WNBA superstar and Players Association President Nneka Ogwumike talks with Kelley about her unusual path to becoming one of the most influential leaders in sports.
Ogwumike discusses her Nigerian-American upbringing in Houston, Texas, and the impact her family background had on her basketball career. As the oldest of four sisters, Ogwumike served as the family guinea pig, becoming the first to pick up a basketball, with the other three not far behind. Ogwumike says her dedication to basketball broke with the expectations of some adults in her community, before making them realize that sports were a powerful compliment to rather than a substitute for her educational drive.
At Stanford University, Ogwumike led the Cardinal to four straight Final Fours, leaving as the school’s second all-time leading scorer behind Candice Wiggins. Ogwumike’s younger sister Chiney would ultimately join her at Stanford, where she would have to talk her older sister into going pro. This turned out to be sage advice, as Ogwumike was taken No. 1 in the WNBA draft by the Los Angeles Sparks before going on to win Rookie of the Year.
Ogwumike talks with Kelley about her experiences playing abroad as a pro in Poland, Russia and China. Her biggest moment of culture shock? Having to learn how to drive stick shift in Poland with her dad.
In 2016, Ogwumike set a basketball record for true shooting percentage on her way to winning both league MVP and a WNBA championship. her 73.7% true shooting percentage is the best ever recorded in the history of the sport, for either the NBA or the WNBA. In a do-or-die Game 5 agains the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA Finals, Ogwumike hit the game-winning shit to clinch the championship for Los Angeles.
That same year, Ogwumike was elected President of the WNBA’s Players Association, a position she was re-elected to in 2019. As President, Ogwumike led the league in opting out of their collective bargaining agreement in 2018 before signing a groundbreaking new agreement in 2020, which included full maternity coverage, improved travel conditions, higher salaries, and a greater investment in marketing. Shortly after, Ogwumike led the league through its greatest challenge yet: the WNBA bubble in Bradenton, Florida at IMG Academy. Ogwumike helped secure full salaries for all WNBA players while also working with the league to amplify its social justice message during a season that saw a 68% increase in television viewership.
- WNBA Players Association President (2016-)
- WNBA Champion (2016)
- WNBA MVP (2016)
- 6X WNBA All-Star (2013-2015, 2017-2019)
- All-WNBA First Team (2016)
- 3x All-WNBA Second Team (2014, 2017, 2019)
- 4x WNBA All-Defensive First Team (2015-2017, 2019)
- 2x Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award (2019, 2020)
- 2x World Cup gold medalist (2014, 2018)
- 2017 Euroleague Champion
- Polish National League champion (2013)
- WNBA Rookie of the Year (2012)
- No. 1 WNBA draft pick (2012)
- All-time basketball record for true shooting percentage (73.7%)
- 2x Wade Trophy Finalist (2011, 2012)
- 2x Wooden Award Finalist (2011, 2012)
- 2x Naismith Finalist (2011, 2012)
- 2x Pac-12 Player of the Year (2012, 2010)
- AP All-America 1st Team (2012)
- Gatorade National Player of the Year (2008
- MaxPreps National Girls Athlete of the Year (2008)
- Co-Parade Magazine National Player of the Year (2008)
- LA Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike: ‘Our hope is that this isn’t a moment but it is a movement’ (The Guardian)
- Nneka Ogwumike is a President for the People (Sports Illustrated)
- Nneka Ogwumike and the W.N.B.A.’s Big, Complicated Moment (The New Yorker)
- Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike has been the representative for WNBA players’ fight for better pay (Los Angeles Times)
- Nneka Ogwumike: The Complete Breakdown (Queen Ballers Club)