As she left Crypto.com Arena last year after the Sparks’ last game, Nneka Ogwumike left local reporters with cheerful parting words.
“See you next season.”
The former MVP made that statement official Friday by re-signing with the Sparks as an unrestricted free agent. Ogwumike will return to the franchise for a 12th season, hoping to help the organization rekindle its success after two consecutive losing seasons.
“I started in Los Angeles as a wide-eyed rookie hopeful to last and to lead in a city and with a franchise defined by its legends and legacy,” Ogwumike said in a statement. “Over the last 11 years, with champions and with challenges, my veteran vision remains clear and committed to what it truly means to play in this league, in THIS city, for 12 seasons, repping that iconic purple and gold.”
Ogwumike averaged 18.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 steals last season, earning second-team All-WNBA honors and a seventh All-Star appearance. She has shot better than 51% from the field every season, including last year’s 54.4% clip.
Yet the Sparks have missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since Ogwumike lost longtime co-star Candace Parker. While Parker went to Chicago as a free agent in 2021, won a title with her hometown team and then signed with the Las Vegas Aces this year, Ogwumike has been a steadying presence during the Sparks’ recent struggles.
Before the 2016 most valuable player officially re-signed with the team Friday, Sparks executives spoke publicly about her return and her role in the franchise’s rebuild. First-year general manager Karen Bryant said in a statement that bringing Ogwumike back was “the top priority of 2023 free agency” for the team.
“Nneka is an extraordinary person and teammate,” head coach Curt Miller said in a statement. “Not only is she a top-level leader for the Sparks, but she is a leader for the entire league. Her work ethic and dedication to her craft is exceptional.”
Ogwumike, who also serves as the president of the WNBA players union, will join her younger sister Chiney, former Las Vegas Aces forward Dearica Hamby and Azurá Stevens in a retooled frontcourt for the Sparks.