Candace Parker, THE CITY OF CHICAGO’S FUTURE Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of FAMER, Dominates As Chicago Sky Heads to WNBA Finals

Candace Parker, THE CITY OF CHICAGO’S FUTURE Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of FAMER,  Dominates As Chicago Sky Heads to WNBA Finals
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Former President Barack Obama took to Twitter on Thursday to congratulate Candace Parker and the Chicago Sky on reaching the WNBA Finals.

Obama, a Chicago native, quote-tweeted a WNBA tweet with photos of the Sky’s celebration following their 79-69 win over the No. 1 Connecticut Sun.

“It’s always good to be from Chicago, but this year is especially sweet,” Obama wrote. “Congratulations to the Chicago Sky for making it to the WNBA Finals, and to the legend, Candace Parker, for making all of us proud. We’ll be rooting for you.”

The Sky, who entered the playoffs with just a 16-16 regular-season record as the No. 6 seed, pulled off one of the biggest postseason upsets in WNBA history.

Chicago knocked off the Sun 3-1 in their series, which made it just the second team from outside the top two seeds to reach the Finals since the league changed the format in 2016. Parker finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in Thursday’s win — which marked the Sky’s sixth in their past seven games.

The team will now await the winner of the Las Vegas Aces-Phoenix Mercury series, which will end on Friday night with Game 5. Game 1 of the WNBA Finals is set to start on Sunday.

Candace Parker and the Chicago Sky are headed to the WNBA Finals. (AP/Paul Beaty)
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 Candace Parker and the Chicago Sky are headed to the WNBA Finals. 

At last, Chicago has its own hometown hero to bring title back to that same old place

Naperville’s Candace Parker leads Sky into WNBA Finals

Candace Parker
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Candace Parker
Photo: AP

As big of a sports town as Chicago is, we’ve never really had the hometown kid lead a team to glory. Dick Butkus was about as close as we got, and that was 60 years ago. Isiah Thomas and Dwyane Wade ended up being rivals of Chicago, even though they’re from here. By the time Wade became a Bull, he was basically here to cash a check and sell some tickets and start Jimmy Butler on the road to becoming the insufferable dickhead he is now. The White Sox haven’t had a Southsider take them to a World Series.

We thought we had one of our own do the trick with Derrick Rose, but his best chance got snuffed out by LeBron James, and then Rose’s knees turned into regurgitated dog food. Then there was that whole rape case. Things went real sour real fast.

We thought we might get it with Chris Chelios as the Hawks’ captain. They kept falling short, and then we had the indignity of watching him go to Detroit for multiple Stanley Cups. We’re used to seeing our best have to leave to find the accolades and rewards you can’t get here, especially in the entertainment world. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get old.

So it was pretty awesome, as a born-and-raised Chicagoan, to see our own Candace Parker, who grew up in nearby Naperville, lead the Sky to the WNBA Finals last night in her first season at home with the Chicago Sky as they beat the Connecticut Sun 79-69 to win the semifinal series, 3-1. Maybe she’s not the best player on the team, as Courtney Vandersloot makes a serious case, but she was definitely the biggest piece.

But Parker’s return home has given the Sky a buzz in this town all season, one they haven’t had in a while, if ever. Once she got healthy, the Sky have been on an upward trajectory. It’s the dream we’ve all had as kids, rising to the top level and getting to play professionally at home and then bringing a championship home. There’s an easy argument that Parker is the best basketball player we’ve ever produced, and she might just be bringing a banner and a parade with her. She’s living it. In all honesty, we haven’t had a lot to smile about around here the past few years, and that goes well beyond sports, but a returning hero leading the hometown team to the last round? We can all get behind that.

 

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Sky pulled off one of WNBA’s biggest upsets and made league history on Wednesday as they beat No. 1 Sun, punching their ticket to the Finals.

The Chicago Sky pulled off one of WNBA’s biggest upsets and made league history on Wednesday as they beat No. 1 Sun, 79-69, becoming the first No. 6 seed to make it to the Finals since the format changed in 2016.

