The Los Angeles Sparks debuted in 1997 as one of the WNBA’s eight original franchises. The team had little success in its first two seasons as three different coaches led Los Angeles to 26 wins and 32 losses.
The Sparks produced their first winning season in 1999 with Orlando Woolridge serving as head coach. The former Laker guided the team to 20 wins and the two seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.
The following year another former Laker, Michael Cooper, took over as head coach and his presence paid big dividends.
On Cooper’s watch, Los Angeles posted five consecutive 24 or more win seasons, twice reaching 28 wins. The Sparks also made three straight WNBA Finals appearances and they won the title in 2001 and 2002, effectively ending the Houston Comets reign over the Western Conference and league as a whole.
Lisa Leslie, who’s No. 9 is retired, earned WNBA Finals MVP honors for the Sparks in its two championship seasons. Leslie won the league MVP award three times, claiming the trophy in 2001, 2004 and 2006. She is the only three-time WNBA MVP winner.
Candace Parker, a standout performer at Tennessee, became the second Sparks player to win league MVP, earning the award in her 2008 rookie campaign. Parker, who also earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2008, nabbed her second MVP trophy in 2013.
Other notable players to suit up for the Sparks include Penny Toler, who scored the first basket in WNBA history, Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamecka Dixon.
The Sparks franchise was originally owned by the late Jerry Buss. The Guggenheim Partners, which includes Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten, purchased the team in 2014.