How basketball star Chiney Ogwumike turned into a lucrative business career

Few of the WNBA athletes can make seven figures, but they typically play year round and supplement their WNBA salary with overseas salary.

Chinenye “Chiney” Ogwumike, a Nigerian-American professional basketball player, entered the WNBA to become an All-Star, which she accomplished twice. In between, she suffered two serious injuries in her first two seasons abroad and had to change her game plan.

It was a blessing in disguise for the current Los Angeles Sparks forward. Overcoming adversity on the court has been accomplished in parallel with pursuing and creating unique opportunities with his business that has extended far beyond the game.

Fast forward almost seven years after being the No. 1 pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft, and Chiney has built a diversified activity in the field of broadcasting, WNBA, endorsements, speaking engagements and social advocacy. Her career quickly turns into an empire, strategically built to empower those who follow her.

From basketball to broadcast

“I never expected to have a career in broadcasting,” Ogwumike revealed. “But I’ve always wanted to have a platform to show that our generation is powerful and that unique perspectives matter. I wasn’t always sure what this platform would look like, and to be honest many of my first opportunities were ones that top professional athletes wouldn’t even consider. “

In July 2020, ESPN announced it was adding Ogwumike as co-host of Chiney and Golic Jr. show, starring Mike Golic Jr. Ogwumike is the first black woman and the first WNBA player to co-host a daily national ESPN radio show.

“Once I got in the door, I loved it,” she shared. “It was the closest thing to playing a game. Millions of people are watching. You have to be prepared, and most of all, you have to be yourself.”

While many know that Ogwumike is a professionally trained basketball player, few know that she also graduated from Stanford under former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. This prepared her to become an NBA analyst for the ESPN and CBA negotiations as vice president of the WNBPA.

She also broadens her scope by talking about all sports (not just basketball) on various platforms. When she made the difficult decision to pull out of the 2020 WNBA season, she used her ingenuity to craft a plan of action for the future of her career.

“I approached a contact at ESPN Films,” Ogwumike said. “And after some discussion, I’m proud to be the executive producer of an upcoming ESPN Films documentary on the 2020 WNBA season.”

The documentary will explore social justice and explain how some WNBA members have taken a stand against Atlanta Dream co-owner and Senator Kelly Loeffler, who was critical of the Black lives matter (BLM) movement. Loeffler owns 49% of the team. His stance on BLM and his support for Donald Trump has prompted players to campaign openly against their owner. Loeffler then lost to Reverend Raphael Warnock.

Proving that you can have transversal skills, Ogwumike shared that some lessons from basketball can be applied to business. “Shoot and keep shooting! Be prepared and take calculated risks,” she said. “This is especially true the first time I officially co-organized Him and his and First take. I literally shot my shot without any real experience. I controlled what I could control and prepared as much as possible. And it was awesome! “

Open a new path and take it forward

In 2020, a record 37 women ran Fortune 500 companies, up from a record 33 last year. Of these women, only three are women of color, and none are black or Latin. Today, 21% of C-suite leaders are women and only 1% are black women.

Given this data, I asked what it was like to innovate with ESPN and change perceptions of women of color in leadership roles. “I was grateful to have a mic, knowing how much performance matters to young girls, especially black girls, who dream of doing the same,” Ogwumike replied. “I often say, ‘You can’t see what you can’t be; as I continue to be successful and occupy positions that a black woman hasn’t often held, I know I am changing the perception of future generations. But at the same time, it reminded me a lot of how much work we still have to do. do. “

Adding to the problem, according to US government data, the country lost 140,000 jobs last month. According to an analysis of National Center for Women’s Rights, all belonged to women. I asked what advice Ogwumike would have for women looking to change careers, as she changed hers.

“We have to create our opportunities for each other because we can’t expect others to do it,” Ogwumike said. “We have to be our own heroes. We also need to think about hiring differently and be more inclusive. My own team includes the diversity of my black female business leader, black female brand strategist, first generation Mexican-American assistant, Nigerian American makeup artist, and black hairstylist. “

Ogwumike also makes sure she finds ways to give back. “In every endorsement contract I sign, I make sure there is social advocacy or other elements of accountability,” she said. “It’s not just about donating money, but more so about showing up and working in the field.”

In 2014, she launched a fundraising competition open to the participation of college and high school girls’ basketball teams across the country. The competition raised funds for UNICEF programs focused on girls ‘education and empowerment, such as the Girls’ Education Project, which aims to give 1 million girls in Nigeria access to a quality learning, providing scholarships for female teachers and creating safe spaces for girls. And in 2020, she took a trip with her father, Peter Ogwumike, to Lagos, Nigeria to help donate sportswear and basketballs to local schools, working with Adidas and other partners to help. to facilitate donations.

“My goal is to open doors for others who look like me in the future,” added Ogwumike. “And create direct opportunities for those who look like me.”

At the end of our conversation, Ogwumike shared one final glimpse. “I had to play the long game,” she said. “Knowing that we have different challenges to overcome in showing our worth in a male dominated industry, I chose ‘opportunity’ over ‘compensation’ to enter the door. Crush the work and build more meaningful relationships and authentic brand partnerships. And now, with more teammates than ever before, I’m excited about the future and our collective mission to hold each other accountable now – no more waiting! “