Nigerian basketball player Nneka Ogwumike shot her way to the WNBA Most Valuable Player Award for the first time.
The league announced Tuesday that the Los Angeles Sparks forward received 31 of the 39 first-place votes from a national media panel. She shot a league-best 66.5 percent from the field, the second highest mark ever. She averaged a career-best 19.7 points and 9.1 rebounds to help Los Angeles secure the second best record in the league.
“It’s amazing, this is definitely a league with a lot of talented players,” Ogwumike said. “It’s funny because you strive for doing something like this. You don’t think of that as being your goal as you’re playing, but it’s an honor to receive it.”
Ogwumike also set a WNBA record when she made 23 consecutive field goals during one stretch, including going 12 for 12 in a game against Dallas.
“This season has come together quite nicely and this award is reflective of that,” Ogwumike said.
New York’s Tina Charles placed second and got the other eight first-place votes. She was followed by Minnesota’s Maya Moore and Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne in the voting.
Ogwumike is the eighth individual to win the award over the past eight seasons.
“It’s always exciting to see different people win it. Everyone plays differently each year,” she said. “To see players grow and mature and see the competition grow is definitely something to look forward to.”
Ogwumike is the third Sparks player to receive the award, joining three-time recipient Lisa Leslie and two-time winner Candace Parker.
Ogwumike, who was also the AP Player of the Year, laughed when asked about the promise her sister Chiney made on Twitter that they’d get tattoos if Nneka won the MVP.
“She did not run that by me before she tweeted that,” the MVP said. “Maybe one of those temporary tattoos would be cool.”
She will receive the award Wednesday before the Sparks play the first game of the league’s semifinal series against Chicago.