Connecticut Sun forward Chiney Ogwumike signed a multi-year contract with ESPN as a full-time NBA analyst. The 2014 WNBA Rookie of the Year will continue playing in the “W” for the Sun while adding the expanded media role to her workload. Ogwumike has worked with ESPN part-time over the past three years, covering college basketball, and co-hosting SportsCenter Africa.
“I want to show women, especially my peers, that we can do something else,” Ogwumike told Essence. “We don’t have to play 24/7. Men get about a four-month break, women are playing 24/7. Once their WNBA season ends, they go straight to another country,” which often leaves them prone to injuries,” she says.
While most NBA players get vacation time from mid-April (if they don’t make the postseason) through September, WNBA players travel overseas after their season ends to supplement their pay. With the highest WNBA salary being hardly six-figures, many players stay on the court nearly all year long without a true break, which takes a toll on their bodies.
Ogwumike is just 26 years old, and has already dealt with injuries that caused her to miss two of the last three WNBA seasons. Her Achilles tendon injury that claimed her entire 2017 WNBA season occurred overseas while playing in China.
Some players simply decide that playing in the WNBA isn’t worth the physical strain and injury risk, especially for the money they’re earning. In 2015, one of the league’s best point guards, Diana Taurasi, sat the entire WNBA season because her Russian team paid her to. Ogwumike, meanwhile, is finding a balance that works for her
Ogwumike now considers her time in the WNBA as part-time work compared to her full-time role at ESPN, which will include coverage of the NBA, WNBA, and women’s college basketball.
“The WNBA is technically my part-time job,” Ogwumike told Essence. “I will be working (as an analyst) for most of the NBA season. In the NBA they can’t do this because they’re hooping for most of the year. WNBA players play from May to September. So when people say, ‘How are you going to be a full-time WNBA player and a full-time NBA analyst?’ Well, technically those things only overlap for one month.”
Ogwumike may be busy, but that shouldn’t stop her from speaking her mind. During the 2016 WNBA Finals, her older sister, then-MVP Nneka Ogwumike, was called a flopper by opposing head coach Cheryl Reeve while mic’d up live on ESPN.
Mic every coach and player from now on for forever!! pic.twitter.com/4r3t1GBy1x— Matt Ellentuck (@mellentuck) October 12, 2016
"The biggest flopper in the league" pic.twitter.com/aWAmnh56Ly— Matt Ellentuck (@mellentuck) October 12, 2016
Here’s how Chiney responded on Twitter:
It's so funny. Say something about me, I don't care. But if you say something about my sisters... pic.twitter.com/Cq26lKXbD6— Chiney Ogwumike (@Chiney321) October 12, 2016
Ogwumike and the Sun began training camp April 29, and their season tips off on May 20.
“I am beyond thrilled to continue to grow with ESPN in this expanded role,” Ogwumike said in a release. “I am extremely fortunate to be able to play at the highest level of women’s professional basketball while also contributing as a diverse voice to the worldwide leader in sports. It is truly the best of both worlds, being able to pursue my passions both on and off the court. My hope is to inspire the rising generation, especially young girls, to continue to defy expectations and create their own path.”