By Joshua Schnitman
Throughout her 13 seasons wearing the “purple and gold” for the Los Angeles Sparks, Candace Parker has proven to be one of the greatest WNBA players of all-time. This past off-season, the 34-year old forward/center opted to sign with the Chicago Sky, where she will have an opportunity to continue her remarkable career just miles away from her hometown.
Parker was a standout basketball player at Naperville Central High School in Naperville, Illinois, the same high school that her older brother Anthony, who played in the NBA, had previously attended. In Parker’s junior and senior years, she was named the USA Today High School Player of the Year, the Naismith Prep Player of the Year, and the Gatorade Female Player of the Year. After redshirting her first year at the University of Tennessee due to injury, Parker would prove to be one of the most outstanding women’s college basketball players in history. In Parker’s final two years at Tennessee (2006-07 and 2007-08), she would completely dominate women’s college basketball. She was named the National Player of the Year by every committee in both of those seasons, while leading Tennessee to two consecutive NCAA championships and winning the Final Four Most Valuable Player award both of those times.
Selected no. 1 overall in the 2008 WNBA Draft by the Sparks, Parker embarked on perhaps the greatest rookie season in WNBA history. She would win her first Olympic gold medal right before the start of her rookie season and become the first (and still to this day) the only rookie ever to win the MVP award, in addition to, winning the Rookie of the Year award.
Since her extraordinary 2008 rookie season, she has helped lead Team USA to win another Olympic gold medal in 2012, won another league MVP award in 2013, a WNBA championship in 2016, a WNBA Finals MVP award in 2016, and, recently, a Defensive Player of the Year award in 2020. Parker’s legendary playing career will come full circle when she begins playing for the WNBA team of her hometown.
Parker, who also recently began working for TNT as an NBA analyst, has done a stellar job of analyzing NBA games during her off-season. It appears that she has in line for herself a second career in the sport of basketball, once her playing days are eventually over. For now, the basketball world will appreciate whatever is left in the tank of Parker’s future Hall of Fame basketball playing career. In 2016, Parker was voted to the WNBA’s 20@20 team (the voted-upon 20 greatest players in WNBA history in commemoration of the league’s 20th anniversary).