Three WNBA stars — Natasha Cloud, Chiney Ogwumike and A’ja Wilson — were named to Forbes’ 2021 “30 Under 30 List.” These three deserving honorees are defining what it means to be an athlete in the 2020s, both on and off the court.
The Washington Mystics’ Natasha Cloud, Los Angeles Sparks’ Chiney Ogwumike and Las Vegas Aces’ A’ja Wilson are members of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Class of 2021.
Forbes Chief Content Officer Randall Lane, who established the Under 30 program, stated:
Despite the pandemic, a global recession and the social-justice movement here in the United States, today’s young entrepreneurs are as enterprising as ever, committed to solving the world’s problems and designing a way forward that benefits us all.
Cloud, Ogwumike and Wilson embody and actualize what it means for an athlete to be involved with “business” in the 2020s — excellence on the court accompanied by activism, passion, innovation and barrier breaking off it.
A panel of judges including Emmanuel Acho, Lyle Ayes, Mark Cuban and Billie Jean King selected Cloud, Ogwumike, Wilson and others in the sports industry. WNBA players previously named to a “Forbes 30 Under 30” list are Skylar Diggins-Smith (2019) and Breanna Stewart (2020).
Here’s more on why Cloud, Ogwumike and Wilson deserve to be honored for 2021:
Natasha Cloud: The Community Activist
Cloud has emerged as the face of WNBA activism.
During the 2019 season, Cloud organized a “media blackout” after shootings near an elementary school in Washington D.C.’s Ward 8, the neighborhood where the Mystics’ Entertainment and Sports Arena is located. Cloud’s commitment to drawing attention to the everyday threat of violence experienced by young people living in Ward 8 was a product of her intention to embrace, not contribute to the gentrification of, the Mystics’ home community. Throughout the Mystics’ title-winning 2019 season, Cloud continued to advocate for gun control.
After deciding the sit out the 2020 WNBA season, Cloud again grounded her social justice efforts in the community. Following the murder of George Floyd in June, she marched in Philadelphia, where she attended college at St. Joseph’s. On Juneteenth, she led a march in D.C. with members of the Mystics and Wizards.
Cloud then devoted her energies to the 2020 election, voicing her support for Joe Biden while also working to ensure that Capital One Arena would serve as polling locations.
Cloud also is the first women’s basketball player to sign a contract with Converse, a partnership that not only indicates the cache of Cloud’s activist credentials but also can provide her with the resources needed to continue to fight for justice.
Chiney Ogwumike: The Media Star
Ahead of the 2019 WNBA season, Ogwumike decided to take greater control of her career by requesting a trade from the Connecticut Sun to the Los Angeles Sparks.
While her desire inspired criticism, Ogwumike has proven why LA was the place she needed to be — not only to fulfill her personal ambitions but also to serve as a representational role model.
Already working with ESPN while in Connecticut, Ogwumike significantly expanded her media footprint since arriving in LA. This summer, she became the first Black woman to host a daily, national radio show as the better half of “Chiney and Golic Jr.”
She also hosts a podcast with women’s basketball great Lisa Leslie called “Front & Center.”
After electing to sit out the 2020 WNBA season, Ogwumike used her media platform to amplify the experiences and emotions of Black women and Black women athletes during a time of social unrest around racism.
She also has made time for activist efforts, especially around voting rights. A member of the LeBron James-led More Than a Vote organization, Ogwumike, along with her sisters, served as a poll worker in her hometown of Houston on Election Day.
A’ja Wilson: The MVP
Even as she posted 20.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and two blocks per game, Wilson expanded her social justice and sponsorship portfolios.
From inside the WNBA bubble, Wilson established herself as an unapologetic advocate for the rights and integrity of Black women. A member of the WNBPA’s Social Justice Council, she consistently has used her platform to speak for and to Black girls. She also continued to support young people dealing with dyslexia and bullying through the A’ja Wilson Foundation.
Like Ogwumike, Wilson is a founding member of the More Than a Vote team.
In the realm of sponsorships, Wilson has emerged as one of the most visible WNBA stars. She headlines Nike’s women’s basketball campaign, debuting the Nike Adapt BB 2.0. The first WNBA player with an endorsement contract with Mountain Dew, she worked with the brand to bring the Crossover Salon to the wubble.