This marks the franchise’s second trip to the WNBA Finals in its 16-year history, and per Yahoo, it’s only the third team in league history to punch its ticket to the final series without a winning regular season record. Chicago finished 16-16.

Courtney Vandersloot and Kahleah Copper led the way point-wise, scoring 19 and 18 points respectively. And Candace Parker, who returned home to Chicago this season, tallied 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.

Meanwhile, league MVP Jonquel Jones led the Sun with 25 points and 11 rebounds, and Natisha Hiedeman hit five three-pointers coming off the bench, adding a total of 16 points.

Chicago hasn’t been to the Finals since the Phoenix Mercury swept them in 2014. There could be a rematch this year, depending on how Mercury and the Las Vegas Aces semifinals series ends. Phoenix leads 2-1.

Candace Parker

@Candace_Parker

Candace Parker
Candace Parker (cropped).jpg
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Parker in 2017
No. 3 – Chicago Sky
Position Center / Power forward
League WNBA
Personal information
Born April 19, 1986 (age 35)
St. Louis, Missouri
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Listed weight 184 lb (83 kg)
Career information
High school Naperville Central
(Naperville, Illinois)
College Tennessee (2004–2008)
WNBA draft 2008 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1st overall
Selected by the Los Angeles Sparks
Playing career 2008–present
Career history
20082020 Los Angeles Sparks
2010–2015 UMMC Ekaterinburg
2016 Guangdong Dolphins
2017 Fenerbahçe Istanbul
2017–2018 Xinjiang Tianshan Deers
2021–present Chicago Sky
Career highlights and awards
Stats at WNBA.com
Medals
Women’s basketball
Representing the
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United States
Olympic Games
Gold medal – first place
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2008 Beijing Team competition
Gold medal – first place
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2012 London Team competition
U18 and U19
Gold medal – first place
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2004 U18 Mayagüez Team Competition

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Candace Nicole Parker (born April 19, 1986) is an American professional basketball player for the Chicago Sky of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). She was selected as the first overall pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks.

A versatile player, Parker mainly plays the forward and center position. In high school, Parker won the 2003 and 2004 Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year awards, becoming just the second junior and the only woman to receive the award twice. As a college player for Tennessee, she led the team two consecutive national championships (2007, 2008), was named the Final Four’s most outstanding player in both occasions, and was a two-time consensus national player of the year. As a redshirt freshman, she became the first woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament game and the first woman to dunk twice in a college game. After being selected in the WNBA Draft, Parker signed long-term endorsement deals with Adidas and Gatorade.

In 2016, Parker helped the Sparks to win their first WNBA Finals title since 2002. Parker has won two WNBA Most Valuable Player Awards (2008, 2013), a WNBA Finals MVP Award (2016), a WNBA All-Star Game MVP Award (2013), two Olympic gold medals (2008, 2012), and the WNBA Rookie of the Year Award (2008). She has been selected to six All-WNBA teams and five All-Star teams, and was the first player to win the Rookie of the Year and the WNBA Most Valuable Player Award in the same season. Parker became the second player to dunk in a WNBA game on June 22, 2008.

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In 2019, Parker became an analyst for NBA games on TNT and NBA TV, covering Tuesday games during the 2019-20 NBA season.

Parker and her family moved to Naperville, Illinois at the age of two, where she spent her childhood. Her family loved basketball and she began playing at an early age. Her father played basketball at the University of Iowa in the 1970s. The Parker family were also huge Chicago Bulls fans. Candace was worried about playing basketball, fearing she would not live up to the level of play her father and brother demonstrated, so she focused on playing soccer. It wasn’t until the eighth grade that her family convinced her to play basketball. Her father helped coach and critique her. Parker said of the experience, “He did things to make me mad, to challenge me, because I was so much more athletic and had so much more knowledge of the game than everyone else that sometimes I just coasted. If me and my dad went to a park and he didn’t think I was practicing hard enough, he’d just get in the car and leave. And I’d have to run home. I mean run home. Once I figured that out, I’d always try to go to close-by parks.”

