Former Stanford standout and current Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike was named the 2016 WNBA Most Valuable Player, the league announced Tuesday.
The honor comes to little surprise to those familiar with Ogwumike’s play this season: The 2012 No. 1 draft pick was third in the league this season with 19.7 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game on the way to helping the Sparks earn a 26-8 record and No. 2 seed for the playoffs.
Even more impressive than her scoring and rebounding averages was her offensive efficiency: Her overall shooting percentage this season (.737) is the best in WNBA and NBA history, well ahead of the previous WNBA record from 2010 (.6997). In addition, only two NBA players have achieved a true shooting percentage above 70 percent: Tyson Chandler in 2011-2012 (.7081) and Artis Gilmore in 1981-1982 (.7024).
Her 66.5 field goal percentage was also good for second-best for a single season in WNBA history. Ogwumike’s .615 clip from beyond the arc was also a marked improvement from her previous four years in the league, in which she went 7-for-34 from three-point range. In addition, she shot 86.9 percent from the line and averaged 3.1 assists and 1.2 blocks.
“As far as goals go, this honor has always been on a list I wrote down in the back of some journal years ago,” Ogwumike said in a statement. “Dreams don’t sprout overnight, and triumph doesn’t grow from trees. My 2016 season is a reflection of years of being a student of the game, hours of grueling practice, memories favorable and unfavorable, of great teammates and heartbreaking losses on the court.”
A three-time All-American at Stanford, Ogwumike led Stanford to four Final Fours and completed her career on the Farm with an undefeated home record. The Cypress, Texas, native is also one of six Cardinal players to end her career with 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
“No one could be happier for her than me,” Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer said. “I’m so proud of her. 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.”
Ogwumike is the first Cardinal player to win a league MVP award since John Brodie in 1970, when the 49ers quarterback was named the MVP of the NFL.
Ogwumike plays in Game 1 of the Sparks’ semifinal series against the Chicago Sky this Wednesday at 7 p.m. PT. The game will be shown on ESPN2.
Contact Alexa Philippou at aphil723 ‘at’ stanford.edu.