Extremely proud and humbled to be the first female cover athlete in the history of @NBA2K
I’m honored to work with a company that’s investing in women and betting on us to succeed. I’m hopeful there will be many more badass females to follow 💪🏽💪🏽 pic.twitter.com/WJan4YE7Qt
— Candace Parker (@Candace_Parker) July 14, 2021
Speaking with ESPN, Parker — a self-described “video game fanatic” — said the news of her cover is a dream come true.
“As a kid growing up, you dream of having your own shoe and dream of being in a video game. Those are an athlete as a kid’s dreams. To be able to experience that, I don’t take it lightly,” she told the outlet.
The sports star also said that she understands there were an array of other players who could have been chosen to be the first to cover the game.
“It means a lot to me. I’m a fan of basketball. I eat, sleep and breathe basketball. I’m a historian within basketball. I am a fan of basketball. I commentate basketball. I play video games,” the former MVP said. “It was really the perfect storm because there are a lot of other people well-deserving of this, and I know that.”
All three versions of the forthcoming video game are planned to be released on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch and PC, per Fox News. The WNBA 25th anniversary special edition is available for pre-order now.
In an interview earlier this year, Parker told PEOPLE she was proud to be just one of an entire generation of WNBA athletes who are making “strides forward” in ensuring the league is taken seriously on the court – and off.
“We’ve gone from a couple of athletes speaking out to now, an entire league shutting down and demanding change,” she told PEOPLE.
Candace Parker on What She’d Change About the WNBA If She Were Commissioner for a Day
During her appearance on The Daily Show Monday, the Chicago Sky player, 35, was asked to think of three improvements that she’d make if she were in charge of the league for 24 hours
If Candace Parker were commissioner of the WNBA for a day, she’d make a few changes.
During a Monday night appearance on The Daily Show, the Chicago Sky player, 35, was asked to think of three improvements that she’d make if she were in charge of the league for 24 hours.
It didn’t take long for her to come up with some ideas. First and foremost? Update the league’s rules about traveling on the court.
“The NBA travels,” she pointed out to host Trevor Noah. “I would allow the WNBA to have the same rules as the NBA within traveling, because I feel like we make a bomb move and it’s a travel, but in the NBA you’ve got Giannis [Antetokounmpo] taking 97 steps and everyone is like ‘Wow that’s amazing!’ “
She laughed, “It is amazing, but … can we get similar rules? I’m not saying NBA can’t travel, I’m saying just let the WNBA travel.”
Parker also said she wouldn’t mind if there were times where the league could take it easy on the older players.
Her second idea is to “occasionally have it be half-court for the older players,” she joked, earning a laugh from Noah. “Like, ‘All right, you’re not feeling the greatest today? We’re just gonna go straight half court today.’ “
Parker’s last idea is one that Noah was convinced could become “the next trillion dollar franchise.”
“We need to solve this era debate, because everybody thinks their era is the best era in sports,” she explained.
Time travel, Parker elaborated, is the only way to really determine if Charles Barkley could hold Steph Curry at the three-point line or settle the debate about who would win in a LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan matchup.
“So somehow we need to develop a time machine so that these eras can compete against each other,” she said.
Last month, Parker told PEOPLE she’s proud to use her voice as part of an entire generation of WNBA athletes making “strides forward” to ensure the league is taken seriously on the court – and off.
“I think the WNBA as a whole is utilizing its platform to be in the communities and push for change,” she said, adding “We’ve gone from a couple of athletes speaking out to now, an entire league shutting down and demanding change.”
“I think we understand that we would be doing a disservice if we didn’t represent those people that we’re speaking for in a positive way, and demand change,” she says.
It’s the WNBA offseason but Candace Parker is busier than ever.
When she’s not draining trifectas or blocking shots, the Los Angeles Sparks star spends her time examining and dissecting the game she loves as an analyst for Turner Sports.
Parker has become a rising star at the network and signed a multi-year deal last year to remain with Turner in an expanded analyst role.
She provides analysis and plays a key part in TNT’s NBA coverage telecasts on Tuesday nights alongside Adam Lefkoe, Shaquille O’Neal and Dwayne Wade. Parker will also remain involved in the network’s NCAA tournament coverage.
She said the opportunity to keep covering major events like March Madness — the tournament that catapulted her into the national spotlight — is one of the main reasons she returned to Turner despite receiving interest from ESPN.
“It’s really fun,” said Parker, who led Tennessee to two national championships. “It takes being removed from it and not being a player to understand the importance of it. More people watch the tournament than those who are interested in college basketball. It’s a great time to prove yourself as a player, but it’s fun for me covering it because every game means something.”
Parker, 33, said she’s gotten more comfortable being on air over the last couple years working alongside some former NBA stars that she grew up admiring. One of her duties with Turner includes being the co-host of a weekly podcast with NBA TV reporter Kristen Ledlow. Parker, one of the most decorated female basketball players of all-time, is honing her craft in broadcasting while she puts the final touches on her illustrious basketball career.