High school career

Like her older brother Anthony Parker, she attended Naperville Central High School in Naperville, Illinois. Parker led her high school basketball team to Class AA state titles in 2003 and 2004, and compiled a school-record 2,768 points (22.9 points per game) and 1,592 rebounds (13.2 rebounds per game) while starting 119 of the 121 games in which she played.

She is the only two-time award winner of the USA Today High School Player of the Year, winning the award in 2003 and 2004. Parker also won the Naismith Prep Player of the Year Award and Gatorade Female Basketball Player of the Year Award in 2003 and 2004. In 2004, she was named Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year, WBCA All-American and McDonald’s All-American. She participated in the 2004 WCBA All-America Game where she scored 9 points.[10] She was also a consensus pick as player of the year in Illinois in 2002, 2003, and 2004, and was a four-year member of the All-State first team.

On December 27, 2001, Parker dunked for the first time in competition as a 15-year-old sophomore at Naperville Central High School, this is believed to be the first slam dunk by a female athlete in Illinois. On March 29, 2004, Parker won the slam dunk contest at McDonald’s All-American Game, becoming the first woman to win the event and beating the likes of Josh Smith and J. R. Smith.

On November 11, 2003, during her senior year, Parker announced her commitment to Tennessee on ESPNEWS, becoming the first women’s player to announce the oral commitment live on the network.

In August 2004, Parker led the undefeated USA Junior World Championship team to a gold medal with 16.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. While training, Parker had a relapse of knee pain and was required to undergo surgery both the lateral meniscus and the lateral articular cartilage in her left knee.

College career

Parker entered the University of Tennessee in the fall of 2004. On February 17, 2005, Tennessee announced Parker would redshirt her first season due to a knee injury she had suffered in a summer league game.

Parker started for the Tennessee Lady Vols during the 2005–06 season. She was listed on the roster she was listed on as a forward, center, and guard. On March 19, 2006, in an NCAA tournament first-round game against Army, she became the first woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament game, then became the first woman to dunk twice in an NCAA tournament game.  She was the SEC Rookie of the Year (Coaches and AP) and helped the Lady Vols win the 2006 SEC tournament championship. With 17 seconds remaining in the SEC tournament championship game against LSU, Parker hit the game-winning shot. She was named tournament MVP and was named to the 2006 Kodak All-America team, making her one of the few to ever receive the award as a freshman. However, in the NCAA tournament regional finals against North Carolina, Parker got in early foul trouble and was out of the game for much of the first half. Tennessee ultimately lost the game.

Parker was the only college player named to the USA squad for the 2006 FIBA World Championship for Women in Brazil. The USA squad finished in third place.

In her sophomore season, Parker became the fastest player in Lady Vol history to score 1,000 career points, reaching the record in a January 28, 2007 away game against Alabama. She did it in 56 games, beating Chamique Holdsclaw‘s mark of 57 games and Tamika Catchings‘s of 58 games. On March 1, at the SEC tournament in Duluth, Georgia, Parker was named the 2007 SEC Player of the Year. On April 3, she led the Lady Vols to their first National Championship victory since 1998, beating Rutgers 59–46, Parker finished the game with 17 points and earned the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player honor.

Parker (left) gets ready for the jump ball against Sylvia Fowles (right)

On February 21, 2008, Parker announced that she would forgo her final season of eligibility at Tennessee in order to focus on the 2008 Olympics and pursue a professional career in basketball. On April 8, 2008, Parker led the Lady Vols to their second straight NCAA women’s title, the eighth championship for Tennessee, and the last for legendary coach, Pat Summitt. She was also named the Most Outstanding Player for the second consecutive tournament, joining Cheryl Miller, Chamique Holdsclaw and Diana Taurasi as the only female players to have done so. She won the honor despite suffering a dislocated shoulder during her team’s regional finals win, but returned and led the Lady Vols to the title.

She graduated with her incoming class in May 2008. A sports management major who had a 3.35 grade-point average as of December 2007, she was named University Division I Academic All-American of the Year in women’s basketball for 2008 by the College Sports Information Directors of America.[17] While at Tennessee, she compiled a record of 100 wins and 10 losses and averaged 19.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.9 steals and 2.4 blocks per game.

