The four-time W.N.B.A. All-Star Liz Cambage and the Los Angeles Sparks are parting ways, the most recent thorny ending for the star center who only three months ago confidently declared that the team was “where I would like 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 W.N.B.A. 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 number of it might have been things off the court, off floor, who knows. Having conversations along with her afterward, it just felt it was good for her personally to make that move. All we are able to do as a company is support that and her decisions and just move on.”
For the team, he said, “it’s a latest day, latest atmosphere, for us on this gym.”
In a press release announcing the move, Eric Holoman, a managing partner for the Sparks, said, “We would like what’s best for Liz and have agreed to part ways amicably.” A representative for Cambage didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.
Cambage’s departure is her third split with a W.N.B.A. team in five years. She also has 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 within 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 W.N.B.A.’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 because the Wings. Cambage joined the Las Vegas Aces in 2019, but only after demanding a trade out of Dallas one 12 months right into a multiyear contract.
Though Cambage sat out the 2020 season due to Covid-19 health concerns, she and the Aces made the W.N.B.A. 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 W.N.B.A.’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 among the league’s most visible — and at times polarizing — personalities, going to Los Angeles with a big social media following and a mode that packed a punch. Cambage has also been public about her difficult mental health journey and treatment for depression, which she has 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 can be a D.J. and is signed to Wasserman Music.
“I had been living another person’s dream, chasing that for a minute,” she told The Latest York Times in May. “But now I’ve realized that this has all the time been my dream, being here in L.A. and playing here.”
The Sparks, who missed the W.N.B.A. playoffs last 12 months for the primary time since 2011, added Cambage to a frontcourt that included Nneka Ogwumike and her sister Chiney, each former No. 1 overall picks, in hopes of moving into championship contention. The team (12-15) is in sixth place within 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 W.N.B.A. profession. She was a part of a Sparks rebuild under Derek Fisher, the previous N.B.A. player who was brought on as general manager. However the Sparks fired Fisher in June and replaced him with Williams, who also coached Cambage in Dallas.
“I actually have to respect what she wants,” Williams said. “You’ve gotten to listen since it might be something else, might be something that’s not related to basketball.”
Williams said he hopes Cambage has one other opportunity to play.
“I feel she has room right away to examine the temperature of herself,” he said.