynx and Sacramento Monarchs. The Sparks then faced the upstart Detroit Shock in the Finals. The Shock were on a roll after having been the worst team in the WNBA in 2002. The Finals were a battle fueled by the relationship between head coaches Michael Cooper (Sparks) and Bill Laimbeer (Shock) which stemmed back to their days in the NBA. The rough road to the finals and the tough play of the Shock wore down the Sparks, which lost the series, two games to one, and failed to three-peat.

End of the glory days (2004–2006)

During the 2003-04 off season, the Sparks signed two standout players, Tamika Whitmore and Teresa Weatherspoon, both of whom had played for the rival New York Liberty. When the season began, the Sparks got off to a great start, but coach Cooper left at midseason to seek a coaching job in the NBA. The loss of their coach was a factor in the team's so-so finish to the season, which ended with a record of 25–9. During the playoffs, the team stumbled, losing in three games to the Sacramento Monarchs.

The Sparks stumbled and never recovered through the 2005 season and finished with a 17–17 record. They barely made the playoffs; they received the number-four seed. In the first round, the Sparks were outplayed and swept by the eventual champion Sacramento Monarchs.

In 2006, the Sparks played much better, posting a 25–9 record. In the playoffs, they defeated the Seattle Storm in three games. However, in the Western Conference finals, the Sparks' season was ended by the Monarchs for the third year in a row.

Leslie's pregnancy (2007)

Staples Center

After the 2006 season ended, team owner Jerry Buss, who also owned the Lakers, announced he was selling the Sparks. On December 7, 2006, the Los Angeles Times reported the sale to an investor group led by Kathy Goodman and Carla Christofferson. Goodman is currently a high school teacher at HighTech-LA in Lake Balboa and was a former executive for Intermedia Films. Christofferson is a litigation attorney for the O’Melveny & Myers law firm and was Miss North Dakota USA in 1989. The day after the sale was announced, team star Lisa Leslie announced that she was pregnant and would not play in the WNBA in the 2007 season despite Michael Cooper's return to the team as head coach.

The loss of Leslie for the year proved devastating, as the Sparks posted a league-worst 10–24 record. The record was also the worst in Sparks history, as the Sparks missed the playoffs for the first time since 1998.

Candace Parker joins the WNBA (2008–present)

Before the start of the 2008 season, the team's prospects improved dramatically. Lisa Leslie returned to the team, and on April 9, 2008, the team used its number-one draft pick to select Candace Parker, the college player of the year, the morning after Parker had led the University of Tennessee Lady Vols to their second-straight NCAA championship.

In 2008, the Sparks posted a 20-14 record and finished third in the Western Conference. In the playoffs, the Sparks beat the Seattle Storm 2-1 to reach the Western Conference Finals and compete against the San Antonio Silver Stars. The Sparks were on track to win game 2 of the series, but Silver Star Sophia Young made a turn around bank-shot with a second left on the clock to force the series to a deciding game three. The Sparks lost game three, and the Silver Stars moved on to the WNBA Finals.

Following the 2008 season, Parker announced that she was pregnant. To compensate for Parker's absence, the Sparks signed free agent Tina Thompson who was from former rival Houston Comets. Thompson, the four-time WNBA champ and eight-time WNBA All-Star, also went to college with Leslie at USC.

The 2009 season started poorly for the Sparks. Candace Parker began the season on maternity leave, and Lisa Leslie suffered a knee injury early in the season. Both Leslie and Parker returned to the court in July, however, sparking a 10-2 run which turned an 8-14 start into an 18-16 regular season record and clinching the Sparks' tenth playoff appearance in their 13-year history. In the first round of the playoffs, the Sparks defeated the Seattle Storm for the third time in 4 years. In the Western Conference Finals, the Sparks' lost to the eventual champion Phoenix Mercury in 3 games. The end of the 2009 playoff run marked the end of Leslie's career as a player and Cooper's second tenure as Sparks' head coach. In the offseason, former Sparks player Jennifer Gillom became the team's new head coach.

The 2010 season began with high hopes for the Sparks. Led by former All-Star point guard Ticha Penicheiro, the Sparks believed they had the pieces to contend for a championship. However, superstar Candace Parker had season-ending shoulder surgery after the team started just 3-7. Without her, the Sparks struggled, finishing 13-21. Fortunately for the Sparks, this was good enough to qualify them for fourth place in the Western Conference, but they were swept by the eventual champion Seattle Storm in the first round.

