In 2021 free agency the LA Sparks re-signed Nneka Ogwumike, Chiney Ogwumike, Brittney Sykes, Te’a Cooper, Seimone Augustus and signed Erica Wheeler, Amanda Zahui B., Bria Holmes and Nia Coffey. Here’s a breakdown of new faces and returning players to the squad.
The Sparks made a splash with their first new free agent signing in All-Star guard Erica Wheeler. Wheeler began her professional career overseas and has played for teams in Puerto Rico, Turkey, Brazil, and Spain. Her path to WNBA stardom has been unlikely to say the least. After graduating from Rutgers in 2013, the Parkland, Florida native went two years before finally getting her shot in the W, signing as an undrafted free agent with the Atlanta Dream in 2015.
𝙒𝙚𝙡𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙚 𝙩𝙤 𝙇𝘼, 𝙀𝙧𝙞𝙘𝙖 𝙒𝙝𝙚𝙚𝙡𝙚𝙧! 🌴
— Los Angeles Sparks (@LASparks) February 2, 2021
Wheeler was faced with more adversity after being signed by the Dream, as she struggled to earn playing time and was eventually cut late in the 2015 season. Though the New York Liberty picked her up near the regular season’s end, it was not until 2016 that Wheeler cemented herself as a WNBA mainstay with the Indiana Fever. In 2019, the guard’s most recent season in the league, Wheeler’s rapid ascent reached new heights, as she started in all 34 regular season games and earned WNBA All-Star Game MVP honors.
The Sparks are confident that her career’s upward trajectory will only continue in Los Angeles. Head Coach/General Manager Derek Fisher spoke to Erica’s inspiring rise in the WNBA. “Erica’s life story and journey in the WNBA is proof of her character, work ethic and competitive spirit.” Meanwhile, Wheeler voiced excitement at her Sparks signing press conference. “Everybody who has reached out to me from the organization has been amazing and I want to thank the ownership group, front office and coaches for believing in me. I look forward to getting to know my new teammates and I’m ready to get things started with the squad.”
Watch Erica Wheeler’s full introductory press conference here.
On February 11, the Sparks added free agent and former No. 2 overall pick Amanda Zahui B. The Swedish national, a center, will add size and versatility to the Sparks lineup. Zahui B. played her rookie season in 2015 with the Tulsa Shock, but has spent the past five seasons with the New York Liberty. Zahui B. had her best season to date in 2020, averaging 9.0 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game. Moreover, she shot 34% from beyond the arc, a statistic that is especially impressive for a center. Derek Fisher called her, “a great teammate and person who brings the type of toughness and work ethic we want in our locker room.” Zahui B. echoed Fisher’s excitement. “From my first conversation with Coach Fisher, I knew right away that playing for the Los Angeles Sparks was a place where I could grow not only as a player but as a person.” Zahui B. has a history of success playing in Los Angeles, with one of her most dominant appearances coming against the Sparks in 2019, a game in which she scored a career-high 37 points and hit a whopping seven three-pointers.
𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝘽𝙞𝙜 𝘼𝙥𝙥𝙡𝙚 ➡️𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝘾𝙞𝙩𝙮 𝙤𝙛 𝘼𝙣𝙜𝙚𝙡𝙨
𝙒𝙚𝙡𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙚 𝙩𝙤 𝙇𝘼, 𝙕𝙖𝙝𝙪𝙞 𝘽! 🌴
— Los Angeles Sparks (@LASparks) February 11, 2021
Watch Amanda Zahui B.’s full introductory press conference here.
The Sparks signed guard/wing Bria Holmes on February 19. Holmes had spent the last two seasons playing for the Connecticut Sun, helping them to an Eastern Conference title and WNBA Finals appearance in 2019. With her postseason experience, the Sparks are confident she will fit in with the team’s winning culture. Holmes has proven a solid contributor throughout her career which began in 2016 with the Atlanta Dream, averaging 6.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. Derek Fisher was excited to announce her signing, calling her “a competitor who puts pressure on the rim, defends with intensity, and provides us with youth, size, and athleticism as both a shooting guard and small forward.” The excitement was mutual, as Holmes said she was eager to “begin this new chapter with such an iconic organization.”