“Candace has always been one of those players that’s loved watching the game,” Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame finalist and former Tennessee star Tamika Catchings said. “She’s been very good at being observant and being able to communicate and talk about the game like [she’s] just hanging out. That’s what you do as an analyst, talking about some of the different things you see. I think the perspective from players, people actually appreciate it more, because they’ve experienced it.”
Parker has experienced more highs and lows than most who reach the WNBA, which all have shaped her into the person she is today. The Naperville, Ill., native says her biggest inspiration to keep going is her 10-year-old daughter, Lailaa. So the former MVP isn’t waiting until she retires to start building her legacy off the court and encourages other players in the league to think similarly with long-term goals.
“I think the biggest thing about being more than a basketball player is the people you surround yourself with,” Parker said. “If you notice people growing in their career or growing in their path, they’re not hanging out or messing around with stupidity. I think your friends change as you get older… If you’re not hanging out with people you want to bring on your journey, then it’s probably not the right situation.”
While she’s on a quest for another league title before she retires, Parker is putting together quite the business portfolio in the meantime. She recently started a real estate venture in Miami and plans to eventually launch a production company. Parker said she also has plans of doing more on-screen work this year. She said long term she wants to keep expanding her brand, Candace Parker Inc., through basketball clinics and speaking engagements.
Parker’s older brother, Anthony, played in the NBA nine seasons and overseas for six before he made a transition into a front office role with the Orlando Magic’s G-League team. Parker said she learned a lot about financial literacy watching her brother’s ascension from college star to first-round draft pick.
“I think my business mindset comes from him and also the relationships that I’ve built,” she said. “You have to want to pursue [opportunities] and diversify. Be versatile. Growing up my dad never let me just play the center position, or forward. He always made me play guard, forward and center. So I’ve always been taught to be versatile so it’s the same thing in business.”
“It helps in a number of ways, like connections and relationships, but also just people seeing you. Because I think a lot of the issue is when you stop playing basketball, people stop remembering who you are, so when you’re on television they’re like ‘oh yeah I remember her’ so it’s like staying in people’s minds.”
Parker, who enters her 13th season this May, said she has no timetable of when she’ll retire and that she’ll probably wake up one day and make the decision. But regardless of when that time comes, Parker aims to position herself in a way that leaves a lasting impact that goes beyond basketball.
“I just don’t think your identity should lie in something or someone else,” she added. “It shouldn’t be what your job is or who you’re married to or who your friends are. You’re just setting yourself up for failure when you do that. I’m just trying to diversify my identity.”
Career Basketball Awards
- WNBA Champion: 2016
- WNBA Finals MVP: 2016
- 2× WNBA Most Valuable Player: 2008, 2013
- 5× All-WNBA First Team (2008, 2012–2014, 2017)
- 2× All-WNBA Second Team (2009, 2015)
- 2× WNBA All-Defensive Second Team (2009, 2012)
- 3× WNBA rebounding leader (2008, 2009, 2020)
- 2× WNBA peak performer (2008, 2009)
- WNBA Defensive Player of the Year (2020)
- WNBA All-Star Game MVP (2013)
- WNBA Rookie of the Year (2008)
- NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player (2007, 2008)
- Academic All-America of the Year award (2008)
- Naismith College Player of the Year (2008)
- USBWA Women’s National Player of the Year (2007, 2008)
- Associated Press Women’s College Basketball Player of the Year (2007, 2008)
- Wade Trophy (2007)
- John R. Wooden Award (2007, 2008)
- Honda Sports Award, basketball (2007, 2008)
- Honda-Broderick Cup, (2007)
- SEC Athlete of the Year (2007, 2008)
- SEC Player of the Year (2007)
- SEC Tournament MVP (2006, 2007)
- SEC Freshman of the Year (2006)
- All-State Team (2001-2004: AP, Chicago Sun Times, News-Gazette， Chicago Tribune, IBCA)
- Gatorade Illinois State Player of the Year (2002-2004)
- Illinois Miss Basketball (2002-2004)
- Illinois State Player of the Year (2002-2004: Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Daily Herald, Naperville Sun, News-Gazette)
- First Team All-American (2002-2004: Nike, Parade, Street & Smith’s, USA Today, 2004: McDonald’s)
- Gatorade Female Basketball Player of the Year (2003-2004)
- Naismith Prep Player of the Year (2003-2004)
- USA Today High School Player of the Year (2003-2004)
- 2004 Powerade Jam Fest Winner
- 2004 Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year
- 2004 Women’s Sports Foundation High School Athlete of the Year
- 2004 FIBA U18 World Championship
- 2006 FIBA World Champions for Women Bronze Medal
- 2007 FIBA Americas Championship
- 2008 Beijing Olympics Gold Medal
- 2012 London Olympics Gold Medal
- Championship of Russia (2010-2014)
- Cup of Russia (2010-2014)
- EuroLeague Women 3rd Place (2010-2012, 2014)
- EuroLeague Women Champion 2013
- EuroLeague Women Final Eight MVP 2013