After discovering today’s Nneka Ogwumike facts, you’ll quickly realize Nneka can be considered one of the faces of today’s WNBA. Not only has she established herself as one of the league’s greatest of players, but also she has made plenty of moves away from basketball, and personifies what it means to be a strong woman.
At 30 years old, she is in the prime of her career with a Los Angeles Sparks team that still has its eye on contending for a championship. (Check out what she had to say about leading on that team this year here.) Beyond that, the elder of one of the WNBA’s first families has set herself up for a bright future once she decides to put away her jersey.
Here are 25 things you may or may not know about the current LA great, from her high school jersey being retired to what she has to do with Space Jam 2 – and even her 2K rating.
Nneka was a name on everyone’s radar across the country at Cy-Fair and eventually finished her career at the preps level with an exclamation point.
She was named the 2007-08 National Gatorade Player of the Year, and also won a similar award at the state level in Texas. Nneka Ogwumike also took home Miss Basketball Texas honors and was a McDonald’s All-American, too.
In her senior season, she was named MVP of the state tournament, after leading the Bobcats to a 5A state championship. She also led Cy-Fair to a semifinals berth in volleyball in 2007 and was MaxPreps’ first-ever Girls National Athlete of the Year.
If one became one of the greats at the college game and one of the greats in the pros, then they were more than likely a queen of the court since high school – or, perhaps, even sooner.
Both Nneka and her sister, Chiney Ogwumike, returned to Cy-Fair High School in late 2019, and both Nneka’s No. 30 and Chiney’s No. 13 were retired at the school.
The sisters Ogwumike were forever immortalized in Cy-Fair Bobcats history alongside Lindsey Harding, another Cy-Fair notable whose jersey was retired in 2007, before she graduated and played collegiately at Duke. She later became a player development coach with the Sacramento Kings.
Stanford is known far and wide as the “Harvard of the West.” Under the stewardship of head coach Tara VanDerveer, Stanford has established itself as having one of the premier women’s basketball programs in the nation.
Prior to entering the W, Nneka Ogwumike called Stanford home. During her time wearing Cardinal colors, she got Stanford to the Final Four on four different occasions. She also became a member of the exclusive 2,000-point and 1,000 rebound club.
Nneka also concluded her career in the top-five of several all-time categories with the Cardinal – including points, field goal percentage, rebounds, and free throws.
Nneka was poised to takeover from the second she stepped onto a WNBA court. The Los Angeles Sparks made sure she would stay in California after drafting Nneka first overall out of Stanford in the 2012 WNBA draft.
That season, Nneka averaged 14 points and also played in 33 games. She also averaged seven and a half rebounds per game with a field goal percentage of over 53 percent.
That is the type of season that surely put everyone on notice that she – and the Sparks – were on its way to another championship, a feat that Nneka and the Sparks eventually accomplished four seasons later.
In today’s era of basketball thanks to free agency – both WNBA and NBA – the days of players seemingly spending their entire careers with one team appear to be long gone. After all, Nneka’s longtime Sparks teammate Candace Parker recently signed with her hometown Chicago Sky.
But since Nneka was drafted into the W in 2012, she has indeed played her entire career with the Los Angeles Sparks. And it has paid off for her in more ways than one by virtue of the championship she won in Tinseltown in 2016.
As WNBA fans know, Nneka is as much a force in the executive suite as she is on the hardwood. When she entered the WNBA in 2012, much was expected of her and she has delivered.
Four years into her WNBA tenure, she was elected president of the WNBPA, giving her plenty of stroke when dealing with the league on player issues. She was first appointed in 2016, then re-elected to the same position after the 2019 season in the run-up to the union’s collective bargaining talks with the WNBA.
As the landmark CBA agreed upon in 2020 displayed, the rest became history.
The year 2016 was a banner one for Nneka. In addition to being elected president at the WNBPA, she also achieved the goal of every WNBA player when she and her LA Sparks dispatched the Minnesota Lynx in what was an unforgettable 2016 Finals.
But it did not come without a hint of controversy.
In Game 5, with 1:14, she made a basket with over a minute left to play in regulation. But the shot clock had expired before the ball left Nneka’s hands. The missed shot clock violation ended up deciding the Finals as the Sparks won Game 5 by a final score of 77-76.
Renee Brown, WNBA Chief of Basketball Operations and Player Relations admitted the error and Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve was angry in her postgame presser. It was another memorable moment in what became a noteworthy rivalry between the Sparks and Lynx.
Nonetheless, it is not as talked about as much nowadays given Minnesota got redemption in the following year’s Finals against Nneka and those same Sparks.
Before she achieved the ultimate WNBA team honor in 2016 by winning a championship with the LA Sparks, Nneka achieved a major milestone as an individual baller by winning the MVP award that season.
