Tip-a-Spark

by Sheryl M.
Los Angeles Sparks season ticket holder

This past Saturday, July 21, the Los Angeles Sparks held their Tip-A-Spark fundraiser at Jillian’s at Universal City Walk. All tips raised by the players go to benefit the L.A. Sparks Foundation and Kids in Sports, Los Angeles.

The event began with a 90-minute dining experience, where each of the Sparks players served several tables as waitresses. The menu featured special Spark-themed items such as “The Sunshine Salad” and “Nneka’s Grillin’ Chicken Sandwich.”

The first thing I noticed when my waitress, Nneka Ogwumike, came to take my order was her name tag. The name written on it wasn’t “Nneka” or “Nnemkadi,” instead it was “Agatha.” I asked if the fake name was to confuse people and she aplogized and introduced herself as Nneka, but I let her know I knew her name and found it amusing.

Most of the other players whose name tags I saw also had different names: Ebony Hoffman = Samantha; Delisha Milton-Jones = Bethany; Kristi Toliver = Maggie; Marissa Coleman = Bertha; Alana Beard = Mary Jo Ann, aka Alana. Nicky Anosike decided to stick with her real name.

In addition to serving their own tables, the players also came by other tables to sign autographs and chat with fans that called them over. This did cause a few players to get a bit territorial about their tables when they saw another player at one of them. Probably the funniest of these exchanges was when Delisha came over to sign an autograph at my table. Nneka saw her and came over to lay her claim to her her territory. Delisha suggested that the fan could tip her instead, and then told the fan that her autograph cost two dollars. Nneka interjected and said not to listen to Delisha, and that she didn’t charge for autographs.

The dining portion of the event was followed the gaming portion, where fans got the chance to bowl and play pool and arcade games with the players. “Super Shot” was by far the most popular arcade game, since it gave fans the chance to try and out-shoot a professional basketball player.

Nicky shot against the same fan for several games. She dropped the first three rounds, and after each round would yell “rebound!” When she finally won the fourth game, she held her arms up and then gathered her opponent’s tickets as well as her own. She informed him, “winner take all!” Of course she was just kidding and ended up giving them to her opponent’s young daughter.

Nearby, Alana Beard was playing pool with a fan. When the fan scratched the cue ball, causing Alana to win the game, Alana ran around the pool table for a victory lap.

Nneka was dominant at “Dance Dance Revolution.” At one point it was announced that she had been undefeated so far. She tried to help her opponents, however. Once she actually stopped playing to show her opponent how to time hitting the buttons to score better. She even ended up calling out which foot to stomp down on which was such a nice thing to do. In the end she still ended up winning by a sizeable margin.

Delisha spent all her time up bowling with fans, and was quite good at it. At one point she scored a turkey – three strikes in a row. When Nneka came up to the bowling area, McCall – the Sparks’ in-arena host – got her and Delisha on the PA system to invite the fans to come play against them. Nneka said bowling was her game.

Their back-and-forth continued throughout their time bowling. It was mainly Delisha goading Nneka by calling out her name and saying “what?” while cupping her hand over her ear to indicate that Nneka’s trash talking had gone silent. Delisha was generally very animated while playing, and when her opponent’s ball went towards the gutter, she would make a pushing gesture in the air, trying to will it back towards the center of the lane. She celebrated every time she got a strike or a spare.

There were tip boxes that were labeled with each of the players names, and at the end of the event all the money was counted to see who made the most tips. Alana won with a total of $408, Delisha was second with about $30 less dollars and Nneka was third. All three of the top 3 made over $300 in tips.

Sheryl’s amazing event photos.

Sheryl’s incredibly dope event videos.

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