The 2011 season was eerily reminiscent of the previous year for the Sparks. The team started 4-3 but again Candace Parker sustained an injury. Following three more losses, the Sparks fired head coach Jennifer Gillom, promoting previous Sparks coach Joe Bryant. With Parker out until the end of the season, the Sparks continued to struggle, heading into the All-Star break 6-8 and in fifth place. The Sparks would eventually finish the season three games out of the playoffs with a 15-19 record.

The team was owned by Williams Group Holdings (Paula Madison, majority owner) and Carla Christofferson, Nicholas J H, and Lisa Leslie (minority owners) until January 2014 when it was abruptly announced that WGH would relinquish all control. Paula Madison said that since becoming an owner in 2007, she and her family had lost 12 million dollars, including 1.4 million in 2013.[1] The team was temporarily absorbed by the league, and was then purchased by Guggenheim Partners, a group that included NBA legend Magic Johnson.[2]

Current home

The Los Angeles Sparks currently play in the


  • 2015–present: EquiTrust Life Insurance becomes New Jersey sponsor; jersey remains unchanged other than the addition of the name of the sponsor.
  • 2013–2014: Farmers Insurance naming rights expire, and the team name returns on both jerseys. In addition a modified font for the jersey numbers was introduced.
  • 2011–2012: As part of the move to Adidas's Revolution 30 technology, the Sparks unveiled new jerseys. Home uniforms remain gold, but numbers are now rounded and in white with purple trim. Away uniforms are purple with numbers in white with gold trim. The Farmers Insurance name will remain on the jerseys.
  • 2009-2010: On June 5, the Los Angeles Sparks and Farmers Insurance Group of Companies announced a multi-year marketing partnership that includes a branded jersey sponsorship. The Farmers Insurance branded jersey was worn by the players for the first time on June 6, 2009. As part of this alliance, the Farmers Insurance name and logo will appear on the front of the Sparks jerseys.[3] In the 2009 season, the Sparks yellow jersey is used regardless of home or away. In the 2010 season they introduced the purple jersey for away games.
  • 2007–2008: For home games, gold with purple lines and sparks on the side, with the name "Sparks" written across in purple. For away games, purple with golden yellow lines and sparks on the side, with the name "Los Angeles" in yellow. The uniform looks similar to the Los Angeles Lakers' uniform.
  • 1997–2006: For home games, gold with large purple stripe on the side, with the name "Sparks" written across in purple. For away games, purple with large gold stripe on the side, with the name "Los Angeles" in yellow.

Season-by-season records


Current roster

Other rights owned

Nationality American Name Jennifer Hamson Years pro R Last played 2015 Drafted 2014
Ha Eun-Joo 0 N/A N/A
Emmeline Ndongue 1 2006 N/A

Former players

Retired numbers

Coaches and staff


Head coaches

General Managers

  • Rhonda Windham (1997–1999)
  • Penny Toler (2000–present)

Assistant coaches


Media coverage

Currently, some Sparks games are broadcast on Time Warner Cable SportsNet, a local television channel in the Southern California area, after agreeing to a multi-year broadcast deal with TWC in March 2012.[6] More often than not, NBA TV will pick up the feed from the local broadcast, which is shown nationally. Broadcasters for the Sparks games are Larry Burnett and Lisa Leslie. Previously, Sparks games were found on Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket and former analysts have included Derek Fisher and Ann Meyers.

All games (excluding blackout games, which are available on ESPN3.com) are broadcast to the WNBA LiveAccess game feeds on the league website. Furthermore, some Sparks games are broadcast nationally on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC. The WNBA has reached an eight-year agreement with ESPN, which will pay right fees to the Sparks, as well as other teams in the league.[7]

Currently, the team's games are not on radio; however, the team did bounce around several stations from 1999 to 2008. The first two years had no broadcasts. Then in 1999, the team signed with KWKU, a sister station to Spanish-language KWKW, licensed to Pomona, California. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times published in this period, KWKU had no switchboard and no website. In addition, its 500-watt signal reached only a handful of people in the greater L.A. area and was certainly nowhere near the team's home arenas. In 2003, the team left KWKU for KLAC, which had summer time slots available after the Anaheim Angels' radio broadcasts had just left. That lasted until 2006, when KLAC switched the broadcasts to XETRA, which carried the same format KLAC had before. In 2007, the game broadcasts moved again, this time to KTLK, when XETRA switched its language of broadcasts from English to Spanish. The Sparks and Clear Channel Communications (licensee of the last three stations mentioned) chose not to renew their contract after 2008. Sparks radio broadcasts never covered a complete season; most nationally-televised games and many games from the Eastern time zone were not covered. Burnett was the announcer.