WNBA career

Los Angeles Sparks

2008: Rookie of the Year and MVP season

Shortly after the NCAA victory, Parker was selected as the first pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks on April 9, 2008. She played alongside Olympic teammates Lisa Leslie and DeLisha Milton-Jones. Shannon Bobbitt, Parker’s teammate at Tennessee, joined the Sparks after being drafted in the second round.

On May 17, 2008, in her debut game against the Phoenix Mercury, she scored 34 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists. Her 34 points broke the record for a rookie in a debut game. The record was previously held by Cynthia Cooper, who scored 25 points in her debut game in 1997. It is a record that still stands to this day.

On June 22, 2008, she became the second woman in WNBA history—after her teammate Lisa Leslie—to dunk during a regulation WNBA game, against the Indiana Fever. The dunk was on the same basket as the dunk of Lisa Leslie. On June 24, 2008, she became the first player to dunk twice in their WNBA career, during a regulation game against the Seattle Storm.

Parker was named the Hanns-G ‘Go Beyond’ Rookie of the Month for the month of May and July 2008.

On July 9, 2008, Parker scored a career-high 40 points, along with 16 rebounds and 6 assists, in an 82–74 overtime win against the Houston Comets.

Parker was one of 11 people suspended in the Sparks-Shock brawl on July 21, 2008.

In August 2008, the WNBA suspended play for a couple of weeks to allow some of their players to join the national team at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Parker was selected to go, and the US team cruised with eight straight victories to win the gold medal. Parker averaged 9.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, and scored 14 points in the final game.

On October 3, 2008, Parker became the first WNBA player to win both the Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable Player awards in the same season, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Wes Unseld as the only professional American basketball players to win both ROY and MVP trophies in the same season.

2009–2011: Pregnancy and injuries

Parker missed the first eight games of the 2009 WNBA season after giving birth to her daughter, Lailaa Nicole Williams. By this time, the Sparks acquired Tina Thompson and Betty Lennox to help carry the team during Parker’s absence. On June 30, Parker returned to practice with her teammates for the first time. She played her first game back from maternity leave on July 5, 2009. Parker was named to the All-WNBA second team and All-Defensive second team despite missing almost a full month, due to her maternity leave. She had averaged a career-low in scoring but led the league in rebounding by the end of the season. Parker helped the Sparks get to the Western Conference Finals, but lost in three games to the eventual champions, the Phoenix Mercury. In the playoffs, Parker averaged 18 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.

In 2010, Parker played only 10 games and was sidelined for the rest of the season due to a shoulder injury, she would also miss the playoffs. In 2011, Parker played her first six games. During the seventh game, with 5:56 left in the third quarter, Parker went down after grabbing a defensive rebound and making brief contact with Quanitra Hollingsworth. After getting an MRI on June 27, she found out she had a torn meniscus in her right knee. She had been voted as an All-Star during the season, but the injury would cause her to miss the 2011 WNBA All-Star Game. Six weeks later, she returned and played the remainder of the season, but the Sparks were eliminated from playoff contention with a disappointing 15–19 record.

2012–2013: Comeback and second MVP season

Parker in 2012

In 2012, Parker had re-signed with the Sparks to a multi-year deal once her rookie contract expired. She had played the full season and helped her team to a 24–10 record, making the playoffs as the second seed in the west. In the first round, they beat the San Antonio Stars two games to none. In the Western Conference Finals, against the Minnesota Lynx, the Sparks lost two games to none, while Parker scored 33 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, and had 4 blocks in a must-win game two, which they lost, 80–79, therefore ending their season. Parker was very emotional following the loss, hugging her mother Sara with tears.

