No More Jumping Through Hoops

Heather La Bella is always happy for exposure, though it’s usually on behalf of the Los Angeles Sparks. La Bella, 32, director of tactical marketing for the WNBA team, met with Playboy recently to inquire about advertising in its pages. But the magazine had other ideas—and wound up running this portrait of La Bella (tastefully edited by our art department) as its “Employee of the Month” feature for August.

“Part of my job is to try to increase ticket sales and I think this will work,” La Bella told ESPN.com.

La Bella got permission from Johnny Buss, Sparks president and son of Lakers owner Jerry Buss. Coincidentally, Jerry’s daughter Jeanie appeared in Playboy nine years ago. “My dad has always said that’s the only Playboy he’s never read,” says Johnny. “But this one he will read over and over again.”

The Playboy feature includes a short Q&A with La Bella, along with a photo of her fully clothed in a track suit and holding a WNBA ball. After determining that she is a decent hoops player herself, Playboy asks, “Ever bring the heat off the court?” Responds La Bella: “I definitely use my athleticism in the bedroom. Let’s just say I’m very aggressive on and off the court.”

If anything, the stunt may have worked too well. On La Bella’s voicemail Friday was the message, “If this is about my appearance in Playboy, please call the magazine.”