The Los Angeles Sparks secured the return of a big name free agent, star forward Nneka Ogwumike.
The 2016 league MVP has played all 11 of her seasons in the WNBA with the Sparks.
And she’ll remain with the team that drafted her over a decade ago after agreeing to a one-year contract with the Sparks, according to ESPN.
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Ogwumike’s signing comes at a pivotal point for the Sparks. The team recently lost free agent signee Stephanie Talbot for the season due to a knee injury. And Katie Lou Samuelson is expected to miss the entire 2023 season due to her pregnancy.
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Ogwumike has previously expressed her desire to return to the team, and she worked with the Sparks front office to work out a deal that would give the organization some salary cap flexibility.
Ogwumike has been named to five All-WNBA teams and is a five-time All-Defensive player. She was averaged 16.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in her career.
“I feel like I’m reaching a pivotal point in my career and understanding what I want it to mean,” Ogwumike told ESPN. “I’m excited to see a lot of the enhancements that we’re making. I’m grateful to be surrounded by both players, coaches and staff that have a greater vision for the organization.
“I feel really good with where I’m at and how I’m progressing as an athlete. I want to be able to win and do that with some great people. I really do believe in this organization.”
Ogwumike’s MVP campaign helped lift the Sparks to a championship in 2016. But the franchise has suffered disappointment in recent years and missed the playoffs the last two seasons.
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Five-time NBA champion Derek Fisher was relieved of his head coaching duties in June 2022. Fred Williams was named the interim coach and finished out last season before Curt Miller took over full-time coaching duties.
Miller said Ogwumike was one of the reasons he decided to join the franchise.
“The conversations with Nneka and the collaborations we had … we wanted to do this with players who really want to be with the Sparks,” Miller said. “This is a fun, new era, and Nneka is the centerpiece of what we’re going to try to do. Her communication throughout this whole free agency has been an incredible partnership.
“And she’s an outstanding, versatile player. She probably doesn’t get the credit she deserves for how versatile she has been.”
The Sparks also signed free Chiney Ogwumike, Nneka’s sister. Chiney previously played for Miller in Connecticut.
The Ogwumike sisters spent two seasons in college together on the Stanford Cardinal women’s basketball team, and both have been with the Sparks since 2019.
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“We’re really two entities that are stronger together,” Nneka said. “It’s always something to be celebrated. And I really want to take that to another level in winning with my sister.”