Ogwumike is vital for Spark’s rebuild process
In a year crippled by uncertainty for the Los Angeles Sparks, two things were consistent night in and night out: Nneka Ogwumike has shown up and shown out this season, as have the fans wearing her #30 jersey.
Consistency is one of the most valued character traits in sports, and most fans don’t even realize how much it matters to them.
It’s thrilling when a great player signs with a new team, dramatic when they demand a trade, mystifying when they are in a slump and tragic when their skills start to fade.
With all the excitement that uncertainty brings to sports, it’s easy to forget that everyone’s favorite players are the ones who avoid the drama.
Uncertainty sells newspapers, but consistency sells jerseys.
Ogwumike is a prime example of this. As perennially great as they come, she’s filled her trophy case with a WNBA Finals title, WNBA MVP award, 6 All-Star game selections, 4 WNBA All-Defensive first team selections and an All-WNBA first team selection. It wasn’t a surprise when she was selected to the W25 team, a team composed of the 25 greatest players in WNBA history, in 2021.
She’s a baller, no doubt, but she’s an even more impressive leader.
You have to be a pretty remarkable human being and be doing some pretty remarkable things to be elected WNBA Players Association President for two consecutive terms, as well as win the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award for three consecutive years.
Ogwumike has indeed been remarkable. She’s led the most united and organized pro sports league in the world on the front of social justice, helped salvage a WNBA season in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic and led negotiations for a groundbreaking new collective bargaining agreement — and that’s just within the last few years.
The star player also showed her acting prowess, making her debut in “Space Jam: A New Legacy ” alongside LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Klay Thompson — Arachnneka was the dopest Goon Squad member too.
All things considered, it’s no wonder it seems like every jersey at Sparks games reads “Ogwumike 30” on the back.
In a season with so much turmoil, the Sparks especially needed Ogwumike’s consistent greatness. Head Coach and General Manager Derek Fisher was fired due to the team’s underperformance, star center Liz Cambage effectively quit on the team midseason and the team saw a plethora of injuries. Although the Sparks were statistically in the playoff hunt for a majority of the season, they once again fell short.
But Ogwumike has continued to ball at her highest level yet. She in the top 7 in points per game, steals per game and efficiency — her three trademark skills. In other words, as the Sparks miss the playoffs, it wasn’t because she didn’t lead, but because others didn’t follow.
Most superstars would leave their team after a season like the Sparks have experienced, and who could blame them? Players want to win and the Sparks aren’t winning. There’s no obvious plan for the future and Ogwumike’s contract is expiring. She’s in the prime of her career, and she could get paid well and spend a decent number of years in the prime of her career on a team built to win now.
But I think she’ll stay. History suggests it. She stayed when Chelsea Gray and Candace Parker left — she’s never given up like Cambage did. There could be a rebuild, or at least a retool, in store next year for the Sparks. But, if I know anything about Ogwumike, she’ll stick around, embrace the challenge and lead the charge like she always has, steady on course.
Even in the event that she doesn’t return, she’s done enough to establish herself as a franchise player. Her name will always be tied to the Sparks and her jersey should be in the rafters as soon as she’s done playing.
Here’s to hoping we don’t have her jersey retired for a while, though. Here’s to hoping she can wear her iconic #30 Sparks jersey on the court for a good while longer, because she’s been an icon in action night in and night out.
As sports fans, our favorite players are the ones who are always there for our team. Nneka Ogwumike has always shown up in full force.
As long as she continues to shine in the L.A. spotlight, fans need to show up for her in return. They’ll miss an icon if they don’t.
Ethan Inman is a sophomore who recently became a fan of the LA Sparks and decided to write about them from a fan’s perspective.