That season, she averaged nearly 20 points (19.7) a game and almost eight (7.7) rebounds per contest. Nneka also posted a robust 66.5% shooting percentage from the field that season and played in 33 games.
As of this upcoming season, it has been the only time in Nneka’s illustrious career that she has won WNBA MVP.
After winning the 2016 WNBA championship, Nneka kept her title-winning ways going on the overseas circuit.
She is one of many WNBA players over the years that have gone overseas when the season is over to make up for the lack of money players make stateside. She had a stint in her career where she played for Dynamo Kursk (Russia), one of the biggest names in international women’s basketball.
With Angel McCoughtry also on the 2016-17 team, Nneka claimed a EuroLeague championship after a 77-63 victory over Fenerbahce. Nneka scored 19 points to go along with 20 from Angel.
In 2017, when Forbes released its 30 Under 30 list, it recognized not one but two WNBA players as part of its rendition that year.
Nneka Ogwumike was one of those that made the list, with the other being Elena Delle Donne, who had completed her final season with the Chicago Sky before going to Washington. Interestingly enough, the Forbes website claims that it is more difficult to get on a 30 Under 30 List than it is to get accepted into prestigious schools such as Harvard or Stanford.
We will just go ahead and say that the Stanford reference was a Nneka shout-out as well, given that is her alma mater after all.
Purple and gold Sparks suit? Check. Business suit? Check. Birthday suit?
Over the years, many a WNBA player (Candace Parker, Elena Delle Donne, Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, Brittney Griner, Liz Cambage) has been approached by ESPN for its annual Body Issue, one where the absence of “articles” get as much attention as the “articles.”
Nneka posed for the 2017 Body Issue and admitted that it was something she had always wanted to do. Prior to ESPN approaching Nneka about the edition, Bristol had wanted to feature Chiney for a Body Issue shoot as well, but she passed on it at the time.
Believe it or not, Nneka has yet to wear the Stars and Stripes for Team USA at the Olympics. If all goes according to plan, that could change.
Even without competing at the Games up to this point, she has a resume on the international stage that goes beyond her 2017 championship she won with Dynamo Kursk of EuroLeague.
Nneka was part of the 2014 USA Basketball team that won a gold medal at that year’s FIBA tournament. As well as with the 2018 team that also brought gold back to the state after that year’s FIBAs.
Team USA participated in Group A at last year’s FIBA qualifiers (pre-COVID) and Nneka came away with All-Star Five honors as well as MVP honors, greatly bolstering her case to be part of the team in Tokyo this summer.
In professional sports, it is not often that one gets to play on the same team with someone from their biological families. This, though, has been made more possible thanks to free agency.
Nneka has spent her entire career with the Sparks. And in the lead-up to the 2019 season, younger sister Chiney Ogwumike was acquired by Los Angeles, enabling her to don the purple and gold alongside big sister.
Unfortunately for the Ogwumikes, the 2019 season did not end as planned as the Sparks were swept in commanding fashion out of the playoffs by Chiney’s former team – the Connecticut Sun.
As the president of the players’ union, both Ogwumikes (Chiney is Vice President of the Executive Committee) played major roles in getting that landmark CBA with the WNBA agreed upon and ratified by both sides.
And when the announcement was made, it was done in grand fashion – on an episode of ABC’s Good Morning America. Nneka spoke with Robin Roberts about everything that made it in the new collective bargaining agreement and what it meant for the WNBA’s future.
From an increase in salaries to increasing player marketability to greater benefits for players who are also mothers, there are many reasons why the CBA was described in many circles as “groundbreaking.”
In early March of 2020 – right before the pandemic hit, Nneka was a guest on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.”
Anyone who may not have known who Nneka is prior to that appearance, got a deeper glimpse into who she is not only as a basketball player but also as a person.
Among the litany of topics she and Noah chatted it up about was how those that have yet to expose themselves yet to the WNBA should give the W a chance and either go to a game or watch a game on one of the many outlets that broadcast the league. Nneka said that it is not hard to find a game – and it really is not.
Shams Charania reported two years ago that there would be a significant WNBA presence in the new flick, slated to be released July of this year. That presence, he said, would include roles for both Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike as well as Diana Taurasi.
Perhaps we will know a bit more about what the Ogwumikes’ and Taurasi’s parts will be if … they ever release a trailer.
First it was NBA Live, then the WNBA began making its way into 2K and any chance EA Sports’ signature basketball franchise may have had to distinguish itself from 2K was crushed in its tracks.
Most basketball players are also big into video games (see Aerial Powers) and many are also big into their 2K ratings. Says the website 2Kratings.com, Nneka Ogwumike’s rating is at a 91 on the extensively popular hoops video game.
