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2024 WNBA Free Agnecy: With Nneka Ogwumike leaving Los Angeles, what’s next for the Sparks?

For the first time in her career, Nneka Ogwumike will play for a different team. Here’s what that means for the Sparks.

Chicago Sky v Los Angeles Sparks
Next season, Nneka Ogwumike will not be wearing purple and gold. What does that mean for the Sparks?
Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

At 5:00 p.m. PDT on Jan. 24, Nneka Ogwumike made it official: she would not be returning to Los Angeles. It's the first time in her WNBA career she will not be a Spark.

Ogwumike is a Sparks legend. She averaged 19.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists in her 12-year tenure for the Sparks. She made eight All-Star appearances, won the 2016 WNBA title and was the 2016 WNBA MVP. She will undoubtedly have her jersey hanging in the rafters of Crypto.com Arena when her career is over.

So, what's next for the Sparks?

When previewing the L.A. Sparks free agency, the first priority mentioned was to keep Ogwumike. Well, that didn't happen. We'll hear more later, but it begs the question: why? She's the face of the franchise, and the Los Angeles legend is still at the top of her game. She has the right to make the move, but the fact that she picked elsewhere is concerning.

Is it because the Sparks are that far away from a title? Was there an issue with the team's direction that made her not want to be a part of it? It'll become clearer once Ogwumike speaks and chooses the next team she will play for.

Regarding her landing place, rumors suggest she's talking with the Atlanta Dream, Phoenix Mercury and Chicago Sky. Ogwumike also shared that she was in Chicago on an Instagram story a day before she announced her departure from Los Angeles.

The Sparks aren't being static. They've extended a core qualifying offer to Jordin Canada, and that means she'll be on this roster unless they execute a sign and trade, which has been a rumored possibility.

There seem to be two directions for LA. One, go all in on youth and rebuild the team altogether. Or, go big-player hunting now that you have more roster spots and cap space with Nneka, and likely Chiney Ogwumike, gone. Can the Sparks land a star guard like Skylar Diggins-Smith and expedite a return to the top? Or should L.A. fans expect that No. 2 pick to be the face of the franchise on opening day against the Atlanta Dream?

With players beginning to make announcements, we should know more in the coming days and weeks. But, one thing is certain. Whether good or bad, it's a new day in Los Angeles.