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Nneka Ogwumike is an MVP candidate

Nneka Ogwumike is flirting with a career year and having an MVP caliber season with the Los Angeles Sparks.

Indiana Fever v Los Angeles Sparks Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

With 4:32 left in the Sparks game against the Fever, Nneka Ogwumike receives a pass from her sister Chiney Ogwumike on the left elbow. She drives to the basket and pulls up for an eight-foot jumper. She makes the basket giving her 34 points on the night and the Sparks a commanding ten-point lead. N. Ogwumike and the Sparks never looked back and went on to win 86-79, putting them back in playoff position; N. Ogwumike ended the night with 35 points, just three shy of her career high.

“I think Nneka’s our engine,” C. Ogwumike said. “She’s a silent killer, and her IQ is super high.”

Fans of the Sparks are well aware of this, but N. Ogwumike’s form this year has been so incredible that she’s not just the Sparks MVP; she has a legitimate case to be the MVP of the league.

Where would the Spark be without Nneka Ogwumike? Luckily they haven’t had to experience much of that with her only missing one game, but her numbers this year have been impressive. She is averaging 18.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. That’s good for sixth best in the W in points and 12th in rebounds. Her numbers are not just good compared to the league; she is flirting with a career year, with only her 2016 MVP season and 2017 season coming close to this year’s production. The main difference is that this season, the Sparks are undoubtedly her team, which wasn’t always the case years prior with Candace Parker on the roster. She’s carrying the burden of being a star in LA and excelling while doing so.

What is value? Marrian Webster defines valuable as “having desirable or esteemed characteristics or qualities” or “of great use or service.” As a leader, N. Ogwumike is an exemplary figure on and off the court. On the court, she leads the team in starts (24) and minutes per game (32). Off the court, she is constantly making public appearances and advocates for those who need her support; most recently, last night at the ESPYs she made sure to take the moment she had to address the detainment of Brittney Griner.

Yes, there are other MVP candidates currently favored over N. Ogwumike at the moment, most notably A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart. The difference is that Nneka doesn’t have the supporting cast those candidates do. The Storm have three All-Stars and the Aces have a whopping four. Winning is another factor going against Nneka. Both the Storm and Aces have had winning seasons over the last four years, while the Sparks haven’t been above .500 since 2019. However this is proof that Nneka should be MVP. She is leading the charge and re-establishing the Sparks’ winning culture. She is pulling more weight on her team than arguably anyone else in the league and doing so in Los Angeles for the only WNBA franchise to win 500 games.

Nneka has done it all this year. She was named Western Conference Player of the week for the 13th time in her career, made her seventh All-Star appearnce, started in the game, and leads the team in Win Shares at 3.4. Interim head coach Fred Williams agrees that Nneka is an MVP candidate.

“She should be in that conversation,” he said. “It all depends how far you can go and take the team.”

In typical Nneka fashion, when asked about the MVP talk she kept the focus on the Sparks.

“I want a ring … I want a ring. I’m grateful for teammates that advocate for me. I want to be great and I’m great because of my teammates. Everyone knows what the goal is.”

The goal is for the Sparks to win their fourth WNBA championship, but along the way N. Ogwumike deserves consideration for MVP of the WNBA.