All-time notes

Regular season attendance

  • A sellout for a basketball game at The Forum (1997–2000) is 17,505.
  • A sellout for a basketball game at Staples Center (2001–present) is 19,079.

Draft picks

  • 1997 Elite Draft: Daedra Charles (8), Haixia Zheng (16)
  • 1997: Jamila Wideman (3), Tamecka Dixon (14), Katrina Colleton (19), Travesa Gant (30)
  • 1998: Allison Feaster (5), Octavia Blue (15), Rehema Stephens (25), Erica Kienast (35)
  • 1999: Delisha Milton (4), Clarisse Machanguana (16), Ukari Figgs (28), La'Keshia Frett (40)
  • 2000: Nicole Kubik (15), Paige Sauer (31), Marte Alexander (47), Nicky McCrimmon (63)
  • 2001: Camille Cooper (16), Nicole Levandusky (32), Kelley Siemon (48), Beth Record (64)
  • 2002: Rosalind Ross (16), Gergana Slavtcheva (30), Jackie Higgins (32), Rashana Barnes (48), Tiffany Thompson (64)
  • 2003 Miami/Portland Dispersal Draft: Jackie Stiles (14)
  • 2003: Schuye LaRue (27), Mary Jo Noon (42)
  • 2004 Cleveland Dispersal Draft: Isabelle Fijalkowski (12)
  • 2004: Christi Thomas (12), Doneeka Hodges (25)
  • 2005: DeeDee Wheeler (26), Heather Schreiber (39)
  • 2006: Lisa Willis (5), Willnett Crockett (22), Tiffany Porter-Talbert (36)
  • 2008 Charlotte Dispersal Draft: Ayana Walker (12)
  • 2007: Sidney Spencer (25), Amanda Brown (38)
  • 2008: Candace Parker (1), Shannon Bobbitt (15), Sharnee’ Zoll (29)
  • 2009 Houston Dispersal Draft: selection waived
  • 2009: Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton (13), Ashley Paris (22), Britney Jordan (35)
  • 2010 Sacramento Dispersal Draft: selection waived
  • 2010: Bianca Thomas (12), Angel Robinson (20), Rashidat Junaid (32)
  • 2011: Jantel Lavender (5), Elina Babkina (29, ineligible)
  • 2012: Nneka Ogwumike (1), Farhiya Abdi (13), Khadijah Rushdan (15), Tyra White (16), April Sykes (28)
  • 2013: A'dia Mathies (10), Brittany Chambers (22)
  • 2014: Jennifer Hamson (23), Antonita Slaughter (35)
  • 2015: Crystal Bradford (7), Cierra Burdick (14), Andrea Hoover (31)


  • 1997: No All-Star Game
  • 1998: No All-Star Game
  • 1999: Lisa Leslie
  • 2000: Lisa Leslie, Mwadi Mabika, Delisha Milton
  • 2001: Tamecka Dixon, Lisa Leslie
  • 2002: Tamecka Dixon, Lisa Leslie, Mwadi Mabika
  • 2003: Tamecka Dixon, Lisa Leslie, Nikki Teasley
  • 2004: Mwadi Mabika, Nikki Teasley
  • 2005: Chamique Holdsclaw, Lisa Leslie
  • 2006: Lisa Leslie
  • 2007: Taj McWilliams-Franklin
  • 2008: No All-Star Game
  • 2009: Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson
  • 2010: Candace Parker
  • 2011: Candace Parker
  • 2012: No All-Star Game
  • 2013: Nneka Ogwumike, Candace Parker, Kristi Toliver
  • 2014: Nneka Ogwumike, Candace Parker
  • 2015: Jantel Lavender, Nneka Ogwumike
  • 2016: No All-Star Game


  • 2000: Lisa Leslie, Delisha Milton
  • 2004: Lisa Leslie
  • 2008: Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker, Delisha Milton-Jones
  • 2012: Candace Parker, Jenna O'Hea (AUS)

