The Ogwumike showdown, WNBA edition
Welcome to Part 2 of a two-part series comparing the Ogwumike sisters’ basketball accomplishments and statistics. All four sisters played college basketball for top-25 teams and two were drafted No. 1 in the WNBA (so far!), so there is a lot of ground to cover. Part 1 looked at one season’s worth of college statistics for Nneka, Chiney, Olivia, and Erica. Chiney claimed a large share of the bragging rights, but Erica, the baby of the family and an under-recognized WNBA prospect for 2020, also led the way in several statistical categories.
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
Of course, Nneka and Chiney’s basketball careers have extended well beyond college. Both were WNBA Rookies of the Year, both have played overseas, and in 2014, they became the first sisters ever chosen for the WNBA All-Star Game. (For good measure, they again shared the court as All-Stars in 2018.) Accordingly, Part 2 of this series evaluates which sister has been a better professional player.
The table below shows the sisters’ career WNBA statistics in several categories, courtesy of Basketball-Reference. All statistics are for the regular season unless otherwise indicated. The better result is highlighted in orange. (We’ll get to what the blue indicates shortly.)
Nneka, entering her eighth WNBA season in 2019, clearly outpaces her younger sister in most categories, including points per game, minutes per game, player efficiency rating, and win shares per 40 minutes, which estimates how many wins an individual player helps her team get in 40 minutes of play. Chiney, entering her fourth WNBA season in 2019 after missing 2015 and 2017 with injuries, has the better rebounding rate, grabbing almost 17 percent of all available rebounds. She also outpaces Nneka in field goal percentage, offensive rebounds per game, and blocks per game.
Nneka’s advantage is especially pronounced in the playoffs, as the Los Angeles Sparks advanced to back-to-back WNBA Finals in 2016 and 2017 and won the 2016 WNBA championship. Nneka has played in 31 playoff games to Chiney’s one, and her playoff averages of 14 points and nearly 8 rebounds easily exceed Chiney’s two points and three rebounds. With Chiney’s recent trade to Los Angeles, the sisters will team up in any postseason play for the foreseeable future, which gives Chiney a chance to improve her per-game stats but not to close the gap in games played or titles won.
However, it’s fair to ask whether Nneka has an unfair advantage in these career comparisons because she has had four additional WNBA seasons in which to improve. Here is where the blue cells in the table come in: if we look only at Nneka’s first three WNBA seasons (2012-2014) and compare them to Chiney’s three healthy seasons, not much changes. The three cells in blue—total rebounds per game, assists per game, and offensive rating—are the only categories in which Nneka lagged her sister in the first three years of her career, but has improved enough in the past four seasons to produce better career numbers. Either way you slice the data, then, Nneka appears to have bragging rights in the WNBA.
As professionals, the Ogwumike sisters have also made notable contributions to the sports world off the court. Nneka is the president of the Women’s National Basketball Players’ Association (WNBPA) Executive Committee, which is the league’s labor union. Along with Chiney, one of the committee’s vice presidents, Nneka will help renegotiate the WNBA’s collective bargaining agreement after the 2019 season. Meanwhile, Chiney juggles her WNBA career and WNBPA commitments with a full-time job as an NBA analyst for ESPN. In February, younger sister Olivia told Women’s Hoops World, “Our family operates a little differently because we don’t put a lot of focus on [basketball] in family discussions … When we talk about basketball, we’re looking at it as an opportunity to work hard and grow and create different avenues of our life where we can benefit people.”
This series was intended to answer the question of which Ogwumike is the best basketball player. But if we broaden our perspective to match the family’s, it’s clear that all four sisters have bragging rights off the court.
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.