𝗖𝗼𝗻𝗻𝗲𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗰𝘂𝘁 ↪️ 𝗟𝗼𝘀 𝗔𝗻𝗴𝗲𝗹𝗲𝘀
Welcome to the Sparks, Bria!
— Los Angeles Sparks (@LASparks) February 19, 2021
Watch Bria Holmes’ full introductory press conference here.
On March 4 the Sparks announced their signing of guard/forward Nia Coffey, who played the 2020 season with the Phoenix Mercury. The Northwestern graduate has averaged 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game during her four-year career. She adds key dimension to the Sparks offense as a great shooter; she is a career 35.2% shooter from downtown. Additionally, she has built a reputation as a tough defender throughout her career. Coffey is yet to spend more than a year in one city during her WNBA career. She played her rookie season with the San Antonio Stars in 2017 before moving with the team to Las Vegas in 2018 where they became the Aces. She was then traded to the Atlanta Dream prior to the 2019 season, before being dealt to the Mercury before 2020 season began. Derek Fisher welcomed her signing. “The addition of Nia Coffey provides us with additional athleticism, youth and versatility on the wing.” Coffey voiced enthusiasm for her new team as well, saying she looks “forward to playing with a special group of players.” Coffey comes from a strong basketball tradition as her father Richard Coffey played in the NBA and her brother Amir Coffey is currently a player in the Los Angeles Clippers organization.
𝘝𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘶𝘯 ➡️ 𝘊𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘈𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘭𝘴
Welcome to the Sparks, Nia Coffey!
— Los Angeles Sparks (@LASparks) March 4, 2021
Watch Nia Coffey’s full introductory press conference here.
The Sparks kicked off the free agency period by re-signing guard Te’a Cooper on January 11. Cooper impressed during her rookie season in the WNBA bubble, averaging 7.0 points and 2.0 assists per game on limited minutes. She was among the top 10 rookies in both points and assists. Additionally, she quickly established herself as a shooting threat, shooting 45.1% from the field and knocking down 34.3% of her three-pointers.
OFFICIAL: Sparks Re-Sign Te’a Cooper.
— Los Angeles Sparks (@LASparks) January 11, 2021
Cooper is thrilled to continue her growth with the Sparks organization. “I can’t wait to get back on the court and help the Sparks compete for a championship.” For his part, Derek Fisher is confident in Cooper’s future. “We’re excited about the role Te’a can play for us on both the offensive and defensive end and her potential to be an impact player in this league.” Cooper’s impact is not limited to the court however, as she has quickly built one of the most prominent social media presences in the WNBA. In 2020, she ranked No. 1 in the league in social media engagement. She recently signed a partnership with Jumpman, Nike’s Jordan Brand along with four other WNBA players.
On February 8, the Sparks made public their re-signing of guard/wing and former No.7 overall pick Brittney Sykes. Sykes played her first season with the Sparks in 2020 after spending her first three WNBA seasons with the Atlanta Dream. Sykes had a very productive 2020 campaign, averaging 10.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game and shooting nearly 50% from the field. In addition, Sykes was one of the Sparks’ key defenders, as she was named to the WNBA All-Defensive Second Team after limiting elite perimeter players all season. Sykes, who is currently playing in Turkey during the offseason thanked the Sparks for bringing her back. “I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to continue my career with the LA Sparks.” Meanwhile, Derek Fisher stated, “We’re really happy that Brittney Sykes is choosing to remain a key part of the LA Sparks family.” With the loss of Candace Parker and Chelsea Gray, Sykes will be even more integral to the Sparks’ success in 2021 than she was in 2020.
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐁𝐥𝐨𝐜𝐤 𝐏𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐲 𝐢𝐬 𝐁𝐚𝐜𝐤 😈
— Los Angeles Sparks (@LASparks) February 8, 2021
Watch Brittney Sykes’ full re-signing press conference here.
