Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike: Coast to Coast Sibling Rivalry

Sisters Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike were inseparable the whole day. If you saw one of them without the other, you could usually hear the other one. The moments after Chiney was selected by the Connecticut Sun as the number one draft pick of 2014 were no exception.

When Chiney burst into the WNBA media room, she was breathing heavily as if she’d just played a game. She was followed by an almost equally hysterical Nneka of the Los Angeles Sparks, who circled the room once before sitting down (and then standing up again.)

“Holy smokes. WHAT?” Chiney said when she caught her breath. “I can’t even think.”

It’s hard to understand the emotions these players go through during a live draft. Of course they all have an idea of when they might be selected (or in Chiney’s case maybe more than an idea), but no one knows for sure. And with all the movement surrounding the Tina Charles trade which was announced just before the draft, we didn’t know what kind of surprises could still be lurking.

“A lot of people projected that I’d go number one but of course there are always surprises and everything so I didn’t want to get my hopes up,” Chiney said, talking at a mile a minute still, “But more so I knew that Connecticut was a place I could contribute and I’m so excited to have that opportunity.”

Chiney was breathing slightly less heavily now thanks to Nneka’s efforts.

“[Nneka] was calming me down like she always calms me down,” Chiney said of her sister’s support. “I could barely breathe, you know, the first 40 minutes waiting up until the draft I was like ‘ok I’m fine I’m just dancing to the music’ and suddenly I realized and was like ‘oh it’s coming. Oh my gosh it’s coming.’”

Chiney continued, unprompted:

“I worked really hard to get to where I am and she [Nneka] always tells me I can do it, I can do it, I think sometimes I’m like my biggest doubter, I don’t think I can do it a lot, but it happened because I worked really hard and I think this is a big example…worked hard to put myself into a position to be the number one pick and I don’t think it’s gonna happen because life’s unfair at times… but life is so fair, sooo fair when it happens.”

It’s really hard to comprehend just how close these two are, that is until you put them on opposite sides of the country.

“I’m absolutely not excited to play against [Nneka],” Chiney (who played with Nneka at Stanford) said, “Just as I’m signing a contract, we’ll be signing a contract between each other saying ‘if you block my shot, you’ll get fouled hard next time. Be ready….’ Or something. I’m excited though. Now that she’s on the west coast and I’m on the east coast, at least we’ll play each other less.”

And so begins an East coast-West coast sibling rivalry to end them all.

Chiney’s gestures (which are always boisterous) were getting grander again as I think she remembered what had just happened. So what does one do when you’re feeling invincible and hanging out at a casino?

“Oh I don’t know. I know for sure I’m gonna hit up a slot machine. I’m only gonna use, like, one dollar though… that’s it,” she said. “But of course I haven’t started making money yet so maybe not.”

She got up abruptly and left the media room in the same manner she arrived: “What is happening?” she asked under her breath as if she still couldn’t believe it.

“This is for real,” Nneka reminded her. And with her sister’s words it finally seemed to sink in: she was the number one pick in the 2014 WNBA draft.