On July 27, 2013, in her sixth season, Parker played in her first All-Star game. She scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a come from behind win for the West and was named WNBA All-Star MVP. The Sparks finished with the same record (24–10) as the year earlier, again earning the second seed in the Western Conference. On September 19, Parker was named the 2013 WNBA Most Valuable Player. Parker became the fifth player to earn multiple WNBA MVP awards, joining Lisa Leslie (3), Sheryl Swoopes (3), Lauren Jackson (3) and Cynthia Cooper (2). The Sparks faced the Phoenix Mercury in the Western Conference Semifinals. In game one, at Staples Center, the Sparks lost, forcing them to win in game two, at Phoenix to stay in the series. In game two, Parker scored 31 points and had 11 rebounds to lead the Sparks to a win, bringing the series back to L.A. for a game three. In a nailbiter, the Sparks lost on a last second jumper by Phoenix rookie Brittney Griner, ending the Sparks’ season by one point for the second straight year.

2014: Ownership and coaching changes

In January 2014, Williams Group Holdings abruptly announced they would relinquish their ownership of the Sparks. For a brief time, the Sparks future in Los Angeles was in some jeopardy. Despite major uncertainty, a month later the team was purchased by an investment group including Magic Johnson, with promises of bringing a championship to Los Angeles. The team went into the All-Star break with an unexpected 10–13 record. Immediately after the break, head coach Carol Ross was let go and General Manager and former player, Penny Toler, assumed the position of coach for the remainder of the season. Parker led her team to finish with a 16–18 record and clinched the number 4 seed to head to the playoffs for the 14th time in franchise history and 6th time for Parker. Despite enormous effort from her in the series, they lost 72–75 in Game 1 and 93–68 in Game 2 to the eventual champions the Phoenix Mercury, marking the second consecutive year the Mercury knocked the Sparks out of the playoffs in the semi-final round. Parker averaged 19.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game in the regular season.

2015: Break and breakout return

Parker (center) and Essence Carson (far right), with Lindsay Whalen, Sylvia Fowles and Maya Moore of the Minnesota Lynx in 2016

On April 9, 2015, Parker announced she would miss an undetermined amount of the season to rest. Prior to the season, Brian Agler was hired as the Sparks’ new head coach. Parker returned to the Sparks after the All-Star break on July 29. Despite missing more than half of the season, she filled the box score like no player ever had before. In 16 regular-season games, Parker set a career high of 6.3 assists per game, ranking 1st in the league, two more than her previous career high, a number that only 7 other players in WNBA history have matched; all except Parker were guards. Additionally, she averaged 19.4 points (4th), 10.1 rebounds (1st), 1.8 blocks (4th) and career high 1.9 steals (5th) per game. Her unbelievable performance earned her the Western Conference Player of the Month for August. The Sparks had been struggling with a 3–15 record before her return, one of the worst records in franchise history. However, Parker managed to lead her team to the number 4 seed with a 14–20 record. The team put up incredible effort against the number 1 seed, Minnesota Lynx in the series, losing game one by only 2 points. In game two, Parker had 25 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Sparks past the Lynx 81–71 and force a game three. Despite leading all scorers with 28 points and had 13 rebounds, Parker couldn’t help her team in game three as they lost to the Lynx 91–80. Parker was named a part of the 2015 All-WNBA Second Team.

2016: Loss of Coach Summitt and first WNBA championship

In 2016, Parker re-signed with the Sparks as an unrestricted free agent.[30] During the season, Parker averaged 15.3 points per game, becoming the team’s second option next to Nneka Ogwumike who led the team in scoring and won the MVP award. However, in late June, Parker’s college coach and mentor, Pat Summitt, died at the age of 64 from Alzheimer’s disease. That night, against the Dallas Wings, Parker had an incredible performance in the second half, finishing the game with 31 points, and had her season high of rebounding with 13, guiding her team to a victory. In an emotional post-game interview, she dedicated the season to Summitt. With a supporting cast of Nneka Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver, the Sparks were a championship contender in the league, finishing 26–8. With the WNBA’s new playoff format in effect, the Sparks were the number 2 seed in the league with a double-bye to the semi-finals (the last round before the WNBA Finals) facing the Chicago Sky. The Sparks defeated the Sky 3–1 in the series, advancing to the WNBA Finals for the first time since 2003.