Honors and awards

  • 1997 All-WNBA First Team: Lisa Leslie
  • 1997 Sportsmanship Award: Haixia Zheng
  • 1998 All-WNBA Second Team: Lisa Leslie
  • 1999 All-WNBA Second Team: Lisa Leslie
  • 1999 All-Star Game MVP: Lisa Leslie
  • 2000 All-WNBA First Team: Lisa Leslie
  • 2000 Coach of the Year: Michael Cooper
  • 2001 Most Valuable Player: Lisa Leslie
  • 2001 Finals MVP: Lisa Leslie
  • 2001 All-WNBA First Team: Lisa Leslie
  • 2001 All-WNBA Second Team: Tamecka Dixon
  • 2001 All-Star Game MVP: Lisa Leslie
  • 2001 Peak Performer (FG%): Latasha Byears
  • 2002 All-WNBA First Team: Lisa Leslie
  • 2002 All-WNBA First Team: Mwadi Mabika
  • 2002 Finals MVP: Lisa Leslie
  • 2002 All-Star Game MVP: Lisa Leslie
  • 2003 All-WNBA First Team: Lisa Leslie
  • 2003 All-WNBA Second Team: Nikki Teasley
  • 2003 All-Star Game MVP: Nikki Teasley
  • 2004 Most Valuable Player: Lisa Leslie
  • 2004 All-WNBA First Team: Lisa Leslie
  • 2004 All-WNBA Second Team: Nikki Teasley
  • 2004 Defensive Player of the Year: Lisa Leslie
  • 2004 Peak Performer (Rebounds): Lisa Leslie
  • 2005 All-WNBA Second Team: Lisa Leslie
  • 2005 All-Defensive Second Team: Lisa Leslie
  • 2006 Most Valuable Player: Lisa Leslie
  • 2006 All-Decade Team: Lisa Leslie
  • 2006 All-WNBA First Team: Lisa Leslie
  • 2006 All-Defensive First Team: Lisa Leslie
  • 2007 All-Rookie Team: Marta Fernandez
  • 2007 All-Rookie Team: Sidney Spencer
  • 2008 Most Valuable Player: Candace Parker
  • 2008 Rookie of the Year: Candace Parker
  • 2008 All-WNBA First Team: Lisa Leslie
  • 2008 All-WNBA First Team: Candace Parker
  • 2008 Defensive Player of the Year: Lisa Leslie
  • 2008 All-Defensive First Team: Lisa Leslie
  • 2008 All-Rookie Team: Candace Parker
  • 2008 Peak Performer (Rebounds): Candace Parker
  • 2009 All-WNBA Second Team: Lisa Leslie
  • 2009 All-WNBA Second Team: Candace Parker
  • 2009 All-Defensive Second Team: Lisa Leslie
  • 2009 All-Defensive Second Team: Candace Parker
  • 2009 Peak Performer (Rebounds): Candace Parker
  • 2010 Peak Performer (Assists): Ticha Penicheiro
  • 2012 Rookie of the Year: Nneka Ogwumike
  • 2012 Most Improved Player: Kristi Toliver
  • 2012 Coach of the Year: Carol Ross
  • 2012 All-WNBA First Team: Candace Parker
  • 2012 All-Defensive First Team: Alana Beard
  • 2012 All-Defensive Second Team: Candace Parker
  • 2012 All-Rookie Team: Nneka Ogwumike
  • 2013 Most Valuable Player: Candace Parker
  • 2013 All-WNBA First Team: Candace Parker
  • 2014 All-WNBA First Team: Candace Parker
  • 2014 All-WNBA Second Team: Nneka Ogwumike
  • 2014 All-Defensive Second Team: Alana Beard
  • 2015 All-Rookie Team: Ana Dabović
  • 2015 All-Defensive First Team: Nneka Ogwumike
  • 2015 All-WNBA Second Team: Candace Parker


  1. ^ Feinberg, Doug (January 3, 2013). "WNBA's LA Sparks looking for new owners". sacbee.com. Sacramento Bee. Retrieved January 3, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Sparks bought by investment group led by Magic Johnson and Mark Walter". February 4, 2014. 
  3. ^ "SportsPageMagazine.com". Spmsportspage.com. Retrieved 2013-03-22. 
  4. ^ "Los Angeles Sparks 2012 Media Guide" (PDF). Los Angeles Sparks. p. 7. Archived from the original on April 25, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Sparks bought by investment group led by Magic Johnson and Mark Walter". February 4, 2014. 
  6. ^ Time Warner Cable Sports Dunks Multiyear Rights Deal with WNBA's LA Sparks Multichannel News March 14, 2011
  7. ^ WNBA Extends TV Rights Deal with ESPN and ABC Sports Business June 18, 2007

External links

  • Los Angeles Sparks Official Website
  • December 6, 2006 press release on the change of ownership
  • Los Angeles Team Building - Spark's Mentoring
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Houston Comets
WNBA Champions
2001 (First title)
2002 (Second title)
Succeeded by
Detroit Shock
WNBA Western Conference Champions
2001 (First title)
2002 (Second title)
2003 (Third title)
Succeeded by
Seattle Storm