Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike’s memories of the one time they played basketball against each other at Stanford don’t exactly match up.
They can agree on this: it was during practice when Chiney was a freshman and Nneka a junior.
“It was a little competitive,” recalled Nneka, laughing during a phone interview with The Associated Press earlier this week. “She claims she didn’t do anything, but she was fouling me. I told her she was going to regret it. After threats were made, coach took us out.”
Chiney remembers catching an elbow and running off the court.
No matter whose story was accurate, the end result was that the two sisters never played against each other over the next two years when they were both at school.
“I think coach figured out it wasn’t going to be beneficial for us to be on opposing sides,” Chiney said. “So we just never went against each other again.”
The two No. 1 picks in the WNBA draft will square off for the first time as pros when Nneka and the Los Angeles Sparks visit Chiney and the Connecticut Sun on Sunday. The Ogwumike parents and about 30 family members are coming to the game.
“We made up shirts that say, ‘Sparks will fly and the Sun will shine,'” said Ify Ogwumike, the players’ mother. “It’s going to be a special weekend, a little different.”
Ify said she plans to sit right in the middle so as not to favor one of her daughters.
“Whether it’s assigned to me or not, I will sit in the center,” she said. “If I can’t, maybe I’ll switch sides, one side for one half and then switch for the other half.”
Ify recalled times when the sisters would play in the driveway of their house growing up. Nneka would take on her three younger sisters in a 3-on-1.
“Those were some spirited games,” Ify said. “Let’s just say I do remember my bedroom window getting broken.”
Peyton and Eli Manning have played each other in the NFL. Serena and Venus Williams have faced off in Grand Slams. But sibling showdowns are a rarity in the WNBA. There have only been a handful of sister matchups, according to the league.
Tulsa Shock center Courtney Paris never had to play against her twin sister Ashley in the WNBA or when they both were at Oklahoma in college. But the pair both played in Turkey for the same team this past winter and constantly would face each other in practice.
“You love your family but you’re so competitive,” Courtney Paris said. “You can push each other in ways that really no one else can. It’s a great thing because you challenge each other. Sometimes it can be a hard thing because you can take it too far. I definitely get where they’re coming from.”
This weekend is about more than just a game Sunday. The pair will host a basketball clinic Saturday in partnership with UNICEF.
“We’ve been waiting for a time to do it together in person,” Chiney said. “We’re super excited about the clinic and a chance to work with the kids.”
Chiney is also excited to show off her apartment to her big sister.
“I spent so much time at Nneka’s place over the summers when I was still in school and she was playing for L.A. I have a great weekend planned to show her all the sites in Connecticut,” Chiney said.
The two sisters talk almost every day and have both said that won’t change leading up to the game.
“We were talking about it on the phone and we’re going to have two different mindsets,” Nneka said. “There’s going to be some stress that I’m having to guard my sister. But she’s really good. It’s starting to register. I’m going to have to guard one of the best players in this league.”
Chiney said she won’t even need to look at the scouting report, knowing her sister so well. Although she did check out Nneka’s game against the New York Liberty on Friday night, sitting in the stands as a fan.
“Whether they are matched up or not in the game plan there is no doubt they’ll end up playing against each other at some point,” Los Angeles coach Carol Ross said. “It’s definitely something that I’ll enjoy watching as a fan. They are both very special women.”
The two sisters will meet again in Los Angeles on Aug. 3.
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