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This day in sports: Sparks fall to Liberty in WNBA’s first game in 1997

In this June 21, 1997, photo, the Sparks' Lisa Leslie, left, and the New York Liberty's Rebecca Lobo battle.
The Sparks’ Lisa Leslie battles the Liberty’s Rebecca Lobo during the WNBA’s inaugural game on June 21, 1997. New York won 67-57 at the Forum.
(Kevork Djansezian / Associated Press)

On a sunny, summer afternoon in Inglewood, the New York Liberty beat the Sparks 67-57 on this date in 1997 in the inaugural game of the Women’s National Basketball Assn. at the Forum.

A crowd of 14,284 was the largest to see a women’s basketball game in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympics and the largest ever for a women’s pro game in the United States.

The Sparks’ vaunted big players, 6-foot-8 Zheng Haixia and 6-5 Lisa Leslie, were never factors against the Liberty, who were led by Rebecca Lobo and Teresa Weatherspoon.

Sparks coach Linda Sharp expressed her dismay after the game. “I am really disappointed,” she said. “We are a much better team than we showed.”

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Amid renewed focus nationwide on racism, the Lakers have hired UCLA professor Karida Brown as their first director of racial equity and action.

The Dodgers would have closed out a three-game interleague series Sunday with the Detroit Tigers at Dodger Stadium. The Angels had a Sunday afternoon game scheduled against the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium. Both contests were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here is a look at other memorable games and outstanding sports performances on this date:

1932 — Jack Sharkey wins a controversial 15-round split-decision over Germany’s Max Schmeling for the world heavyweight title at Madison Square Garden Bowl in New York. To the majority of fans and critics in attendance, Schmeling is the clear winner. His manager, Joe Jacobs, grabs a radio microphone and yells, “We was robbed.”

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1960 — Armin Hary of West Germany is the first man to officially run 100 meters in 10.0 seconds at a meet in Zurich. Hary runs the 100 in 10.0 flat an hour earlier, but the time is nullified when the starter, after some time has passed, declares a false start. Hary asks for a rerun, and officials tell the starter to recall the sprinters for a new race.

1964 — Jim Bunning of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches the seventh perfect game in baseball history when he beats the New York Mets 6-0 in the first game of a doubleheader at Shea Stadium. The gem makes Bunning the first pitcher since Cy Young to throw no-hitters in both the American and National leagues. He pitched his first in 1958 as a member of the Detroit Tigers against the Boston Red Sox.

Richard Sherman, Tony Dungy and Robert Woods join The Times’ LZ Granderson and Sam Farmer to discuss social justice, racism and the NFL.

1965 — Gary Player, 29, of South Africa is the third player to win golf’s four major championships when he beats Kel Nagle of Australia by three strokes at the U.S. Open in an 18-hole playoff at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis. Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan had career Grand Slams when they won the U.S. and British Opens, the Masters and the PGA Championship. It is Player’s only U.S. Open victory.

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1975 — Sandra Kaye Bell, one of the first female jockeys in thoroughbred racing, is the first woman to train the winner of a $100,000 stakes race when she sends Mr. Lucky Phoenix to the post and wins the Michigan Mile and One-Eighth Handicap at Detroit Racecourse.

2003 — In what is billed as “The Battle of the Titans,” Lennox Lewis retains his heavyweight crown when multiple cuts stop Vitali Klitschko after six brawling rounds at Staples Center. All three ringside judges have Klitschko ahead 58-56 on their scorecards, but Paul Wallace, the ring doctor, orders referee Lou Moret to stop the fight.

2005 — Justine Henin-Hardenne, coming off a major victory in the women’s final at the French Open, makes a shocking exit in the first round at Wimbledon when she loses to Eleni Daniilidou of Greece, 7-6 (8), 2-6, 7-5. The Belgian is the first Roland Garros women’s champion since 1962 to lose her opening match at the All-England Club.

By speaking up about Juneteenth, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw underscored the importance of white athletes taking a stand that Black lives matter.

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2012 — LeBron James finally claims his first championship when he has 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds to lead the Miami Heat past the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of the NBA Finals 121-106 at American Airlines Arena in Miami. Chris Bosh adds 23 points and Dwyane Wade scores 20 for the Heat.

2015 — Jordan Spieth is the sixth player to win the Masters and the U.S. Open in the same season after Dustin Johnson three-putts from 12 feet on the final hole at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., with a chance to win the tournament. Spieth, 21, is the youngest player to win two majors since Sarazen did it at age 20 in 1922 and is the youngest U.S. Open champion since Bobby Jones in 1923.

Sources: The Times, Associated Press


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