Nneka Ogwumike could have focused on her pre-match routine. Instead, the 11-year veteran was tutoring rookie Olivia Nelson-Ododa ahead of the Sparks vs Chicago Sky game at Crypto.com Arena on Thursday.
Candace Parker waited in the locker room. Ogwumike mentored the rookie on low post moves and polishing his footwork.
“That’s why it’s an All-Star,” interim manager Fred Williams said with a smile.
The Sparks forward was named All-Star holder on Wednesday for the first time in his 11-year career, earning his seventh overall All-Star honor. But Parker dominated the battle of the seven-time All-Stars, recording a triple-double of 10 points, 10 assists and 14 rebounds in three-quarters of the 82-59 burst in his first game in Los Angeles since leaving as a free agent in 2021. She became the first player in WNBA history with three triple doubles and the first with two in the same season after reaching the finish on May 22nd.
Ogwumike scored 15 points, four rebounds and three assists when the Sparks (6-10) suffered their fourth defeat in five games.
About 10 months ago, Ogwumike burst into tears in front of reporters as she recalled the challenges of her 2021 season. Not only did she suffer the first significant injury of her career – missing 14 games due to a knee sprain – but she was excluded from the roster. Olympic for the third consecutive cycle due to a controversial affront.
After the Olympic break, Ogwumike said he felt “priceless or unworthy”.
Back in full force, Ogwumike is proving how valuable she is still not only to the Sparks, but to the WNBA as well. She starred in a WNBA Sports Illustrated swimsuit released this season and led the Sparks with 18 points and 7.7 rebounds entering Thursday’s game. Ogwumike has the confidence of his teammates to deliver clutch baskets on the pitch and always has the answers.
“The whole building may be on fire and she would be able to keep us calm and tell us what to do,” said striker Katie Lou Samuelson, whose older sister Bonnie played with Ogwumike for a year at Stanford.
Down by 17 early in the second quarter, the Sparks turned to Ogwumike again. He scored six of the team’s next eight unanswered points.
But Ogwumike’s constant presence was no match for Chicago (12-5).
Parker dazzled in his former home arena with 12 rebounds and nine assists in the first half. A lefty layup with 5.2 seconds remaining in the third quarter gave Parker her ninth and tenth points, making her only the second player in league history to reach a triple double in three quarters.
The 36-year-old’s departure from free agency was a major blow to the franchise that enlisted her in 2008, signaling the continued fall of the Sparks from the league’s elite.
While Parker brought his first WNBA championship to Sky’s hometown, Ogwumike was left to lead the Sparks franchise on his own.
She was a mother figure to all WNBA players as the president of the footballers association.
But the additional responsibilities weighed on Ogwumike, so after last year’s disappointment, Ogwumike did something rare. Priority was given.
“I always tell myself this: ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup,'” Ogwumike said after Thursday’s shooting. “It will be more suitable for everyone if I help myself first and then I can help everyone else.”
When he learned she was going to be an All-Star again, Ogwumike thanked his teammates. Ogwumike, always one of her who puts others first, told her teammates that results like these don’t happen on their own.