Nneka Ogwumike made franchise scoring history, and it’s still just scratching the surface

It was only a matter of time before she would make history, but Nneka Ogwumike was so focused on the game, that she didn’t even realize it was happening until it was done.

Against the New York Liberty on August 1st, Ogwumike made a move to score a rather routine layup, and in turn moved into second in Sparks franchise history in scoring with 5684 career points. She passed Candace Parker, and trails Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie.

The Sparks announced the milestone on the video board during a timeout to thousands of screaming fans singing their praises. A few even jokingly bowed to the star player as she was in the timeout huddle. But, Ogwumike was locked into the close game and elevating her teammates, rather than focusing on the milestone.

Postgame, all she did was humbly express gratitude.

“I feel very blessed,” Ogwumike said. “I don’t want people to think I’m not appreciative. It’s just I’m not aware of a lot of these things but I’m very grateful… especially to be in a Sparks uniform for 12 years doing this.”

26 years ago, Leslie paved the way for her. She scored 6263 points with the Sparks from 1997 to 2009. Leslie led the Sparks to back-to-back WNBA titles in 2001 and 2002, and was pivotal in the league’s growth. She was one of the faces of the league in 1997 because she played for her hometown team and led the charge for the WNBA in its infancy.

Ogwumike took the baton in 2012, when Los Angeles drafted her first overall. She has more than lived up to the hype ever since. Immediately, Ogwumike won Rookie of the Year after she averaged 14.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

In 2016, the WNBPA President began stacking more on court milestones. She led the Sparks to their third WNBA championship and won the league’s Most Value Player award. Throughout her career, Los Angeles has made the playoffs nine times including two trips to the WNBA Finals in 2016 and 2017. During that MVP season, Ogwumike averaged just under 19 points and nine rebounds per game.

She is displaying that same dominance in 2023. Ogwumike currently averages a career high 19.8 points to go along with 9.0 rebounds per game. She ranks top five in the league in steals (1.7 spg) and rebounds while being top six in scoring. The stat line and leadership is launching Ogwumike into the national conversation to make the All-WNBA team, something she’s done five other times in her career.

Off the court, Ogwumike has served as the WNBA Players Association President since 2016. She was instrumental in negotiating the league’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2020 and in helping navigate the ‘bubble’ during the COVID-19 pandemic in Bradenton, Florida among many other feats.

Sparks Head Coach Curt Miller fully recognizes his star player’s greatness, and how historic this most recent milestone is among everything else Ogwumike has accomplished.

“What a storied career she has had here, just a huge accomplishment to only trail the legendary Lisa Leslie says so much about what her career has been,” Miller said. “You can’t talk about Nneka enough and what she has meant to us and what kind of year she has had.”

As any leader would be, Ogwumike has also been inspiring teammates for years. Sparks sharp-shooter Karlie Samueslon remembers a version of Ogwumike, when she played at Stanford with Samuelson’s older sister Bonnie. Those college days foreshadowed what was to come.

Ogwumike led the Cardinal to four Final Four appearances and four Conference Championships from 2008-12. She also currently ranks top three in program history in scoring. Bonnie Samuelson and Ogwumike played together during the 2011-12 season where the two played in a Final Four. K. Samuelson has played with her intermittently on the Sparks since 2017.

“I have known Nneka for a long time, even before she was on the Sparks. It’s special,” Samuelson said. “I am really proud of her because she is consistent, she is excellence on display.”

Ogwumike currently sits at 5729 career points, and with just over 500 points to go, many believe it is a matter of time before she catches up to Leslie’s record.

While many count down to the next milestone, Ogwumike will remain the same ‘consistent’ star because Samuelson says it best ‘That’s just Nneka being Nneka.’