Forward Nneka Ogwumike has helped make the Los Angeles Sparks one of the most winningest teams in the city in recent years. Last season, the Sparks endured only eight losses out of 34 games and had a 16-1 home game record.
As the 2018 season continues, different teams have stepped up to threaten the Sparks run for their fourth championship, including Nneka’s younger sister Chiney and the Connecticut Sun.
The Sun currently pace the WNBA with a 7-1 overall record and are undefeated at home. Yet, the Sparks are second in the league, enduring their first loss of 2018 to the Sun. This meeting was the second time Chiney and Nneka ever competed against each other.
“Mentally going up against your big sister is not easy,” Chiney said. “But, I think we’ve realized we both are just competing for our teams.”
Both players have made profound strides in the WNBA, Nneka and Chiney are the 2012 and 2014 Rookies of the Year respectively. Nneka also became the 2016 league MVP and is a four-time WNBA All-Star. Chiney was named AP Comeback Player of the Year in 2016, leading Connecticut with 6.7 rebounds per game after recovering from a knee injury.
The Ogwumike sisters have also made their mark outside of the league with Nneka aiding the team Dynamo Kursk in Russia to two consecutive undefeated in-season records and a EuroLeague Women’s Title in 2017. Chiney also competed overseas and has been a co-host on SportsCenter Africa.
With Nneka helping the Sparks win the 2016 WNBA championship and Chiney becoming the only full-time professional athlete and full-time ESPN commentator, they are some of the hardest working women in all of sports.
“If she’s not playing basketball, she’s talking about it or she’s talking about sports,” Nneka said. “I think it’s amazing for her to have been able to find that.”
As of June 11, Nneka is averaging 18.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game while Chiney has made 13.0 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
“I’ve seen over the past three, four years the stuff Nneka’s worked on in Russia and how that’s really advanced her game,” Chiney said. “I’m really working on trying to be someone that could face the four and make right reads and now Nneka is one of the best at that in the WNBA.”
Earlier in the season, Chiney covered the NBA playoffs. While traveling to Boston for Celtics games and maintaining her other obligations to ESPN, Chiney helped the Sun commit a five-game winning streak.
In February, Nneka had the opportunity to shadow Chiney while she worked at ESPN. Although training camp for the WNBA had not started, Chiney’s day began at 5:00A.M.
“I was able to see the relationships she has, the professional relationships and the effect that she has with her personality and character at work,” Nneka said. “For me, it was a lot just witnessing without her being full-fledged in the WNBA season and now, I really don’t know how it works out.”
Nneka has a tight schedule also. Between competing with the Sparks and Dynamo Kursk, she visits home for around two weeks every year, according to Chiney.
“Two weeks is a good year for her to be home,” Chiney said. “It’s difficult what women’s basketball players have to do.”
Nneka and Chiney make up the older half of four sisters, their younger siblings, Erica and Olivia, play basketball at Rice University.
Although they are opponents, Nneka and Chiney admire each other’s efforts, accolades and achievements. Their hard work adds a new level of skill and complexity to women’s basketball.