February 23, 2024

Nneka Ogwumike was the cornerstone of Curt Miller‘s rebuild but after one year, the former most valuable player is planning her exit.

Ogwumike, an unrestricted free agent, told the Sparks she intends to leave after 12 seasons with the franchise that drafted her first overall in 2012, a person close to the situation who is not authorized to speak publicly confirmed Wednesday. Teams could begin negotiating with free agents on Jan. 21.

ESPN reported Ogwumike’s decision with a statement from Sparks managing partner Eric Holoman.

“I want to thank Nneka Ogwumike for 12 incredible seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks,” the statement read. “Nneka has been a leader and changemaker for the Sparks, the city of Los Angeles, the WNBA, and women’s sports. From drafting her No. 1 in 2012, to her game-winning shot in the 2016 WNBA Finals, her 2016 MVP trophy, and so many special memories, her legacy is cemented as one of the greatest to ever wear Purple & Gold.”

Ogwumike was chosen the league MVP in 2016 when the Sparks won their last title. She was the steadying force for the franchise after longtime star Candace Parker left in 2021, and when Miller took over last season with hopes to rebuild the once-proud organization, the coach centered his efforts on Ogwumike. She averaged 19.1 points and 8.8 rebounds last year, earning her seventh WNBA All-Star appearance despite the Sparks missing the playoffs for a third consecutive year.

Off the court, Ogwumike has led the league through major growth in viewership and popularity as the president of the WNBA players association. She led negotiations for the 2020 collective bargaining agreement that included increased salaries and travel benefits.

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