Nerds of a Feather: Celebrating Father’s Day with the Ogwumikes
If you ask WNBA stars Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike (self-professed nerds themselves) the biggest nerd in the family is none other than their father, Peter "Papa D" Ogwumike.
Of course the term “nerd” gets thrown around in the Ogwumike household like a fish gone to market. Chiney and Nneka attended Stanford University, one of the top academic universities in the country, and are proud members of what has come to be known as “Nerd Nation.”
Chiney even wrote a (now infamous) song about it:
But what puts Peter Ogwumike ahead of the nerd-game?
“Pocket protectors,” Chiney and Nneka both seperately claimed.
“He likes to carry pens in his pocket,” Chiney said, “because he’s such an enginerd.”
For the uninitiated, “enginerd” is a portmanteau of “engineer” and “nerd.” Two things which undoubtedly, according to his daughters, describe Papa D.
“Well I am an engineer,” Peter said when asked how he regarded his title, “and engineers are generally referred to as nerds. So if it’s a nerdy profession, then of course I am a nerd. I’ll take it.”
Now a manufacturing engineer in Cypress, Texas – or, he explained, as some might call it an industrial engineer – Peter Ogwumike was born and raised in Nigeria before deciding to leave his home country for the States around 1980. He attended a community college in Colorado where he met Ify, the woman who would eventually become Mrs. Ogwumike and Chiney and Nneka’s mother. Ify also immigrated from Nigeria.
Both Chiney and Nneka are proud of their Nigerian heritage, explaining to ESPNW that their last name literally translates to “he who does not tire” or “warrior.” Given their tenacious approach to the game they have devoted their athletic abilities to, that could only be more fitting if it literally meant “really good at basketball.”
Nneka and Chiney are not the end of the Ogwumike legacy, they have two younger sisters, Olivia and Erika, who (in case you were wondering) are both basketball players as well. The four girls also go by their Nigerian names which are, respectively, Nnemkadi, Chinenye, Chisom and Erinma.
Recently, Nneka and Chiney have even joined the effort to help empower and educate young girls and women in light of the tragic kidnappings in Nigeria.
“We have little control over getting those girls back,” Chiney told ESPN, “the one thing we can control is how we empower these girls.” And that’s exactly what they are trying to do through a partnership with the United Nations’ Children’s Fund UNICEF.
With UNICEF’s help, the sisters have created a fundraising competition where middle school and high school level basketball teams will try to raise the most money to benefit “UNICEF's U.S. Fund, including the Girls' Education Project, which aims to give 1 million girls in northern Nigeria access to quality learning, provide scholarships for female teachers and establish safe spaces for girls.”
“Chiney and I are just so grateful that [UNICEF] considered us. We’re excited to partner with them and invite people to donate funds toward these educations,” Nneka said. (Challenges and donations can be set up through their Crowdrise page.) Of course, the father couldn’t be more proud of his daughters.
“You know, in life you are remembered for what you’ve done and not just who you are and for that I am so proud of them,” he said. “I am strongly in support [of their cause] and I truly commend them.”
But that’s certainly not the only reason he has to be proud of his girls. Among the many other reasons, this weekend, Chiney will become the second Ogwumike to graduate from Stanford -- on Father's Day no less.
“I just want to congratulate Chiney on her graduation. I’m happy for her and I wish her the best -- both of my daughters – I would do anything to support them. They are both grown now but I am there for them,” Peter said with only the slightest hint of nostalgia.
With the two girls playing on opposite sides of the country now with Nneka in Los Angeles and Chiney in Connecticut, it’s rare that the whole family gets to be together these days, which is why he is looking forward to Father’s Day.
Notoriously not a gift kind of guy (“He says ‘if you want to give something to someone you can give it to them on that day,’” said Chiney quoting her father, “’you don’t need a special day for it.’”) Peter said, “having the whole family together will be a really big gift for me.”
And his girls intend to honor that. Although, Chiney offered, “we might try to surprise him with another pocket protector or something.”
As for the rest of the year when Nneka and Chiney go back to their new-ish home-away-from-homes, what’s it like for a parent to root for two different teams now?
“I really think it paralyzes them,” Chiney said, half joking. “One day my mom will say ‘I’m going to go watch Nneka in Washington’ and then the next day she’ll say ‘actually I’m going to go watch Chiney in New York’ but then by the end of the week she says ‘I think I’m just going to watch both of them on LiveAccess.’ But,” she added, “they’re always there if they feel like one of us is really struggling.” Which is another testament to how close this family really is.
“We’re just a very tight-knit unit,” Nneka said, “and I’m very grateful. I thank God every day for my family and for who I am.”
Another testament of true Ogwumike family love?
My whole family is on my Netflix account. That's love.— Nnemkadi Ogwumike (@Nnemkadi30) June 5, 2014
“They’re on there watching everything from Pretty Little Liars to Downton Abbey to Scandal to Hannah Montana,” Nneka said. “Though I have no idea who’s watching Hannah Montana.”
Questionable Netflix decisions aside, the Ogwumikes genuinely enjoy each other’s company and, in fact, can’t get enough of it.
“They are constantly talking to each other,” said Peter Ogwumike. “Ever since they learned how to talk, it has never stopped. I used to say to them all the time ‘when is this story gonna end?’”
"And it never does end.”
Much of their closeness, though, can be attributed to their father, whom Nneka says “taught us so much about life through his experiences. He’s such a great man and a great father.”
Which is why they want to get him what he really wants for Father’s Day, but what exactly is it that Peter Ogwumike wants?
“What I already have,” he said.