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Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike wins league MVP award

Nneka Ogwumike
Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike, left, drives around Atlanta’s Elizabeth Williams on Sept. 8.
(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike has been named the WNBA’s most valuable player, the league announced Tuesday afternoon. 

Ogwumike received 31 of 39 first-place votes from a panel of sportswriters, finishing ahead of Tina Charles of the New York Liberty.

The 26-year-old Ogwumike averaged 19.7 points and 9.1 rebounds and shot a league-best 66.5% from the field during the regular season. She had 18 double-doubles and led the Sparks to a 26-8 regular-season record and the No. 2 seeding in the playoffs. 

“I think this year feels different now, now that the regular season is over I’ve kind of looked back and been like, ‘Oh wow’ … it’s been a good year,” Ogwumike said after a Sparks practice last week.

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She is the third Sparks player to win the MVP award. Candace Parker won in 2008 and 2013, and Lisa Leslie did so in 2001, 2004 and 2006. 

The 6-foot-2 Ogwumike was a star at Stanford,  the first overall pick in the 2012 draft and rookie of the year.

Ogwumike’s most impressive game this season came on June 11, when she went 12-for-12 from the field and seven-for-seven from the line on her way to 32 points against the Dallas Wings.

Sparks Coach Brian Agler has said Ogwumike has guarded all five positions this season. 

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“Her great work ethic and her expanding her game, gaining more experience, I think she just really elevated her play,” Agler said last week. “And she’s taken it upon herself to elevate her game and carry this team at times.”

The Sparks host the Chicago Sky at 7 p.m. at Long Beach State on Wednesday in the opener of a best-of-five semifinal series.

jesse.dougherty@latimes.com


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