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Lisa Leslie: More than just a dunk

Lisa Leslie was the first woman in WNBA history to dunk in a game, but she's so much more than that dunk. She's someone who truly changed the game -- a true Hall of Famer.

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

To the outside world, Lisa Leslie might be best known for being the first female to dunk. But to the world of women's basketball, she means much, much more.

Leslie became the first to dunk in the WNBA during a regulation game in 2002, paving the way for fellow dunkers Candace Parker and Brittney Griner.

Those aren't the only players she has paved the way for. But it was those who paved the way for her that she chose to honor in her Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame acceptance speech. She named her speech "I Didn't Get Here Alone."

"I think I broke the record for inviting the most people up here on stage, but like I said, I didn't get here alone," she said in her speech. "It's been such a great opportunity having such great basketball role models growing up in Los Angeles."

"Once I fell in love with the game of basketball at the age of 12, it wasn't until I saw the Showtime Lakers ... it's so amazing when you're a kid and you get to watch the NBA, and now girls get to watch the WNBA, but watching Big Game James and being a girl in LA, even Magic will tell you Big Game James is the real deal," she added. "I thought that's it, that's my role model. I want to be just like him."

She also thanked her family, teammates and coaches, Jesus Christ and her "big brother" Magic Johnson, who "let (her) play pickup with the fellas."

Leslie became one of the first three players to sign a contract with the WNBA alongside Rebecca Lobo and Sheryl Swoopes. She played for the Los Angeles Sparks from 1997-2009.

It's because of players like Leslie, Lobo and Swoopes we even have a successful professional women's basketball league today. That's a lot more than just one dunk, isn't it?

Leslie, a WNBA ambassador, is a two-time WNBA champion (2001, 2002) and eight-time All-Star. She won three regular-season MVP awards (2001, 2004, 2006) and the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 and 2008.

Finishing with 6,263 total career points, Leslie became the first player in league history to reach the 6,000-point mark.

As if dominating the league wasn't enough, Leslie added four Olympic Gold Medals to her resume with Team USA in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008. In June, she was also inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Though Leslie has retired from the game, she continues to make history by becoming an investor to the Sparks in 2011, taking on another first—the first former player to invest in the WNBA.

Leslie has done more than find her way to the record books. She has shattered glass ceilings set for any female interested in playing sports, and helped create a platform for them to do so professionally.

"I want to thank David Stern for just your forthright, your sight to think that a WNBA could survive here in our country," Leslie said on the matter. "Without that, obviously we wouldn't be here."

Leslie's induction comes at a perfect time, celebrating a pioneer of the league as the WNBA gears up to celebrate its 20th season next year, bringing it all full circle.

Leslie may have chosen to thank those who paved the way for her, but it's clear she has done some paving of her own.