This week two members of the Los Angeles Sparks were recognized for their outstanding play this season, as forward Nneka Ogwumike was named the 2016 WNBA Most Valuable Player, and center Jantel Lavender was named the 2016 WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year.
Fifth-year forward Ogwumike earned her first MVP award and became the eighth different player in the last eight years to win the honor. She is the third winner for the Sparks, joining Lisa Leslie (2001, 2004, 2006) and current teammate Candace Parker (2008, 2013).
Ogwumike (362 points) received 31 of 39 first-place votes from a national panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. Tina Charles of the New York Liberty received the other eight first-place votes and finished second with 267 points, followed by Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx (197 points), Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky (119 points) and Parker (30 points).
Behind Ogwumike, Los Angeles went 26-8 and earned the No. 2 seed in the 2016 WNBA Playoffs. The Sparks won their first 11 games, the second-longest winning streak to open a season in WNBA history, and their 20-1 record through 21 games equaled the best one-loss start ever.
Ogwumike shot a WNBA-best 66.5 percent from the field this season, the second-highest mark of all time, and set league records for consecutive field goals made (23) and most field goals in a game without a miss (12, against the Dallas Wings on June 11). She also ranked third in the league in scoring (career-high 19.7 ppg) and rebounding (career-high 9.1 rpg) and recorded the second-most double-doubles (18). The former Stanford University standout added career highs in assists (3.1 apg) and blocks (1.2 bpg) to go with 1.3 steals in 33 games.
A three-time WNBA All-Star and the 2012 WNBA Rookie of the Year, Ogwumike was named Western Conference Player of the Week six times and Western Conference Player of the Month twice this season.
Sixth-year veteran center Lavender earned her award as the WNBA’s top reserve for the first time.
The 27-year-old Lavender received 26 votes from a national panel of 39 sportswriters and broadcasters. Dallas Wings guard Aerial Powers and Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley, the Sixth Woman honoree in each of the past two seasons, tied for second place with three votes apiece. Indiana Fever guard Shenise Johnson was next with two votes, followed by five players who received one vote each: Connecticut Sun center/forward Jonquel Jones, Fever forward Lynetta Kizer, Minnesota Lynx guard Renee Montgomery, New York Liberty center Kiah Stokes and Liberty guard Shavonte Zellous.
To be eligible for the award, players had to have come off the bench in more games than they started. Lavender came off the bench in all 34 games this season, returning to the reserve role she held during her first three WNBA seasons before becoming a starter in 2014 and 2015.
Lavender, chosen by the Sparks with the fifth overall selection of the 2011 WNBA Draft, ranked 40th in the WNBA in scoring (9.6 ppg) while averaging 19.4 minutes per game. The former Ohio State standout was one of only two players among the top 40 scorers to average fewer than 20 minutes (Powers was the other). Lavender scored in double figures 17 times, with six games of at least 15 points. She also shot a career-high 53.8 percent from the field, the 10th-best mark in the WNBA.
On July 15, the Cleveland native recorded season highs of 25 points and 10 rebounds in a 98-92 win at Connecticut. She also scored 22 points as Los Angeles defeated the visiting Liberty, 100-77, on June 7, and contributed 20 points in a 93-82 home win over the Washington Mystics on July 10.
ALL-TIME WNBA MOST VALUABLE PLAYER WINNERS
Year Player Team
2016 Nneka Ogwumike Los Angeles Sparks
2015 Elena Delle Donne Chicago Sky
2014 Maya Moore Minnesota Lynx
2013 Candace Parker Los Angeles Sparks
2012 Tina Charles Connecticut Sun
2011 Tamika Catchings Indiana Fever
2010 Lauren Jackson Seattle Storm
2009 Diana Taurasi Phoenix Mercury
2008 Candace Parker Los Angeles Sparks
2007 Lauren Jackson Seattle Storm
2006 Lisa Leslie Los Angeles Sparks
2005 Sheryl Swoopes Houston Comets
2004 Lisa Leslie Los Angeles Sparks
2003 Lauren Jackson Seattle Storm
2002 Sheryl Swoopes Houston Comets
2001 Lisa Leslie Los Angeles Sparks
2000 Sheryl Swoopes Houston Comets
1999 Yolanda Griffith Sacramento Monarchs
1998 Cynthia Cooper Houston Comets
1997 Cynthia Cooper Houston Comets
ALL-TIME WNBA SIXTH WOMAN OF THE YEAR WINNERS
Year Player Team
2016 Jantel Lavender Los Angeles Sparks
2015 Allie Quigley Chicago Sky
2014 Allie Quigley Chicago Sky
2013 Riquna Williams Tulsa Shock
2012 Renee Montgomery Connecticut Sun
2011 DeWanna Bonner Phoenix Mercury
2010 DeWanna Bonner Phoenix Mercury
2009 DeWanna Bonner Phoenix Mercury
2008 Candice Wiggins Minnesota Lynx
2007 Plenette Pierson Detroit Shock
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services