Thirty years ago, an undrafted forward named Richard Coffey played the last of his 25 career NBA games for the Minnesota Timberwolves — you might say he had a cup of coffee in the league.
While Richard’s NBA career was unspectacular, he was laying the groundwork for a new generation of Coffeys in professional basketball with his two daughters Sydney and Nia and his son Amir. Richard was the driving force for early morning workouts as he preached that “basketball was the way to go”, according to Nia. All three kids worked to follow in their father’s footsteps: Amir started playing basketball in second grade, Nia as a fourth grader and Sydney a little older.
That plan worked out to perfection, as all three Coffeys got college scholarships and have had careers in the pros. Sydney played overseas after a collegiate career at Marist. Now, the younger two could be reunited in Los Angeles.
BREWCREW ASSEMBLE!!!! This is certainly grounds for celebration. https://t.co/Gxa5hvA0b9— Brian Sieman (@BSieman) March 4, 2021
“Ever since we were young, we were always in the gym together,” Amir said. “All of us were in the gym. We just stuck through it throughout our school days in high school and college, so just growing up with them, seeing how hard they work, see how hard Nia works to get to where she is now, it’s truly a blessing. So I’m proud of her, all I can do is thank God.”
The two siblings took different paths to the pros, even if they’ve ended up in the same spot. Amir was undrafted — Jerry West called him one of the most underrated college players he’d ever seen — and then signed a two-way contract with the Clippers. Nia, meanwhile, had a decorated collegiate career at Northwestern and was the fifth overall pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft. However, Nia hasn’t found stability in the WNBA like Amir has with the Clippers; she bounced around four cities in four seasons before landing right next to her brother with the Los Angeles Sparks.
The Sparks have 15 players currently under contract for 12 roster spots with the draft still to come, so it’s unclear if the middle Coffey will make the final cut. But she has a fan from inside of Staples Center, where she’d once again be rooming with her brother.
“That’d be a blessing, that’d be awesome,” Amir said about Nia joining the Sparks. “Two Coffeys in L.A. you know, just be closer to her, hang out a little bit more, that’d be pretty cool. Hopefully everything works out for the best.”
There have been siblings in the NBA — Stephen and Seth Curry stand out as the most prominent brothers currently in the league — and in the WNBA, where the Sparks have the most successful sister duo in league history with Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike. There have also been siblings who spanned both leagues, including Anthony and Candace Parker, Rudy and Marta Fernández, and Ime and Mfon Udoka. None of them played in the same city at the same time, however, though the Udokas came close, as Ime was cut by the Lakers just months before Mfon joined the Sparks.
The Coffeys would therefore be making history if Nia is part of that 12-player roster when the WNBA season tips off.
Derek Fisher, the head coach and general manager of the Sparks, provided glowing remarks about L.A.’s newest signing in the team’s press release.
“The addition of Nia Coffey provides us with additional athleticism, youth and versatility on the wing,” General Manager/Head Coach Derek Fisher said. “Nia has shown the ability to make outside shots, attack the basket, and defend multiple positions. We’re excited to have her join our group and compete.”
At 6’1, Nia has the size and versatility to play both forward spots in the W. She’s a solid rebounder and blocks shots at a high rate. She’s also been a 35 percent 3-point shooter (slightly above league average) during her four seasons. The Sparks are moving towards a system that emphasizes pace, which fits well with her speed both in the half court and in transition.
Amir did his part to talk up the tricks of his older sister’s game, including her shooting and hard-nosed defense, and Nia echoed those strengths in her opening press conference for the Sparks.
“I just have to just show my versatility on both sides of the ball, defensively just being able to show that I can guard multiple different positions and different players, and on the other side of the ball just show how I’ve been adding to my game, whether it’s post-ups, mid-range or three-point shots, and just being able to attack the basket and make correct passes and reads,” Nia said. “Just bringing all that together and then having a team-first mentality, understanding that my priority and my goal is to add to the team, however I can. So definitely being aggressive and in attack mode, and just bring what I have.”
Her process sounds like an awful lot like what Amir has done to make himself a part of the Clippers’ future, and their present. In doing so, he’s also climbed up the Coffey power rankings. The top spot used to be Nia’s considering her standout college career and draft slot, but maybe not for long.
“Amir, he has me running for my money a little bit, so I just have to make sure that I can continue to beat him,” Nia said. “But my sister (Sydney) definitely still thinks that she’s the best shooter. I think I’ve improved a lot and could kind of take her, but Amir thinks that since he’s a 6’8 combo guard that he’s just better than all of us, so I just have to prove him wrong, that’s it.”
When Nia was drafted, Amir said his parents had told them that no dream was ever too big. He proved those words prescient when he found a home with the Clippers, and now the younger Coffeys are setting their sights even higher as they attempt to both make a name for themselves on one of basketball’s biggest stages.