On Thursday Night the Los Angeles Sparks and the Connecticut Sun will square off in WNBA Action at the Mohegan Sun Arena, with the tip slated for 7:00 p.m.
Fans who are watching the game will see a very interesting battle, as sisters Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike will battle the other for the first time in nearly two years (last meeting on July 15, 2016). It is the fifth time the sisters have squared off against the other overall.
The Sisters have had an amazing journey to the WNBA together from Cypress, Texas to Stanford and even team USA. Seeing time in the Final Four Tournament, playing in the World Cup and having experiences that little girls growing up playing basketball can only dream of.
It started with the elder sister Nneka, who was drafted Number One overall in the 2012 WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. Nneka whose name in Igbo means “Mother is Supreme,’ has had a career that has been beyond supreme thus far. Highlights for Ogwumike includes winning the WNBA Most Valuable Player Award in 2016, and having an opportunity to play in the WNBA All-Star team Four times.
For Chiney the journey started in 2014, when the power forward was drafted first overall in the 2014 WNBA draft by the Connecticut Sun. Highlights for Chiney thus far include winning the WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2014. Playing in 64 games, with 49 starts over the past two seasons. Thus far in her career, she has posted 896 points, 485 rebounds, 70 blocks, 69 steals and 42 assists.
The Sisters have achieved plenty of accomplishments together, as they were the first pair to be selected to the WNBA All-Star game in 2014, for the most part though they have been busy in establishing their own names and creating their own brand in the competitive world of Professional Women’s Basketball.
When Nneka and Chiney first faced the other in 2014, the media hype and excitement for the match was very real, as the coverage for it was seen across multiple media outlets.
“The first time we played against each other when I was a rookie in 2014, it felt like a circus,” Chiney said. Nneka scored 24 points for Los Angeles at the time in the 90-64 victory for the Sparks, while Chiney put up 18 for the Sun. “It was the first time we ever played against each other really in life. But after that, everything got much easier mentally and physically….for me, my life has gotten much better. Mentally going up against your big sister is not easy.”
Instead of their being a competition between the duo, they are able to maintain a supportive relationship, while wanting to both improve, stay hungry and work on their own game at the WNBA level.
Chiney deals with comparison to her big sister to this day, as her team the Connecticut Sun had a ‘Taco Tuesday,’ night earlier this week watched the Sparks beat the Indiana Fever 87-70. Nneka scored 25 points, while busting out some smooth moves in the victory.
“Nneka hit a stepback, and all my teammates looked at me like, ‘Oh she has got a stepback?’ And I am like, ‘Well she is different from me,” Chiney said with a laugh. “It is just funny because I watch her game and I immediately start thinking, ‘OK, this is what I want to do,’ because I know how hard she works to develop that outside shot.”
Nneka is just as much in awe of her younger sister, who has beat two injuries to evolve to one of the few players who balances a professional Women’s Basketball career with a career of a broadcaster for ESPN.
“She is like a businesswoman, and it is kind of freaky,” Nneka said of her sister with a laugh. “I really don’t know how it works out. If she is not practicing, she is watching games. If she is not watching games and it is a day off, she is at the ESPN Campus or in New York or Boston.”
2017 was a career -defining moment for both Nneka and Chiney, as they had different Journeys. In 2017 Nneka played and started in 34 games, averaging 30.9 mpg, 7.7 rpg and 2.1 apg, finishing third in the League in steals having averaged 1.85 spg, while also leading the team in scoring an amazing 17 games averaging 18.8 ppg.
For Chiney the path was much different as she injured her achilles while playing overseas in China, she was ruled out with an estimated recovery time of 6-9 months, which caused her to miss the 2017 WNBA Season.
That did not discourage her though, as while one door closed another to ESPN opened, as the Broadcasting company based out of Bristol, Connecticut signed her to a full-time analyst job in 2018. At the time Chiney was 26, and was one of the youngest analysts at the network.
“The Injury process has been one of the hardest things I have gone through,” Chiney said. “Not only because it is an injury, but it has happened to me twice and they are not easy injuries to come back from. Just being able to trust the process, surrender myself to the process and that I try to win each and every day that I am in and Nneka knows these things. In your mind you know where you are, but every day you have to inch, and scrach, and claw to back to where you can be and ever better is the ultimate mind game.”
Ogwumike continued to reflect, “For me it has been really thrilling, but at the same time challenging, but also at the same time super fun. Not many people get three chances to do what they love. I feel very fortunate at the end of the day because to survive two injuries, I am lucky and blessed to be able to play basketball and it is something I do not take for granted.”
Nneka had this to say of her sister and her amazing ability to balance both professional professions, “It takes someone who is mentally sound and able to balance all of that and she does it gracefully. She makes it look very easy and I know for a fact it is not.”
Chiney, who was on her way to Boston on Wednesday for the NBA Playoff game between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, had informed people that she was going to leave at the end of the first quarter so that she can entertain friends and family who were in town to watch her and her sister play.
“Our journey has always been about us tag-teaming together, so the first time we played was a big moment for not only our family, our friends, but also for anyone who knows us and knows that we have always played for the same team.” On if there was any trash talking between the sisters, “Thus far there hasn’t been a ton of trash talk between the two, but instead it has been what was described as ‘mercy talk’ as Chiney Described it.
“My family was like, ‘Be nice to the middle child, please Nneka, please,’” Chiney joked. “It is mercy talk, I am out here begging. Nneka has come out of the gates hot this season and it is just funny when I catch myself in moments of watching the game or watching her highlights and being inspired.” Chiney continued by saying. “But I’m like, I gotta guard that the next game. But I’m not scared, I don’t back down.”
This is just the beginning of what has been an amazing ride for these two amazing and inspirational women and even for the Ogwumike family, as there are two more sisters on the way to thrilling the fans of the WNBA very soon.
Tonight’s match between the Sparks and the Sun should be a good one so hopefully fans will check it out and keep an eye out for Chiney and Nneka, who are bound to light up the floor with their style of play.