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10 Best WNBA Players of the 2010s: Nneka Ogwumike (No. 6) earned top honors, urged society to ‘bet on women’

In the past decade, the WNBA carved a space in sports culture due to the players’ athletic excellence on the court and social influence off it. The following 10 players have led in both areas, becoming our top-10 WNBA players of the 2010s.

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Seattle Storm v Los Angeles Sparks
Nneka Ogwumike prepares to make her move during the Sparks’ 2019 second-round playoff game.
Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

The WNBA thrived in the 2010s because of the everyday, enduring efforts of talented, engaging women’s basketball players. On their own steam, with neither sufficient marketing nor adequate financial investment, the players proved that women’s professional basketball is here to stay. As the decade winds to a close, we reflect on the players who made the biggest impact both on and off the court.

Here are the 10 best WNBA players of the 2010s:

6. Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks)

Honors, achievements and numbers of note in the 2010s: 2016 WNBA champion, 2016 MVP, 5x All-Defensive, 5x All-Star, 5x top 5 in win shares, 2012 Rookie of the Year

Chicago Sky v Los Angeles Sparks - Game One
Nneka Ogwumike accepts her 2016 MVP award from former league president Lisa Borders.
Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images

For someone who plays inside, the Los Angeles Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike is undersized. Yet, both inside and outside the court’s lines, Ogwumike’s presence is outsized. Her presence, however, is neither overpowering nor overly demonstrative. Instead, she dominates with delicacy.

On the court, she is everywhere, always — a superstar talent who plays like a role player.

Ogwumike has functioned as the defensive captain for the Sparks and as one of the go-to scorers. Her 2016 MVP season was an encapsulation of her intelligence and work ethic. She produced one of the most well-rounded, efficient MVP performances in the league’s history, exemplified by the estimated 9.6 wins she contributed to her team — the third-most single-season win shares ever produced by an MVP. The top two? 1998 Cynthia Cooper and 2000 Sheryl Swoopes, stars of Ogwumike’s hometown Houston Comets.

Not coincidentally, Ogwumike’s MVP season in 2016 culminated in a Sparks championship just as Cooper’s and Swoopes’ did in 1998 and 2000, respectively, for the Comets.

Off the court, Ogwumike, quietly but consistently exercised her influence. In her capacity as president of the players’ association, a role she assumed in 2016, Ogwumike is making a broader societal impact, articulating the need for the world of sports, as well as for all of society, to “bet on women.”