Here's Why WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike Decided to Bare it All for ESPN

The Los Angeles Sparks forward graces the cover of ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue. Here's a look behind the scenes.

Nneka Ogwumike ESPN BTS

Behind the scenes from Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike's ESPN Body Issue shoot

Nneka Ogwumike ESPN BTS

Number one draft pick. League MVP. WNBA champion.

Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike continues to cross off goal after goal on her checklist, but her latest aspiration had her exhibiting more than a silky smooth jumper or a left-handed finger roll off the glass. Ogwumike will be one of 23 athletes to grace ESPN The Magazine's annual Body Issue and one of its nine cover stars.

“It’s always been something that I wanted to do,” Ogwumike said. “I think it’s mostly because of the elite collection of athletes that they pick. It attributes to your success individually because they don’t just pick anybody.”

Nneka Ogwumike ESPN BTS

But this wasn’t the first time that ESPN called the Texas native. Four years ago, ESPN requested Ogwumike with her younger sister, Chiney, for the photo shoot but the two felt it wasn’t the right time yet. Chiney was fresh off garnering 2014 WNBA Rookie of the Year honors for the Connecticut Sun just a year after Nneka had won the same award.

This time around, Nneka pounced on the opportunity while Chiney chose to continue focusing on her rehab process after injuring her Achilles tendon.

“I thought it shows a different side of me. A little bit more of the authentic side,” Nneka Ogwumike said. “It also shows the confident part of me that a lot of people would not expect. I always thought the Body Issue did a great job of exemplifying a bit of a more artistic and graceful side of what athletes do.”

Nneka Ogumike ESPN Mag Cover

Displaying your body for the entire world to see typically wouldn’t sit well with anyone’s parents, and for the daughter of two Nigerian parents that might be an understatement. Although they may have not agreed with her decision, the Ogwumike parents respected that it was something Nneka has desired to do for awhile.

Nneka added that she gained a lot from the experience of the photo shoot.

“It allowed me to show my true essence,” she said. “It allowed me to show that I was confident in my own skin.”  

Nneka is one of just two basketball players doing the Body Issue; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas will represent the men’s side. Other notable names include Ezekiel Elliott, Caroline Wozniacki, Javier Baez, and Julian Edelman. The issue is set to debut online July 5, while the full magazine will be available  July 7.

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