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Sunday, July 14, 2024

ESPN Rising Star Chiney Ogwumike Poised To Hit Free Agency

  • Dual-threat WNBA/ESPN star drawing interest from Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.
  • Helped pioneer the trend of active players joining sports media.
ogwumike_smiling_holding_basketball
Melissa Rawlins / ESPN Images

Chiney Ogwumike helped pioneer the trend of professional athletes launching media careers as active players.

Now the WNBA star is poised to test free-agency waters in her second career as a sports personality/host/analyst at ESPN.

The 30-year-old Ogwumike’s current contract is set to expire in mid-August, said sources. 

She’s already made history as the first Black woman to host a national radio show on ESPN. The Los Angeles Sparks star is drawing interest from suitors looking for diverse, up-and-coming talents. 

Multiple streamers are eyeing the Stanford graduate for hosting opportunities, said sources. They include: Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. 

Meanwhile, Ogwumike could reunite with close friend Emmanuel Acho, another former ESPN talent who jumped to Fox Sports two years ago.

With sports betting giants in the market for TV/radio talent, she could also follow the path of Mike Golic Jr., her former co-host on ESPN Radio’s “Chiney & Golic Jr.”  

Earlier this year, Golic Jr. joined DraftKings. Along with Brandon Newman, the younger Golic co-hosts “GoJo” daily podcast.

Women now make up 1/3 of the NBA audience, with female viewership growing 23% during the 2021-22 regular season. Ogwumike has served as a basketball analyst on ESPN shows ranging from “NBA Countdown” to “NBA Today.” ESPN is not going to let her go without a fight.

Sources said ESPN wants to re-sign the Nigerian American star, who first joined the network in 2017 as co-host of “SportsCenter” across Sub-Saharan Africa. 

ESPN declined to comment for this story. Ogwumike’s reps could not be reached.

Ogwumike was the first overall pick of the 2014 WNBA Draft. On the basketball court, she’s been named a two-time All-Star and WNBA Rookie of the Year. 

Since Ogwumike launched her dual threat athletic/media career five years ago, the space has become crowded.

Draymond Green of the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors fired back at critics who questioned why he was hosting his own podcast through the NBA Finals.

CJ McCollum of the New Orleans Pelicans recently joined ESPN as a multi-platform analyst. Patrick Beverley of the Utah Jazz made a big impression with his guest debate appearances vs. Stephen A. Smith on ESPN’s “First Take.” Candace Parker of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky has worked at TNT since 2018.

While still an active NFL player, Greg Olsen started calling game telecasts for Fox Sports on weeks that didn’t conflict with his schedule. With Troy Aikman leaving for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” Olsen will now call Fox’s coverage of Super Bowl 57 on Feb. 12.

“If you’re a professional athlete, and you have the bandwidth to do both, why not get your reps while still playing?” asked one sports TV executive. “You’re in it. That’s what the fans want anyway. They want that (active player) perspective.”

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