Reality TV is supposed to give us everything except reality, but real life steps in when cast favorites decide to step out of the drama. This week, Basketball Wives’ Evelyn Lozada announced her departure from the show after 9 seasons. "I think that it’s time for me to open up the universe to other things," Lozada told E!’s “Just the Sip” podcast of her departure, "It’s been a hard decision because I could [continue to appear on the show] with my eyes closed." Lozada says the show's lack of "positive energy" was a part of her decision to leave after more than ten years despite being one of only two of the original cast members. She doesn't acknowledge, in her interview, that maybe she was responsible for some of the show's most dramatic moments. Whether you hate her, love her, or fall somewhere in the middle, you can't deny her impact on the show's legacy.
Arguably the most contentious plot twist of the series happened during season 8 and launched a heated and violent debate about colorism between Lozada and Ogom Chijindu, nicknamed OG, retired football player and girlfriend to professional basketball player Kwame Alexander.
After a rocky start and introduction into the group in her season 7 debut, Chijindu never considered Lozada a friend, especially as jokes about Oji’s appearance and style continued throughout the episodes. The tension steadily built and completely overflowed on the cast’s trip to Costa Rica. The argument took an ugly turn when Chijundu brought up Lozada’s ex-husband Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, who she divorced because of his domestic violence towards her. Lozada fired back by calling her ugly and the two continued the drama on Instagram after the season wrapped.
Ultimately, the social media brawl came to a simmer when Lozada filed a lawsuit against Chijindu for defamation because of the influx of colorist and racist allegations. For the Black community, this debate exposed the lack of reconciliation and accountability we've had for the topic and our attachment to stereotypes that many Black women on reality tv shows emulate or fall into — networks know that viewers love to see Black women throw drinks in fancy restaurants and argue in public. There's a wrestle between fulfilling that for the sake of views and financial gain, and keeping some level of decorum and Black Excellence in tact.
Just writing that recap warrants a sigh and that’s how some fans might react to the news of this OG basketball wife’s departure. Yet, others who’ve watched the show at any point before season 7 might be wondering how it's going to avoid becoming a rinse and repeat of previous seasons (cough, cough — we see what you did with the story line stretch in season 9, VH1).
Since its premiere in 2010, Basketball Wives has flipped the script on the idea that all women married to athletes are "gold diggers" who lack any personal motivation to succeed on their own. Cast member Malaysia Pargo owns her own fashion line, former cast member Tami Roman is an author and actor, and Cece Gutierrez is a registered nurse with her own medical spa. But the show wouldn't captivate viewers enough if it was simply a highlight reel of their accomplishments.
Despite OG cast members on the show somewhat dialing back on their once argumentative fire in recent years, will the show recover or reconcile with the issues of colorism and outright bullying? Or will it continue to use that framework to usher in a new set of basketball wives in an attempt to fill Lozada’s shoes?
Whether the show will be better without the Bronx native is too early to tell, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a far-fetched story line adds some life into the next season to remind us just how much the show relied on her as the villain — or to show us that we might not need one as much as we think.