The ladies of the WNBA will be gracing the cover of this year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue and they are just as fierce and dynamic slaying behind the camera as they are on the court. Free-agent Te’a Cooper, the Los Angeles Sparks Nneka Ogwumike, and New York Liberty star DiDi Richards were among the beautiful ballers featured front and center on the forthcoming issue that celebrates the WNBA’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and social change outside of the arena.
With the scenic ocean of the US Virgin Islands as their backdrop, the ballers traded in their jerseys for sexy sleek black swimsuits during the beautiful photoshoot. Cooper shined in a plunging V-line swimsuit, while Ogwumike showed off her brawny physique in a sexy double cross strap swimsuit. Richards donned a bikini giving a glimpse of her toned upper body in a mesh top. WNBA vet Sue Bird and the Seattle Storm’s Breanna Stewart also graced the cover.
“These players not only dominate on the court but are tirelessly leading the charge in speaking out on social justice issues- fighting for racial justice and equality and working together to create sustainable change,” said Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit editor MJ Daily on Instagram.
During the interview, the former Los Angeles Sparks star gushed about the opportunity of being able to model for the coveted sports publication.
“It says ‘sports’ but they always looked like models, so I would have never thought one day I would be one. It was very empowering to be a part of this because of the people I did it with,” the 25-year-old said, according to SI Swimsuit.
“Everybody’s story was different and just spending time with them, us all being in the WNBA as professionals was overwhelming.”
Cooper added that she hopes to follow in the powerful footsteps of the WNBA giants who came before her and made a significant impact on the league.
“The fact that some players are mothers—just being able to do all of that and be one of the top athletes is an amazing accomplishment. And for people to be able to see it is empowering,” she shared.
While Cooper waits for her next team placement, it looks like she’s staying pretty busy off the court. The bustling hooper is a brand ambassador for the health and wellness company Thorne and it looks like she had already been priming her modeling chops for other fashion gigs too. Cooper was recently featured on the cover of Grind Pretty.
With one WNBA championship underneath her belt and six All-star titles, Ogwumike has become an unstoppable force since joining the Sparks in 2012. She was the number 1 overall draft pick too.
“Women don’t leave people behind,” the 6 foot 2 forward said. “It’s intrinsic. I am so happy to work in a career where I experience that every day.”
The 31-year-old basketball champ has been the president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) since 2016, which helps to protect the rights of the players and assists them with advancing their future career goals, but when she isn’t busy juggling her many roles, the star said she’s usually chowing down on food or listening to her favorite music.
“I’m very much a creative person…I’m Nigerian American, I’m a Stanford graduate…there is so much about me that makes me me, and I’m hoping it’s exuded in this issue, especially for women who are trying to find their own individual confidence,” Ogwumike added.
23-year-old Richards said she was almost hit with a wave of self-doubt when SI reached out for the feature.
“It’s been a dream my entire life so it’s crazy to be featured, especially after my first year in the WNBA, and to be a part with the other players” the young athlete recalled. “It was very humbling. My emotions were all over the place. I was like ‘Am I even supposed to be here?’”
That feeling certainly didn’t last for long as the New York Liberty guard quickly accepted the offer with ease, and as you can see by the photo below, Richards had looks for days, modeling up smoldering poses for the cover.
Off the court, the Houston, Texas native is on fire, too. She’s landed a few commercial and fashion deals and appears to be active in the NFT marketplace. According to SI Swimsuit, the star might even be launching her very own clothing line soon. Richards said she was inspired to chase her dreams outside of basketball because of the WNBPA’s support.
“I think they are doing a great job of encouraging us to tap into different spaces,” she said, before adding:
“It’s all empowering. I am happy to be able to tap into different spaces in the world and succeed in them like I do on the court.”
The full cover story for the 2022 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue hits stands on May 19.