In the WNBA Finals, it was only the second time in league history where two teams from the same conference faced each other in the Finals due to the new playoff format, as the Sparks faced the championship-defending Minnesota Lynx. This finals series proved to be the best the WNBA had ever seen, with Parker being at the forefront of the Sparks’ success. For Game 3, in Los Angeles, Parker put up her best performance of the finals thus far, contributing 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 assists to help the Sparks take a 2–1 series lead, with a dominant 92–75 win. This put Parker one win away from her first title, as the Sparks already had one victory in their hands. However, the Lynx upset the Sparks on their home court in Game 4 with an 85–79 win, forcing a winner-take-all Game 5. The Sparks would end up winning the decisive Game 5 on the road, that ended with a game winning close range shot by Parker’s teammate, Nneka Ogwumike, who put the Sparks ahead 77–76 with 3.1 seconds remaining after grabbing an offensive rebound. The Sparks claimed their first championship since 2002. After the game, an emotional Parker uttered the words “this is for Pat,” implying that the championship win was in honor of Pat Summitt. Parker won her first championship and won Finals MVP. In Game 5 of the series, Parker had scored a game-high 28 points along with 12 rebounds.  Also in 2016, Parker was named in the WNBA Top 20@20, a list of the league’s best 20 players ever in celebration of the WNBA’s twentieth anniversary.

2017–2020: Chasing a second championship and final years with the Sparks

In February 2017, Parker signed a multi-year contract extension with the Sparks.[32] During the 2017 season, Parker was voted into the 2017 WNBA All-Star Game, making it her fourth all-star nomination. On July 28, 2017, Parker became the sixth player in league history to record a triple-double in an 85–73 win over the San Antonio Stars as she scored 11 points, tied her career-high of 17 rebounds along with a career-high 11 assists. She would finish the season averaging 16.9 points per game, as the Sparks repeated the same regular season success as last year as the number 2 seed in the league with a 26–8 record, receiving a double-bye to the semi-finals. In the semi-finals, the Sparks defeated the Phoenix Mercury in a 3-game sweep. The series ended on a game-winning layup by Parker with 2.9 seconds left in Game 3, putting the Sparks up 89–87 as they advanced to the WNBA Finals for the second season in a row, setting up a rematch with the Minnesota Lynx. In Game 3 of the 2017 WNBA Finals, Parker set the record for most steals in a Finals game with 5 steals along with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks in a 75–64 win, putting the Sparks up 2–1 in the series. However, the Sparks would lose the next two games, failing to win back-to-back championships as they lost to the Lynx in five games.

On July 10, 2018, Parker made history with a stat line of 21 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks in a 77–75 overtime victory against the Seattle Storm, making her the first player in WNBA history to achieve such a stat line. On July 15, 2018, Parker scored a season-high 34 points along with 11 rebounds and 9 assists in a 99–78 victory over the Las Vegas Aces. On July 19, 2018, Parker was voted into the 2018 WNBA All-Star Game, making it her fifth all-star nomination. Parker finished off the season, averaging 17.9 ppg and the Sparks finished as the number 6 seed with a 19–15 record. In the first round elimination game, they faced the rival Minnesota Lynx, in which they won 75–68 to advance to the second round. In the second round elimination game, the Sparks lost 96–64 to the Washington Mystics, ending their run of two consecutive finals appearances.

In May 2019, Parker suffered a hamstring injury during the Sparks’ first preseason game and was ruled out 3–5 weeks. Parker made her season debut on June 18, 2019, she scored 3 points on 1-of-9 shooting from the field in an 81–52 loss to the Washington Mystics. On August 4, 2019, Parker scored a season-high 21 points in an 83–75 victory over the Seattle Storm. On September 3, 2019, Parker tied her season-high of 21 points in a 70–60 victory over the Atlanta Dream. The Sparks ended up finishing as the number 3 seed with a 22–12 record, receiving a bye to the second round. In the second round elimination game, the Sparks defeated the defending champions Seattle Storm 92–69. However, in the semi-finals, the Sparks were eliminated in a three-game sweep by the Connecticut Sun.

