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Toler holds the distinction of scoring the first basket in league history, a baseline jumper with just under a minute gone.

“The good thing about that,” she said, “records will be broken, but that’s one that never will be broken.”

Leslie, who lives in Los Angeles, will be at Tuesday’s game, along with Toler, now in her 12th season as general manager of the Sparks, and Lobo, an ESPN analyst who will be working on the network’s broadcast of the game. Leslie and Lobo will also be involved in a roundtable discussion of the league’s history during halftime of the broadcast.

As part of the festivities, the Sparks will be showing a video and the league will announce the 30 finalists for the All-15th Anniversary team, with the 15 players to be selected in fan voting.

That the WNBA has made this far is a source of pride for those there at the outset.

“I don’t think we were in any way considering not being around,” said Sparks star Tina Thompson, the only player in league history to have played in every season. “I don’t think I thought I’d be playing 15 years, but I definitely thought the WNBA would be here.”

Thompson, in her third season with Los Angeles, began her career with the Houston Comets and helped them win the league’s first four championships.

The founding players are pleased with the evolution of the game. They note the increased versatility of today’s young stars, believing the increased exposure to the women’s game has helped their development.

“The players are better now, stronger, they’re more athletic, they’re more skilled,” Lobo said. “I think that’s because they watched women’s basketball played at the highest level since they were young kids. It’s a whole different sports world that young girls have been able to grow up with the last 15 years.”

Weatherspoon, who coaches the women’s team at Louisiana Tech, agreed.

“Everyone can play inside, outside, shoot the ball, extend defenses,” she said. “It’s good to see that every year it gets better, every year someone tries to change their game to look even better.”

The league outlasted an early challenge from the ABL, which played in the winter and had completed its first season before the WNBA tipped off. The ABL, however, disbanded on Dec. 22, 1998, just after the start of its third season and most of the players joined the WNBA the following year.

Lobo chose to sign with the WNBA while most of her teammates from the gold medal-winning Olympic team from the 1996 Atlanta Games went to the rival league.

“With the NBA’s backing, with David Stern’s backing _ not only financially, the marketing power that they had,” Lobo said, “I just thought businesswise it had more of a chance to succeed.”