Michelob Ultra took over Art Basel with a one-of-a-kind activation bringing in an interactive LED basketball court for fans to compete on. The event was to highlight the new team cans for the 2022-23 season, designed by six artists for 19 of the league’s franchises. Joining the beer brand in Miami for the reveal of the cans was a run of athletes, including WNBA All-Star, champion, and one of the greatest players in Los Angeles Sparks history, Nneka Ogwumike.
Oguimike teamed with Miami HEAT legend Gary Payton to wash a team of another HEAT legend Alonzo Mourning and celebrity trainer Chris Brickley on the LED court. Before she took the court, Ogwumike spoke with The SOURCE about her excitement to be a part of the Michelob activation, her growing affection for art, her impeding decision in free agency, and more.
Hearing about this can project. What made you want to be a part of this Art Basel experience and be aligned with Michelob?
I have a strong, long-standing partnership with Michelob, and I’ve always had such fun and expressive experiences in their activations. But coming here, I’ve never been to Art Basel. I like to think I’m an art enthusiast to a degree. I’m definitely an admirer; I’ll say that. But also, I was excited to see them drop the cans last year. So to see some new cans that represent sports and culture is something I love for sure.
With all the art that goes into these, I would love to see some women’s representation in these cans. We need WNBA cans. You are a free agent, but if you could design a can for your most recent team, the Los Angeles Sparks, what would you put on the can?
So I’m definitely on the can. I would like to create almost kind of, and maybe, a Mount Rushmore of Sparks players and then obviously include the three championships on the can. I would also incorporate some L.A. influence.
You backed yourself into a corner. So now I have to ask, that Mount Rushmore for the Sparks, who’s on it?
Well, I would put myself on.
You better be on it.
[Laughs] I would put myself on CP3 [Candace Parker], DMJ [DeLisha Milton-Jones], and Lisa Leslie; it’s a lot. It’s a lot.
We could do like a mural on the can instead.
Yeah, a mural. There we go. Have everybody in there.
You are playing on this interactive LED basketball court with Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning, and some legends. How does it feel to take the court with these legends and people we grew up watching?
It’s certainly an honor. I, of course, love it when we bridge the gap between the NBA and the WNBA. So much of what we do is caused by a partnership together. To be able to work with NBA legends but also advocates of basketball from a global perspective. It’s really important to me.
Speaking of the WNBA. The league is moving to 40 games next year. How excited were you to hear about it? And, what do you think you have to do to prepare to continue that extra four games and hopefully a playoff run?
Yeah, so I’m excited about it. More games mean more people are watching. It also means progress toward a league that garners more resources, viewership, and investment. Preparing for it is the same that we do every time. You know, just do what you must to make sure you’re ready to play as many of those games as you can. The goal is always to be healthy for 40 games, and now I’m just waiting for this free agency season to see how you’re going to stack up before the season starts. I’m excited to see what this free agency holds and to be part of a team that wins.
You were instrumental in developing this free agency that we’ll see. In picking a team, what elements would you specifically like to see?
I would love to be a part of a team that represents the culture and advocates for sports, especially black women in sports. I want to be a part of a team that’s a part of a legacy. I want to be part of a team that will win and not just one time; I want to see some sustained success and history.
There could be a better effort to make the buzz of a WNBA free agency or off-season be, much like the NBA. What would be helpful to this process and expansion of coverage, and where do stars like yourself go?
Well, the first thing is people like you asking me these questions. You serve as representation. That’s very helpful for us. You are giving us a platform, giving us accessibility. Storytelling is very important. But I also think, within that storytelling, being very intentional as I feel like you are with the types of questions you’re asking, trying to get to know the players, trying to understand their thoughts, and then contributing to actual real authentic storylines. Those stories can be woven into the season and not predetermined, which has always been our issue. So this new free agency, in my opinion, has created a way for those stories to be told. For so long as a fan, I’m sure you can attest that you always knew who was going to go where. But now you have players leaving teams they’ve been with for decades. Players choose to play in different places, and that’s where those narratives come to birth.
You mentioned the love of art and being here. Do you have art pieces now? If not, is there something you want to add to your collection or have your eye on?
I currently actually just started investing in art. And the art pieces that I have now, there are two artists. One was an artist that I found in Abuja, Nigeria. He sold it to me, and it’s hanging in my house in Houston. And then I have some art in my condo in L.A. from my cousin, who’s going to be showing at Art Basel next year. She just got her master’s in fine arts from Yale. Okay. So I have a piece of her art in my house right now. So I’m like slowly dabbling.