Nneka Ogwumike’s rating is the best of any Los Angeles Spark. The player with the highest 2K rating? Elena Delle Donne at 96, followed by Breanna Stewart’s 95. Ogwumike’s 91 actually stands as the same rating as that of … Diana Taurasi.
Remember the craziness that was the 2020 election? For a minute, Texas was one of the focal points of that election, particularly the city of Houston and the Lone Star State’s efforts to restrict voting access in large cities.
The NBA and NBPA struck a deal where several of its arenas became polling places for the election. One of those was the Toyota Center, home of the Houston Rockets and both Nneka and sister Chiney Ogwumike (a powerful woman in her own right) served as poll workers at the Rockets’ home venue.
Even though the Ogwumikes may play for LA’s WNBA team, they still know how to put on for their hometown of H-Town.
Along with her work as a poll worker at Toyota Center in Houston, Nneka wanted to make sure as many as many people in Texas and around the country participated in the 2020 election – one that saw record turnout across the country despite the pandemic.
“Hoopers Vote” – a product of Rock The Vote and the WNBPA was an initiative aimed at the basketball community to encourage ballers to find their way to the polls. Nneka was one of the ambassadors for the effort along with another Sparks great in Lisa Leslie as well as the Liberty’s Layshia Clarendon and Basketball Hall of Famer Alex English, a staunch W advocate.
Several from the men’s side also joined in the effort, including Jaren Jackson, Jr. – the son of WNBPA Executive Director Terri Jackson.
Sports Illustrated released its “Unrelenting” list towards the conclusion of 2020 which recognized the most powerful women in sports. Nneka, being a face of the Los Angeles Sparks and the WNBPA’s president, was more than deserving of the honor from SI.
She, though, was far from the only notable figure from the WNBA that made the list.
It also included Maya Moore, Candace Parker, A’ja Wilson, Cheryl Reeve, Natasha Cloud, Becky Hammon, New York Liberty CEO Keia Clarke and WNBPA Executive Director Terri Jackson.
That, to say to the least, is some rather upper-echelon company.
Being named one of SI’s most “Unrelenting” women of 2020 was not the only recognition Nneka received from a well-known media outlet.
The work Ogwumike put in to iron out the CBA received her praise from Fast Company, a New York-based business magazine. It named Nneka one of its “Most Creative People of 2020.”
The article also highlighted to work she did in negotiating the 2020 bubble season at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Nneka made sure the players would receive full pay for the 22-game season in addition to a traditional postseason format.
Acknowledging what players do away from the court is every bit as important as what its players do on the court for a league as progressive as the WNBA is.
One of the numerous ways it does this is via its Kim Perrot Award for Sportsmanship. It is an award that after last season, Nneka Ogwumike is now a two-time recipient of. Not only is she a two-time recipient of the Perrot Award, she has won it in back-to-back years.
Only the Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird has won the Perrot award in consecutive seasons and she became the first LA Spark to receive the honors since Haixia Zheng in 1997 – the WNBA’s first season.
Back in January, the Memphis Grizzlies hosted the Phoenix Suns at FedEx Forum for its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Game. It was the 19th in Grizzlies history.
Prior to the game, Nneka was one of three basketball luminaries that received the National Civil Rights Museum’s Sports Legacy Award. The other two were Ray Allen and Kenny “The Jet” Smith.
The awards were bestowed upon Ogwumike, Smith and Allen at the Lloyd Sports Legacy Symposium which occurred earlier that afternoon. The day’s festivities marked the 16th time that the National Civil Rights Museum’s Sports Legacy Award has been awarded.
Texas senator Ted Cruz was exposed for having taken himself and his family on a vacation to Cancun (during a pandemic) while his state was reeling from the after effects of the storm and loss of power.
Nneka Ogwumike was one of many who called out the Texas senator for his inaction on helping his state.
Of course, everyone knows Nneka and Chiney at this point – but there is also another Ogwumike that is talented with a basketball.
That would be Erica Ogwumike, but unlike her older sisters, she decided to stay close to home attending Rice University in Houston as opposed to heading out west to Stanford.
Erica was drafted last year early in the third round by the Liberty before being traded to the Lynx for Stephanie Talbot (now in Seattle via the five-team Wings-Storm-Lynx-Mercury-Liberty blockbuster). Minnesota later waived her prior to the start of the 2020 season in the bubble. She then decided to attend medical school at UT Southwestern. Erica also has her own YouTube channel.
Did any of those Nneka Ogwumike facts surprise you? We hope you enjoyed learning more about the great Nneka – and that you’ll dominate at any WNBA trivia game you play. Up next, learn more interesting WNBA facts. Or discover some WNBA players’ hobbies.
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