In the 2020 season, which was shortened and took place in a “bubble” at IMG Academy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Parker started all 22 games for the Sparks. She posted a 51% field goal percentage, her best since 2011, and averaged 14.7 points per game. She led the league in rebounding (9.7 per game) and recorded a league-leading 10 double-double performances. The Sparks earned the third-seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs, but lost a single-elimination game to the seventh-seeded Connecticut Sun in the second round. Parker was named Defensive Player of the Year for the first time in her career. However, she was controversially left off the first and second WNBA All-Defensive Teams. The discrepancy arose because media members vote on the Defensive Player of the Year Award while coaches vote on the All-Defensive Teams.

Chicago Sky

In 2021, Parker became an unrestricted free agent. She would choose to leave the Sparks after 13 seasons, signing a 2-year deal with the Chicago Sky. The move to the Sky gave her the opportunity to play close to home and compete for another championship. Parker stated “Chicago is where my family raised me; where I first learned the game of basketball; and where I first fell in love with this orange ball…..I am excited to continue the next chapter of my career where it all began. To my new teammates, my new organization, and my new fans: I’m home.”

Parker and the Sky would earn the #6 seed and reach the 2021 WNBA Finals, the third championship series of her career.

National team career

Parker, was a member of the USA Women’s U18 team which won the gold medal at the FIBA Americas Championship in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. The event was held in August 2004, when the USA team defeated Puerto Rico to win the championship. Parker was the leading scorer for the team, averaging 16.6 points per game.

Parker played for Team USA in 2008, winning her first gold medal as USA beat Australia 92–65.

Parker was invited to the USA Basketball Women’s National Team training camp in the fall of 2009.  The team selected to play for the 2010 FIBA World Championship and the 2012 Olympics is usually chosen from these participants. At the conclusion of the training camp, the team traveled to Ekaterinburg, Russia, where they competed in the 2009 UMMC Ekaterinburg International Invitational.

Parker played for Team USA at the 2012 Summer Olympics. She led the team in rebounds and blocks throughout the olympics, helping them win another gold medal, as they beat France 86–50 in the gold medal game.

Despite her performance in the previous Olympics and participation in the national team training into the summer of 2016, ultimately Parker was not selected to play for Team USA in the 2016 Summer Olympics. USA Basketball extended an invitation to Parker for the 2017-2020 national team training camp, but she declined, in light of her exclusion from the team for the Rio games.

Overseas career

During each WNBA off-season from 2010 to 2015, Parker played for UMMC Ekaterinburg of the Russian League, winning five consecutive championships with the team. Parker played with teammate, Kristi Toliver in her final off-season with the team. During the 2015-16 WNBA off-season, Parker signed with the Guangdong Dolphins in January 2016, to replace Yelena Leuchanka during the WCBA playoffs. In February 2017, Parker signed a 2-month contract with Fenerbahçe Istanbul of the Turkish League. In December 2017, Parker signed with the Xinjiang Magic Deer of the Chinese League for the 2017-18 WNBA off-season.

Personal life

On May 7, 2007, People named Parker to its 100 World’s Most Beautiful people list.

On November 13, 2008, Parker married Shelden Williams, who played college basketball at Duke University and also played in the NBA. The couple has a daughter named Lailaa Nicole Williams, born on May 13, 2009. In 2013, the couple purchased a 7,000-square-foot (650 m2) home in Encino, Los Angeles, for $3.56 million. In November 2016, the couple split up after eight years of marriage when Williams filed for divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences”.

In October 2020, Parker and her daughter became part of the ownership group of Angel City FC, a Los Angeles-based team set to start play in the National Women’s Soccer League in 2022.

During her youth in the Chicago area, Parker grew up adoring the Chicago Bulls and was a Michael Jordan fan. Her all-time favorite player is Ron Harper, of whom she had a picture hanging in her bedroom. She has a dog named Prada. She previously had a St. Bernard mix named Fendi, with whom she appeared in an anti-fur ad for PETA.

Parker also serves as a studio analyst for CBS Sports NCAA men’s tournament coverage and NBA on TNT.

