Four-time WNBA star Liz Cambage and the Los Angeles Sparks part ways, the latest thorny end for the star center who just three months ago confidently declared the team was “where I want to be”.
On Tuesday, the Sparks announced that they and Cambage, 30, had agreed to a “contractual divorce” just five months after the team added her to its roster. A 6-foot-8 Australian, she averaged 13 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 25 games this season; she still holds the WNBA single-game scoring record with 53 points.
“It was a surprise – I didn’t know what really made it worse,” Fred Williams, the team’s interim coach, told a news conference on Tuesday. “A lot of it could have been things off the pitch, off the ground, who knows. Having conversations with her afterwards, I just felt it was right for her personally to make this gesture. All we can do as an organization is support that and its decisions and just move on.
For the team, he said, “it’s a new day, a new vibe, for us in this gymnasium.”
In a statement announcing the move, Sparks managing partner Eric Holoman said, “We want the best for Liz and have agreed to part ways amicably.” A representative for Cambage did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cambage’s departure is his third split with a WNBA team in five years. She also said she had no interest in playing again for her home country. Cambage was accused of using a racial slur against opponents while playing for Australia ahead of the Tokyo Olympics; she denied the charges.
Cambage, who grew up outside of Melbourne, Australia, was drafted second overall by the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock in 2011 as the cornerstone of the then-struggling franchise. She took a four-season hiatus from the league before joining the team, which had moved to Dallas and renamed the Wings. Cambage joined the Las Vegas Aces in 2019, but only after asking for a trade from Dallas a year into a multi-year contract.
Although Cambage did not participate in the 2020 season due to health issues related to Covid-19, she and the Aces made the WNBA Semifinals in 2019 and 2021. She left the team as as an unrestricted free agent after the 2021 season, but she did it with a parting shot. by criticizing the WNBA salary structure when the Aces signed Becky Hammon as head coach for $1 million.
Cambage had long since set his sights on the Sparks. She joined the team as one of the league’s most visible — and sometimes polarizing — personalities, heading to Los Angeles with a large following on social media and a style that packs a punch. Cambage also went public with her difficult mental health journey and treatment for depression, which she says contributed to her rocky start to the Clash.
Cambage is signed to talent agency IMG, has modeled activewear for Adidas and is an ambassador for Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty lingerie brand. She is also a DJ and is signed to Wasserman Music.
“I had been living someone else’s dream, chasing that for a minute,” she told The New York Times in May. “But now I’ve realized that it’s always been my dream, to be here in LA and play here.”
The Sparks, who missed the WNBA playoffs last year for the first time since 2011, added Cambage to a frontcourt that included Nneka Ogwumike and her sister Chiney, both former No. 1 overall, in hope of qualifying for the championship. The team (12-15) sits sixth in the league.
Cambage, who said she had recently recovered from her third episode of Covid-19, was enduring the second season with the lowest score of his WNBA career. She was part of a Sparks rebuild under Derek Fisher, the former NBA player who was named general manager. But the Sparks fired Fisher in June and replaced him with Williams, who also coached Cambage in Dallas.
“I have to respect what she wants,” Williams said. “You have to listen because it could be something else, could be something unrelated to basketball.”
Williams said he hopes Cambage gets another chance to play.
“I think she has room right now to check her temperature,” he said.