Q&A: Chiney Ogwumike on Authenticity, Personal Branding and Coach Derek Fisher

It’s the dual nature of Chiney Ogwumike’s passion for basketball that has made her a fan favorite in the WNBA and a full-time ESPN NBA personality. The Los Angeles Sparks Forward/Center is a two-time WNBA All-Star and ESPN NBA Analyst. Ogwumike is part of a growing movement of players who are using the WNBA as a springboard to show that women can be more than basketball players.

The following exclusive Q&A with Winsidr.com took place at the LA Sparks #WeAreWomen Soul & Paint event on October 26 in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of Los Angeles. Ogwumike hosted the event putting her media skills on display by moderating a conversation on entrepreneurship, branding and women in business with Timeless Skin Care CEO Veronica Pedersen.


Question: How important is authenticity?

Chiney: Authenticity is everything. I always tell people perfection is overrated, especially in television, my field of work, you want to be that perfect person on-air and not make a mistake because millions of people are watching you.

So (you think) the people that do better are the more perfect (but) the people that actually do better are actually the more authentic. I think that’s in every aspect of every career.

Perfection is overrated. How you handle mistakes and complications on-air in particular is what makes the great hosts or great analysts the best. Just rolling with the punches and being yourself and being authentic because that’s what you want to relay (to the audience).

Authenticity is everything. As great as you are at whatever you do, you can only go so far if you’re not passionate about it and not yourself because yourself that’s your strength.

Question: When did you become comfortable in your own skin?

Chiney: I did not become comfortable in my own skin until when I was a pro. I think just because… even now I’m wearing heels, I think being 6’2 and always being that girl in middle school, elementary school (that was significantly taller), it just feels different when you’re in high school and even in college, trying to grind to have a career and then when I turned pro I started realizing what made me different is actually what was my strength.

Being taller and athletic got me to the WNBA, why not be proud of that, be confident and share that love with other people.

I think you’re also adulting a little more, you start realizing, coming into your own. It’s cool to be in the WNBA, see different people coming into their own, claim their own and take on their own lives.

Question: With everything you have going on (WNBA / ESPN career) do you feel like your own LLC?

Chiney: I just feel blessed. I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man or the one I’ve heard, I’m not a boss b, I’m a boss, b. We have to own our own power as individuals, as athletes. Whatever you identify with in society, whether you are a WNBA player or an analyst or a person who plays an instrument, I always tell people whatever your passion is, it can take you so far.

It’s one of those things where not many people have done it concurrently, meaning playing in the WNBA and doing something else. I know Candace is doing it, Kristi Toliver is doing it successfully with coaching, you’re seeing a lot of players do it because it’s never been done and you want to show people that if you give women the opportunity, we can make the most of it and we’re trying to continue to open more and more doors.

I feel like there’s a responsibility on our generation right now, the current players with a sense of urgency to go out there and be your own business, be your own brand and show people that it’s possible because that’s the only way those people will invest in others like us.

Question: What happened with the ESPN cameo when Utah Jazz Donovan Mitchell jumped into the crowd?

Chiney: It’s literally the craziest scenario of what was happening. Let’s just say the immediate thing was Coach Fisher was at the game.

I found out at halftime and so I was like ‘hey, I’m going to come see you’, so I was heading over to see him, so I was a little distracted, so I was looking at my phone, looking up and down and all of a sudden I saw some commotion in my peripheral vision and it was Donovan Mitchell just jumping over the first row courtside and I was like, if I was two steps ahead, he would have laid me out for sure but he was sort of tumbling and stumbling.

He put the brakes on right at the right time and what the cameras don’t see is that I had my arm wrapped around his waist to stop his momentum and then I turn around because I know he’s in game mode and I turn around and ask are you okay, you need to be careful, you need to be safe, I’m good don’t worry Chiney.

I’ve known Donovan for a while through Adidas family and he’s one of the greatest dudes.

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First of all, he’s going to have an amazing year. I know they took a loss but he’s killing it right now.

We joked about it afterward, he hit me up afterward and was like ‘I’m so sorry that I almost killed you today’. I was like it’s alright but then social media was trying to throw a little slander towards me because they didn’t see camera angle of me grabbing his waist and saving him but it was just one of those what just happened (moments) but we laughed about it.

Question: You got to see Coach Fisher at a recent Lakers game, how was that?

Chiney: After all that happened, I saw Coach Fisher and it was good. I saw him and his family and he was even on the Jumbotron.

It’s sort of funny because we disassociate, Derek Fisher the Laker legend with Derek Fisher the coach because he wants it that way. He is here as our coach but it’s kind of cool to see him in his element with all the Lakers fans. I’m sitting next to him and people are passing him by saying ‘Fish we love you’.

I’m like that’s sort of weird but it’s really cool, LA is just different.

Question: How is your current relationship with Coach Fisher?

Chiney: You know me, I’m a glass half full type of person so despite everything that has happened, I’m really excited about next year.

I got to play with my sister for a year. That’s something I didn’t know would ever happen (again). We finished 3rd. We were in the semifinals. We have a lot of build on. I know the lay off the land now.

I think for a while I was just like Coach Fisher, trying to understand the settings and not step on toes but now I feel like I can be me and work really hard this offseason to be me and then some. I’m really excited about next year because I feel like if anything the way we ended is nothing but motivation.

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