Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike has been named the 2016 WNBA Most Valuable Player presented by Samsung, the league announced today. It is the first MVP award for the fifth-year forward out of Stanford, who is the eighth different player in the last eight years to win the honor. She is the third winner for the Sparks, two-time winner Candace Parker and three-time winner Lisa Leslie.
Ogwumike received 31 of 39 first-place votes from a national panel of sportswriters and broadcasters in taking the honor. Tina Charles of the New York Liberty received the other eight first-place votes, and finished second with 267 points, followed by Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx (197 points), Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky (119 points) and Parker (30 points).
Sparks coach Brian Agler had long maintained Ogwumike deserved the award because she is a threat on both ends of the floor.
“This is a well deserved honor and award for Nneka,” Agler said. “She has had a season of extreme efficiency for the ages, and Nneka has worked extremely hard to expand her game. Not only has she been dominant on the offensive end, but she has also developed that defensive stopper mentality, and is one of our key team leaders – and will be for the WNBA in the future.”
Behind Ogwumike, Los Angeles has gone 26-8 and earned the No. 2 seed in the 2016 WNBA playoffs. The Sparks won their first 11 games, and secured the second-longest winning streak to open a season in WNBA history. Their 20-1 record through 21 games equaled the best one-loss start ever. Los Angeles hosts the Chicago Sky in game 1 of the WNBA semifinals tomorrow, at 10 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN2.
Ogwumike shot a WNBA-best 66.5 percent from the field this season, which is the second-highest mark of all time. She also set league records for consecutive field goals made (23) and most field goals in a game without a miss (12, against the Dallas Wings on June 11). Ogwumike ranked third in the league in scoring and rebounding, and recorded the second-most double-doubles in league history, with 18. She also added career highs in assists and blocks to go with 1.3 steals in 33 games.
A three-time WNBA All-Star and the 2012 WNBA Rookie of the Year presented by Samsung, Ogwumike was named Western Conference Player of the Week six times and Western Conference Player of the Month presented by Samsung twice this season.
At Stanford, Ogwumike was a multiple-record holder, an All-American, and guided the Cardinal to four Pac-12 titles and four Final Fours. Coach Tara VanDerveer said that although she is happy for Ogwumike, she is not entirely surprised she received the honor.
“No one could be happier for her than me. I’m so proud of her,” VanDerveer said. “For me the MVP isn’t just for her play, but for the person she is. She is a great teammate, is resilient, encouraging and positive. It could not happen to someone more deserving.”
“We could see something like this coming. I loved coaching Nneka. She’s a worker, she listens and she’s coachable, but most of all she’s extremely talented. To win this award, a first for our program, is just spectacular.”