Sister, Sister: Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike

Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike of the Los Angeles Sparks share a sisterhood of basketball and empowerment.

Nnemkadi “Nneka” Ogwumike, the older sister by two years, graduated from Stanford University in 2012. She was the Cardinal’s third all-time leading scorer with 2,491 points and earned just about every collegiate honor. Now, a seven-year WNBA veteran, the forward has earned most honors the league offers, her most notable being 2016 WNBA Most Valuable Player and 2016 WNBA Champion. Her list of accolades continues with WNBA Rookie of the Year, All-Defensive Team, All-First Team, and All-Star honors.

A gritty competitor, Nneka’s game is rebounding. In her career thus far, Nneka averages 7.6 RPG. She snagged a career-high 20 rebounds against Indiana in 2012, but her game isn’t confined to the paint. The versatile forward swished 5 of 7 attempted 3-pointers against the top-ranked Washington Mystics earlier this season. Nneka’s unselfish personality translates  to her play, setting assist screens for teammates like Chelsea Gray and finishing on pick-and-roll plays.

Nneka was recognized as the 2018 WNBA Community Assist Award recipient after working with children to contribute. Children, quite literally, look up to Nneka as a mentor, as does her younger sister Chiney.

Chinenye “Chiney” Ogwumike, the taller of the sisters by two inches, followed in Nneka’s footsteps but certainly not in her shadow. The player that outscored Nneka to become Stanford’s leading scorer? Chiney. Finishing with 2,737 points and 1,567 rebounds, Chiney fortified the Ogwumike legacy before graduating in 2014. In her senior season alone, She recorded 967 points, a Pac-12 single-season scoring record.

The Ogwumike sisters would rather support instead of compete each other. It wasn’t until the 2019 season that the Texas sisters were granted the opportunity by the Los Angeles Sparks.

Chiney was drafted to the Connecticut Sun and active with them for three seasons. In her first season the lengthy power-forward played and started in all 31 games. Leading her team in scoring (15.5 PPG) and rebounding (264) to earn 2014 WNBA Rookie of the Year honors, a title Nneka held two years prior. While Chiney was new to the league, Nneka was a three-year professional that lead the Sparks with 7.1 rebounds and started in all 33 games played. The Ogwumike sister’s individual games shared similarities including relentless rebounding and the ability to log double-doubles regularly.

Nneka posted 49 double-doubles throughout her career and counting. Chiney posted 13 double-doubles in her rookie campaign alone – fifth highest in Sun history – and eight in 2016 after recovering from microfracture surgery on her right knee the season prior.

 

In the time Chiney was sidelined, she began a career as an ESPN analyst, commuting one hour to ESPN’s Bristol campus while playing for the Sun in Connecticut. Since becoming a voice for females, Chiney has hosted the NBA Celebrity Game, attended a Bleacher Report panel in honor of Black History Month, and joined NBA Africa in traveling to Rwanda, Kenya, and Nigeria. Chiney’s first-hand experience playing collegiate and professional basketball backs her credibility as an analyst and allows her to silence stereotypes against females in sports.

Energy, another category in which the sisters would lead, is what keeps them on the court. As teammates on the Sparks, Nneka and Chiney both started at the beginning of the 2019 season. If Chiney didn’t roll her shorts, you could easily confuse the two when they’re both crashing the boards with the same tenacity.

The sisters are just as active off the court. Nneka is president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) and Chiney is Vice President. Collaborating with players on all of the 12 WNBA teams, the Ogwumike sisters use their platforms as professional athletes to break down barriers of inequality in the workforce.

As first-generation Nigerian-Americans, Nneka and Chiney have partnered with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Efforts of UNICEF include engaging American girls basketball players in community service while raising awareness of current events in Nigeria.

Funds raised by UNICEF support Nigeria’s emergency fund that helps support programs like girls education and girls empowerment in addition to initiatives that protect and save the lives of children.

Peter and Ify Ogwumike are the parents to Nneka and Chiney. There are two younger Ogwumike sisters, Olivia and Erica. Rather than attending Cy-Fair High School like their big sisters, Olivia and Erica attended Cypress Woods High School near Houston.

Olivia, 5’11, and Erica, 5’9, transferred from Pepperdine University to Rice University. Olivia, a senior this past season, had
her best campaign as a redshirt junior, averaging 9.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in 24.3 minutes despite missing 23 games due to injury. Erica most recently in her junior season became the first student-athlete in school history to earn C-USA Female Athlete of the Year honors and Conference USA Player of the Year honors after averaging 16.5 points and 10.5 boards.

If Erica has learned anything from watching Nneka and Chiney play, it’s how to log double-doubles. Erica led all C-USA players with 18 double-doubles in 2018-2019, which ranked 17th in the NCAA.