Career statistics

Legend
  GP Games played   GS Games started  MPG Minutes per game  RPG Rebounds per game
 APG Assists per game  SPG Steals per game  BPG Blocks per game  PPG Points per game
 TO Turnovers per game  FG% Field-goal percentage  3P% 3-point field-goal percentage  FT% Free-throw percentage
 Bold Career high ° League leader

College

Year Team GP Points FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
2005-06 Tennessee 36 622 55.2 25.0 72.9 8.3 2.8 1.6 2.4 17.3
2006-07 Tennessee 36 706 52.9 33.3 71.6 9.8 2.4 1.8 2.6 19.6
2007-08 Tennessee 38 809 53.6 26.7 69.8 8.5 2.5 2.3 2.4 21.3
Career Tennessee 110 2137 53.8 28.3 71.3 8.8 2.6 1.9 2.4 19.4

Source[63]

WNBA

Denotes seasons in which Parker won a WNBA championship

Regular season

 
Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
2008 Los Angeles 33 33 33.6 .523 .423 .733 9.5° 3.4 1.3 2.3 18.5
2009 Los Angeles 25 24 32.6 .485 .208 .763 9.8° 2.6 0.6 2.1 13.1
2010 Los Angeles 10 10 33.5 .500 .250 .732 10.1 2.2 1.0 2.2 20.6
2011 Los Angeles 17 16 32.6 .511 .419 .736 8.6 2.8 1.2 1.6 18.5
2012 Los Angeles 33 33 30.7 .481 .322 .710 9.7 3.3 1.5 2.3° 17.4
2013 Los Angeles 31 31 28.7 .493 .257 .762 8.7 3.8 1.2 1.8 17.9
2014 Los Angeles 30 29 33.2 .469 .306 .846 7.1 4.3 1.8 1.4 19.4
2015 Los Angeles 16 16 34.4 .489 .279 .815 10.1° 6.3° 1.9 1.8 19.4
2016 Los Angeles 34 34 30.8 .442 .382 .707 7.4 4.9 1.3 1.0 15.3
2017 Los Angeles 33 33 30.5 .478 .354 .756 8.4 4.3 1.4 1.7 16.9
2018 Los Angeles 31 30 30.6 .471 .345 .808 8.2 4.7 1.2 1.0 17.9
2019 Los Angeles 22 22 26.0 .422 .267 .791 6.4 3.5 1.0 0.7 11.2
2020 Los Angeles 22 22 30.0 .510 .396 .731 9.7° 4.6 1.2 1.2 14.7
Career 13 years, 1 team 337 333 31.1 .482 .337 .761 8.6 3.9 1.3 1.6 16.9

Playoffs

 
Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
2008 Los Angeles 6 6 36.5 .459 .000 .759 9.8° 3.8 1.5 2.2 15.0
2009 Los Angeles 6 6 35.2 .535 .250 .705 10.7° 1.7 0.8 1.8 18.0
2012 Los Angeles 4 4 36.0 .573 .500 .875 11.0° 4.3 1.0 1.8 28.8°
2013 Los Angeles 3 3 37.3 .542 .000 .684 8.7 1.3 1.0 1.0 25.7°
2014 Los Angeles 2 2 36.5 .543 .250 .444 6.0 3.5 1.5 2.5 21.5
2015 Los Angeles 3 3 38.3 .418 .389 .842 10.7° 4.7 2.3 1.3 23.0
2016 Los Angeles 9 9 33.0 .469 .313 .778 8.7 3.2 1.7 1.9 19.3
2017 Los Angeles 8 8 34.1 .426 .243 .895 9.1 5.1 2.5 2.0 16.9
2018 Los Angeles 2 2 30.5 .364 .250 1.000 7.0 3.0 2.5° 0.0 9.0
2019 Los Angeles 4 4 23.6 .545 .333 .333 6.0 3.5 1.0 2.0 10.5
2020 Los Angeles 1 1 40.2 .462 .500 .900 14.0 5.0 1.0 2.0 22.0
Career 11 years, 1 team 48 48 34.1 .486 .290 .771 9.2 3.5 1.6 1.8 18.6

Awards

WNBA

  • 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)

College

High school

  • 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

USA Basketball

  • 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

UMMC Ekaterinburg

  • 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

 

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