Chiney Ogwumike wants to win a title with her sister in L.A.
Chiney Ogwumike has played with her sister Nneka many times throughout her life, most recently at Stanford when the duo combined for multiple Pac-12 titles and Final Fours. After six seasons of being apart while Chiney was still in college and then with the Connecticut Sun, the family is back together with the Sparks – and expectations are sky-high.
“The first thing I told [Nneka] when all this happened is that ‘I want to win a championship with you,'” Chiney said Thursday during a conference call with reporters. “That, to me, would be the biggest dream. Apart from my wedding day, that would be the highest moment of my life.”
Being in Los Angeles is the perfect intersection of all of the younger Ogwumike’s goals: she can continue to work regularly as an analyst for ESPN, she can play with her older sister, and she can compete for a WNBA title. Although the two sisters were unable to capture the ultimate prize while playing collegiately, their games have grown substantially since then.
As Chiney pointed out, Nneka has become an Olympian, a team captain, an MVP, and most importantly, a WNBA champion. The older sister has helped guide the younger one many times before, and Chiney expects Nneka to show her the path to success once more.
More from Los Angeles Sparks
- Bet $5 on Sparks vs. Sky, Win $150 Instantly with Limited-Time DraftKings Promo
- Los Angeles Sparks name Curt Miller next head coach
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, November 2: Shakeup in the ACC with Bollin commit, UNC retool
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, September 14: Mystics are going dancing
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, September 10: Dream are (mathematically) stayin’ alive
On the latest episode of the “That’s What She Said” podcast with Sarah Spain, Chiney said that when she first started playing basketball, she was so nervous that she hid in the bathroom during the entirety of their first practice while Nneka dove right in. Nneka paved the way and helped Chiney learn the basic skills on their own so that Chiney could be comfortable with the team later.
“[Nneka]’s always given me the cheat codes for success, she’s always set the goals for me, she’s always empowered me to be the best version of myself,” Chiney said. “Her competitiveness brings out the best in others and I know that’ll happen to me.”
Nneka has the lay of the land again in Los Angeles, where she has played for the Sparks for six seasons, the entirety of her WNBA career. Chiney is an All-Star who brings individual offensive efficiency and elite rebounding ability, but she only made the playoffs once in Connecticut. L.A. is a team that has experienced success without her, even if last season fell short of expectations.
The fit among the two Ogwumikes and Candace Parker will require sacrifices from all three, and a willingness to approach the game in different ways. First-year head coach Derek Fisher has to figure out how to optimize the talents of his four returning All-Stars (now that Chelsea Gray is officially back in the fold), but Chiney is ready to help ease his burden, both by being a selfless teammate and by expanding her offensive arsenal.
The younger Ogwumike cited her fellow Stanford alum Brook Lopez as a big who stepped out of the paint to become a more prolific three-point shooter. Lopez attempted 13 threes in the 2015-16 NBA season before bombing over 500 this year. Ogwumike doesn’t anticipate making that kind of shift, but plans to add the three-point shot to her game after taking only two in her first three seasons.
“Expanding my game from the paint is my highest priority as a player and the most important thing to my development and improvement,” she said. “I’m not necessarily going to pull a Brook Lopez and completely transition to trail threes and spot up threes, but I do take a lot of inspiration from him in that he changed his game and it’s been the best look of his team.”
The emphasis is always on team for Chiney, whether that’s the Sparks or Team Ogwumike. The way she puts it, the sisters have been destined to meet up again on a basketball court, and it is a dream come true for it to happen in Los Angeles.
Chiney has been lucky enough to follow her older sister’s path in the past, to Stanford, being the no. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, and now donning the purple and gold. The ultimate conclusion to that would be raising another banner in Staples Center.
“This is going to be one of the most defining things of our sisterhood and I’m not going to take that for granted,” Chiney said. “I’m here to compete and to win.”
Love our 24/7 women’s basketball coverage? Join our Patreon now and support this work, while getting extra goodies and subscriber-only content for yourself.