Nneka Ogwumike appears as guest on ‘The Daily Show’ with Trevor Noah

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

As we all know, Nneka Ogwumike not only uses her platforms with the WNBA and WNBPA to showcase her basketball talents, but also as an agent of change for women everywhere.

This was displayed when the WNBA and WNBPA announced its game-changing collective bargaining agreement that enacted major changes for the women of the W in terms of salaries, health benefits, paid leave, revenue sharing, marketing opportunities and a host of other areas that one could say were previously lacking.

Ogwumike appeared on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah and talked about what the CBA means for the WNBA’s future as well as other topics.

One of those other topics was how the Ogwumike’s family tentacles are spreading rapidly throughout women’s hoops – including her sister and Sparks teammate Chiney and Erica Ogwumike (currently at Rice University and is projected to be a second round draft pick in this year’s draft).

She says that excellence is something that she strives for – regardless of the sport.

To be honest, like, if I was playing another sport, I would have found a way to be excellent in that, and it’s just so happens that we all play basketball.

–Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks, WNBPA president (The Daily Show with Trevor Noah)

Ogwumike is one of the women’s basketball greats of the current era who grew up knowing that there is a WNBA for today’s elite talent to display their skills – and get paid to do so. She did admit that she did not believe she would be playing professionally until late in her college career at Stanford.

For me to look back and understand how much I’ve grown in my intellect about that and being able to educate people about that and also affect change in this current CBA, I feel like I’ve found my legacy.

–Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks, WNBPA president (The Daily Show with Trevor Noah)

As for that CBA, Ogwumike understands that she was speaking to a more mainstream audience that may not be following the ins and outs of the WNBA on a regular basis. She explained to Noah that the aims of the CBA was to make it more so players can look at going overseas as an option instead of a financial must.

Ogwumike made mention of another important point – many WNBA players are either mothers are have aspirations of becoming mothers (Skylar Diggins-Smith, Dearica Hamby among many others). She talked about how it also made it easier for players to navigate that fine line with having to balance between basketball and motherhood.

In addition to addressing the W’s detractors and trolls, Ogwumike also talked about what she said her long-term goals are. Having built a career in the WNBA that surely will have her enshrined in the Halls of Fame of both Knoxville and Springfield, she says she wants to give other women the tools she has obtained so they too can continue to pass on the message of women empowerment.

Ogwumike stresses there are other ways to grow the game as well if one is unable to attend a WNBA game.

I tell everyone, ok, if you can’t go to a WNBA game, at least have the TV on and let it contribute to the ratings. Turn it on, if you absolutely have nothing to do. You can find a game – it’s not impossible to find a game. Turn it on, watch it, follow me now – you know me now. You know, and whatever way you can. I know a lot of people probably know my teammate, Candace Parker. I’m sure you can follow her. Don’t just watch her as an analyst. Watch her play.

–Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks, WNBPA president (The Daily Show with Trevor Noah)

The mostly upbeat conversation between Ogwumike and Noah got somber when the topic of GiGi Bryant, who was killed in a tragic helicopter crash with her father, Kobe, and seven others outside of Los Angeles in late January.

GiGi had aspirations of playing at UConn under Geno Auriemma, then to the WNBA.

Losing GiGi, I think to the world, it exposed people to a lot that they didn’t know. Not just about a young girl who wanted to aspire to be like her dad, but a young girl that was moving things for women, without even realizing it.

–Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks, WNBPA president (The Daily Show with Trevor Noah)

When we got to experience her, we were looking at what we were working for. We’re not just here to make a difference for the current players, for the rookies coming in. We’re here to make a difference for those girls like GiGi whose eyes lit up every time that they saw us.

–Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks, WNBPA president (The Daily Show with Trevor Noah)

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