The four-time WNBA All-Star Liz Cambage and the Los Angeles Sparks are parting ways, the latest thorny ending for the star center who only three months ago confidently declared that the team was “where I want to be.”
On Tuesday, the Sparks announced that they and Cambage, 30, had agreed to a “contract 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 escalated it,” Fred Williams, the team’s interim coach, said at a media availability on Tuesday. “A lot of it could have been things off the court, off the floor, who knows. Having conversations with her afterwards, it just felt it was good for her personally to make that move. All we can do as an organization is support that and her decisions and just move on.”
For the team, he said, “it’s a new day, new atmosphere, for us in this gym.”
In a statement announcing the move, Eric Holoman, a managing partner for the Sparks, said, “We want what’s 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 her third split with a WNBA team in five years. She also said she has “zero” interest in playing again for her home country. Cambage was accused of using a racial slur against opponents while playing for Australia in the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics; she has denied the accusations.
Cambage, who grew up outside Melbourne, Australia, was drafted second overall by the WNBA’s Tulsa Shock in 2011 as a cornerstone for the then-struggling franchise. She took a four-season hiatus from the league before rejoining the team, which had relocated to Dallas and rebranded as the Wings. Cambage joined the Las Vegas Aces in 2019, but only after demanding a trade out of Dallas one year into a multiyear contract.
Although Cambage sat out the 2020 season because of Covid-19 health concerns, she and the Aces made the WNBA semifinals in 2019 and 2021. She left the team as an unrestricted free agent after the 2021 season, but she did so with a parting shot by criticizing the WNBA’s pay structure when the Aces signed Becky Hammon as head coach for $1 million.
Cambage had long set her sights on the Sparks. She joined the team as one of the league’s most visible — and at times polarizing — personalities, going to Los Angeles with a large social media following and a style that packed a punch. Cambage has also been public about her difficult mental health journey and treatment for depression, which she said contributed to her rocky start with the Shock.
Cambage is signed to the talent agency IMG, has modeled sportswear for Adidas and is a brand ambassador for Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty lingerie line. 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 this has always been my dream, being here in LA and playing 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 picks, in hopes of moving into championship contention. The team (12-15) is in sixth place in the league.
Cambage, who said she had recently recovered from her third bout of Covid-19, was enduring the second-lowest scoring season of her WNBA career. She was part of a Sparks rebuild under Derek Fisher, the former NBA player who was brought on as 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 that’s not related to basketball.”
Williams said he hopes Cambage has another opportunity to play.
“I think she has room right now to check the temperature of herself,” he said.