On February 22, the Sparks announced they would be re-signing four-time WNBA champion, three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, and eight-time All-Star guard/forward Seimone Augustus. Augustus, who joined the Sparks in 2020, will continue to occupy a leadership role with the team. The 15-year veteran and former No. 1 overall draft pick played her first 14 seasons with the Minnesota Lynx and has built one of the most successful careers in WNBA history. In 2020, the legend averaged 5.9 points per game and shot 49.1% from the field and 54.5% from three. Augustus has career averages of 15.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. She is 10th in WNBA history in all-time scoring with 6,005 career points. Meanwhile, her 48% shooting from the field is good for seventh all time. Augustus also has illustrious postseason statistics, averaging 15.5 points per game in 58 games while shooting 45.2% from the field. Derek Fisher praised Augustus in his announcement that she would be remaining with the Sparks in 2021. “Seimone Augustus is a four-time champion who demonstrated her invaluable leadership experience last year. She brings efficient outside shooting, scoring in bunches, and an elite basketball IQ on both ends of the floor that will be important for us next season. We’re excited she’ll be continuing her storied career in Los Angeles.” Meanwhile, Augustus is excited to continue her veteran leadership role with the team. “This organization is filled with young players and veterans ready to compete and grow as a team. I’m motivated to help lead this group into the next era of Sparks basketball.”
💸 𝙎𝙚𝙖𝙨𝙤𝙣 𝙏𝙬𝙤 𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙋𝙪𝙧𝙥𝙡𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙂𝙤𝙡𝙙 💸
Welcome Back, Money Mone!
— Los Angeles Sparks (@LASparks) February 22, 2021
Watch Seimone Augustus’ full re-signing press conference here.
On February 25, the Sparks re-signed two-time All-Star and former No. 1 overall pick Chiney Ogwumike. The forward/center played the 2014, 2016, and 2018 seasons (she did play in 2015 and 2017 due to injuries) with the Connecticut Sun before joining the Sparks in 2019. In her career Ogwumike has averaged 13.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game. Her career field goal percentage is 55.5%, the fourth highest in WNBA history. During her most recent season of action in 2019, she averaged 9.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Derek Fisher mentioned Ogwumike’s important roles on and off the court when speaking about her re-signing. “We’re excited to have Chiney Ogwumike back on the court with us. In 2019, Chiney brought us energy, defense, rebounding and an ability to score efficiently. Off the court, she continues to raise the bar as a role model, entrepreneur and civic leader.” Ogwumike is thrilled to be playing with the Sparks again. “I am grateful to be a part of an organization that works with me to continue to push boundaries on and off the court.” Aside from being an incredible basketball player, the Stanford graduate serves as vice president of the WNBPA and is a full-time NBA analyst for ESPN, where she made history as the first Black woman to co-host a daily, nationally syndicated radio show for the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
𝘾𝙤𝙣𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙪𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙤 𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙣𝙚 𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝘾𝙞𝙩𝙮 𝙤𝙛 𝙎𝙩𝙖𝙧𝙨 🌟
Welcome Back, Chiney Ogwumike!
— Los Angeles Sparks (@LASparks) February 25, 2021
Watch Chiney Ogwumike’s full re-signing press conference here.
On March 2, the Sparks announced the re-signing of 2016 MVP and WNBA champion Nneka Ogwumike. The announcement came five days after Ogwumike’s sister Chiney Ogwumike re-signed with the Sparks. The six-time All-Star forward, whose first season in the W was 2012, has spent her entire career with the Sparks. The team has made the playoffs every season that Ogwumike has been with the team. The former No. 1 overall pick has career averages of 16.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game. Her career field goal shooting percentage is 55.2%, while her three-point shooting percentage is 36.4% and her percentage from the charity strike is 83.6%. Her career 61.6% true shooting percentage is second highest in WNBA history. Additionally, her 2016 true shooting percentage of 73.7% is the best single-season true shooting percentage in either WNBA or NBA history. The Stanford graduate said she is “motivated to continue building the Sparks legacy as we head into our 25th anniversary season.” Meanwhile, Derek Fisher called her “an exemplary person, athlete, and teammate.” Ogwumike is a force both on and off the court. As WNBPA president, Ogwumike played a vital role in negotiating the 2020 league CBA. Moreover, she is one of the league’s most outspoken social justice advocates. In 2020, the LA Sports Council named her one of three Sportspersons of the Year, alongside LeBron James and Mookie Betts.
🌟 Rookie of the Year
🌟 WNBA Champion
🌟 6x All-Star
🌟 WNBPA President
All in the purple and gold.
Welcome Back, Nneka Ogwumike!
— Los Angeles Sparks (@LASparks) March 2, 2021
Watch Nneka Ogwumike’s full re-signing press conference here.
On March 4, Head Coach and General Manager Derek Fisher recapped the Sparks’ free agency. You can watch the full press conference here.