Nneka Ogwumike plans to leave Sparks for free agency

Nneka Ogwumike helped lead the Sparks to a WNBA championship in 2016.

LOS ANGELES — This is a tough one for the Los Angeles Sparks.

After 12 years in a Sparks uniform, the great Nneka Ogwumike decided it was time to leave and start anew on another team.

A franchise cornerstone for the Sparks, Nneka won the Most Valuable Player award in 2016. In that same season, she helped lead the Sparks (along with the great Candace Parker) to a WNBA championship in a thrilling 5-game series with the Minnesota Lynx. And as we all know, she made the game-winner in that amazing series.

This was probably not what the organization envisioned. The Sparks battled through a lot of injuries and an 8-game losing streak last season. And they still nearly made the playoffs in a 17-23 record. The Sparks probably expected to go for a playoff spot this season but with Nneka not returning, they’re likely back to Square One in their building process. Chiney Ogwumike may likely not return, either, as she has said in the past that she only wants to play with her sister.

With Jordin Canada rumored to be in a sign-and-trade, the retirement of Jasmine Thomas, and unrestricted free agents in Layshia Clarendon and the Samuelson sisters, the Sparks are going to look vastly different from last season’s squad. The Sparks also have the #2 pick of this coming draft and should they come out, Cameron Brink from Stanford and Paige Bueckers of UCONN are likely to be picked by Los Angeles.

And it’s not like they can’t pick up free agents, either. Skylar Diggins-Smith would be a nice get at point guard. Alanna Smith from the Sky would be great on the frontcourt. Either way, it’s going to be a very interesting team come May. Very different as well.

Nneka Ogwumike has her name all over the leaderboard in the Sparks franchise. Second in points, second in field goals made, second in minutes played, third in total rebounds, fourth in blocks, and first in steals, among others. She was also 2012 Rookie of the Year, 2016 WNBA MVP, an all-star 8 times, all-WNBA 6 times, and all-defense 6 times. That is a hell of a resumé.

Last season was my first year as a Sparks beat writer and I can’t put in words how awesome it was to cover Nneka Ogwumike. She was the nicest human being there was and she was the epitome of a professional. You can check out my interview with Nneka from last summer here.

Thank you, Nneka. It was awesome to watch you in your years here and it was an honor to cover you last season.