Andy speaks with Candace Parker, of the Los Angeles Sparks. Parker’s long list of accomplishments includes WNBA Champion, WNBA Finals MVP, 2x WNBA MVP, 2x Gold Medalist, WNBA Rookie of the Year, 2x NCAA Champion, and most recently, WNBA Defensive Player of the Year. Parker began her WNBA career as the first pick in the 2008 Draft and has carried her competitive spirit through the 2020 bubble season.
“I just try to be competitive in everything that I do. I try to bring that into everyday life. I think that’s what makes me and drives me right now is just continuing to want to be the best. You have younger players coming along now still step on the court and see you as somebody that they viewed as the top of their game,” Parker said.
Parker spent 77 days in the WNBA bubble with her 11-year-old daughter Lailaa. Lailaa has been with Parker since her second season in the WNBA and is a regular guest on the Sparks sidelines. She has traveled with Candace to the London Olympic Games, Istanbul, Russia, and China among other cities around the world.
“She’s always been that kid that is just ready for an adventure and honestly makes my life easy to be honest. She took care of me in the bubble. I mean, she likes to cook so she does that and we get our bike rides and really have some great family time. I think I was really pleasantly surprised at how it ended up for us because I was able to have my family with me. It made the bubble a lot easier,” Parker said. “We’ve grown up together, she’s been able to see me through my career, she remembers being everywhere. And that’s something that I’m really happy that we were able to share.”
This season has been an unprecedented one for WNBA and NBA not only because of their respective bubbles but because of the continuing fight for social justice. This year individual players and both leagues have worked to make racial equality, civic engagement, and education a part of their season.
“I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household that really was involved with what was going on in the world and talk about those things at the dinner table and watch the news. When I had questions, we read the paper. I was encouraged to ask questions, and that kind of drove the conversation,” Parker said. “I’m really lucky to have that family foundation. I’m trying to instill that in my daughter and carry those same values and morals. She has aunts in the WNBA, she has uncles in the NBA. They’re trying to make the world better for her. I think she saw that.”
Parker says she was always involved in sports and a fan of the Chicago Bulls and of Allen Iverson. She describes the 1996 Olympics as a definitieve sports moment in her life.
“It was the ‘96 Olympics, that kind of changed my view a little bit on basketball. The ‘96 Olympics was female power across the board, American women dominated the Olympics. I remember laying on my couch, and I literally was flipping back and forth from gymnastics, to soccer to basketball…Lisa Leslie was battling on the court. I think that kind of changed my perception on my role models in sports,” Parker said.
In addition to her role models on the court, Parker says her coach, the late Pat Summitt at the University of Tennessee has been influential in her life.
“She was the perfect example. There’s not a time of being coached that I didn’t feel as though I had all of her. I know, behind the scenes, she was the best mom. We’re still juggling doing off-the-court things, appearances, car dealerships, speeches, and still recruiting. She was that working mom example for me, because I was so scared that I would have to sacrifice my career for my family or my family for my career, and she showed me that you could do both, and one doesn’t have to have one suffer. I think that’s versatility,” Parker said.
In addition to her versatility on the court, Parker is pursuing a career in broadcasting.
“I think she (Summitt) is the one that really challenged me to be versatile. It’s not just about me playing basketball, I want to work in the media. You realize how much of an imprint she left on basketball and she left on every individual’s lives,” Parker said.
As for her own legacy, Parker says she wants to leave the game better than how she found it.
“I think legacy is leaving the game in a better place. I’ve tried to continue to grow and to evolve, and to change. I think that’s what will my legacy up, I left the game better. I need to grow and evolve and get better,” Parker said.
Hear Parker and Andy discuss the late Kobe Bryant and the impact he had on both men’s and women’s basketball.