A few weeks after being inexplicably omitted from Team USA’s roster for the upcoming Olympics, Los Angeles Sparks star and former WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike may have found her ticket to Tokyo. Ogwumike, along with her sister and Sparks teammate Chiney, has been named to the provisional Olympic roster for Nigeria’s national team.
If Nneka and Chiney are allowed to participate on the team, they’ll join sister Erica, with three members of the Ogwumike family representing Nigeria at the summer games.
The sisters all have dual citizenship in both the US and Nigeria, but the FIBA rules that govern what national team athletes play for are tricky. Because Nneka and Chiney are over 17, and have previously competed for Team USA in international play (even if not at the Olympic level), they need to be released from Team USA (which has already happened, at their request), and also granted exception from the FIBA secretary general. That is likely to happen, but has not yet been made official.
Team USA still hasn’t openly said why Nneka wasn’t named to the roster. After being named one of the eight players to the US select team — meaning she was paid to stay home during the 2019-20 offseason and represent Team USA at scrimmages and exhibitions, rather than play overseas — it was considered a given that Nneka would make the roster. But when the roster was announced, she was mysteriously absent, and currently is the only WNBA MVP in league history to not play in the Olympics (she also missed the team in 2016, her MVP season, and in 2012, when she was the No. 1 overall pick).
Nneka hasn’t played since June 1 due to a knee injury, but according to Sparks coach Derek Fisher, her timeline — which figures to see her healthy and ready to compete in time for the Olympics — was communicated to Team USA.
She’s taken the high road with the snub, and made the best of an unfortunate situation, telling ESPN that, “The running joke was who was the family going to root for, because I was planning on playing against Erica. But, you know, life unfolds in some beautiful ways: To be able to possibly share the highest athletic honor with not only Chiney, but my youngest sister.”
Erica, who is six years younger than Chiney and eight years younger than Nneka, was a star at Rice University and a third-round pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft. She did not make a WNBA roster, and has since enrolled in medical school, though she remains signed by Adidas Basketball, along with her sisters.