Olivia Nelson-Ododa Cancels Skeptics As Sparks Play Last Episode


Would you quietly accept the sentence if someone said your dream couldn’t happen? For Olivia Nelson-Ododa, the answer’s in the name: O, NO!

Television fans know the tragic reality of show cancelations. While Hollywood never runs out of sequels, all it takes is a silly goof or a miserly Nielsen rating for our favorite show to dart out of bounds. 11 WNBA franchises lazily changed the channel at the 2022 draft, refusing to pick Nelson-Ododa.

But the Sparks correctly saw a showstopper.

From Husky superstar to potential playoff hero, Nelson-Ododa proves to be LA’s best programming as the Sparks refuse to abandon their playoff hopes.

Get Debbie Downer Outta Here!

Nelson-Ododa’s final stat line with the Uconn Huskies doesn’t seem to indicate much adversity. ONO finished with 262 blocks, sixth all-time at the school. She recorded 100 rejections her sophomore year, with the NCAA tournament canceled!

Although that’s an impressive tally, stats can’t fully record her progress as a player.

In Nelson-Ododa’s first three years at Uconn, she sometimes experienced frustrations in marquee games. And, worse, officials inexplicably blew whistles at the slightest of her “fouls.” (One could write an encyclopedia about women’s basketball officiating issues!)

Failure, by itself, is never the main plotline, however. Instead, it was how Nelson-Ododa grew from her challenges that matters.

By her senior year, ONO gained enough confidence and technical attention to detail to help Uconn dominate the Big East, despite numerous Husky injuries. However, those setbacks forced an avalanche (by Connecticut standards) of five losses, resulting in a challenging Elite Eight draw against top seed NC State.

Nelson-Ododa’s two missed free throws at the end of regulation gave the Wolfpack a chance to win, but karma smiled on the determined player as State’s shot hit nothing but hardwood. After a stalemate in the first overtime, Uconn held a two-point lead with 10.1 seconds left.

With State out of timeouts, two points would seal the win. Would Nelson-Ododa be ready? O, yeah!

Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma trusted the 6’5″ leader to handle the inbounds pass. ONO zipped the ball into play, then calmly let Christyn Williams seal the win.


After she finished as a national-runner up, the Sparks wisely selected Nelson-Odada with a second-round pick, #19 overall. With Kristi Toliver owning #20, ONO’s college number, the lanky rookie fittingly switched to #10.

A perfect score for an ideal selection.

Pressure Diamond

LA experienced a problematic stretch this summer. The Sparks adjusted from a mid-season coaching change, and interim coach Fred Williams needed to reallocate minutes after Liz Cambage left the team.

The situation seemed to hit a 0 rating when New York squashed LA 102-72 on August 2nd. But Nelson-Ododa, who had a game score of +13 in the 29-point loss, showed remarkable maturity in the interview room while seated next to team leader Brittney Sykes. ONO answered a safe question on how the Sparks could improve their playoff position.

“I think it’s really important for us to really just take it game by game,” Nelson-Ododa explained. “I think that’s gonna be crucial to our team, especially just finishing out this regular season.”

Sykes made a quick aside to her teammate, and the inquiring journalist asked Sykes to repeat the comment for the WNBA world to hear more clearly.

“Slim” turned the volume of excellence to the maximum while clarifying Nelson-Ododa’s budding role.

“I said pressure makes diamonds. Pressure shmesher [not a typo].” While the Sparks didn’t win that night, they proudly became the first team to use the term pressure shmesher to destroy a defeatist sentiment.

Williams recognized Nelson-Ododa’s growing comfort in her developing role as both player and teammate. He boldly placed the rookie in the starting lineup the next night.

The confident Husky has started every game since.

Don’t Touch That Dial!

True, LA lost again in New York. However, while the Sparks would unquestionably silence any moral victory conversation, the improved result nevertheless reinforced their genuine status as a playoff contender.

After another challenging loss, ONO’s clutch free throws secured a must-win in Washington D.C. Although terrifically unfair travel challenges resulted in a one-sided loss to Connecticut, LA can still make the postseason with two more wins and a bit more good karma with competitors’ losses.

Nelson-Ododa, meanwhile, is rapidly establishing her name as a 2020s’ Sparks great.

Sure, Uconn knew about her excellence long ago.

But ONO personally ensured that the rest of the sports world knows too, declaring: I’m back!

(Seriously, Twitter, get this woman a check mark!)

Although already a dazzling, albeit selective, Instagram star, ONO also developed an activist voice.

ONO: 10/10 show. NFL Network: straight to VHS.

While Nelson-Ododa “improbably” (although true fans know better) became LA’s best rookie, she doesn’t have a crystal ball for the season’s final four days. So whether it’s doofuses on Twitter asking for sandwiches, an evil Russian army kidnapping a friend, or just a lucky bounce by Sabrina Ionescu, ONO will always face challenges.

But never change the Nelson-Ododa channel! While she can’t guarantee a time slot, championship programming is always the expectation in Los Angeles. Nelson-Ododa’s quiet confidence grows by the second in the golden state, while those who scoff at her chances already stare at a blank screen.

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About Jeffrey Newholm

"Jammin Jeff" Newholm had been a basketball fanatic since his high school days, and remained a casual fan as a student in Whitewater. Wishing to check in as an active participant, he also completed a writing certificate program at UWM. He loves seeing Bucks games more than any other activity in hometown Milwaukee and especially screaming really really loudly to get someone to miss a free throw. Twitter: @JeffreyNewholm

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