Good-bye, Candace. We’ll miss you, friend. For 13 seasons, Candace Parker brought her hard hat and lunch pail with her as she punched the clock at STAPLES Center, doing serious work for the Los Angeles Sparks. Those were 13 seasons of unadulterated joy, sweat, and tears for both Parker and the Sparks.
They are 13 seasons of memories that Los Angeles fans will not quickly forget. After playing 13 seasons for the Sparks, Parker decided it was time to pack up and go back home, signing a two-year deal with the Chicago Sky. Parker attended and starred at Naperville Central High School in Naperville, Illinois.
Apparently, the chance to play in front of family and friends pulled at her heartstrings and weighed more than Parker’s loyal devotion to the Sparks.
“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,” Parker said. “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.”
When she came to Los Angeles in 2008, fresh from being the most dominant force in women’s college basketball, Parker brought with her a winning attitude, a million-dollar smile, and the fierceness of a boss. If someone wanted to look up the definition of a champion, they might want to park their fingers on the book page that has Parker’s picture next to it.
When she arrived in Los Angeles, Parker was already a proven champion, having led the Tennessee Vols to two national titles. She then took her high-flying dunking ways (Parker is the first woman to dunk a basketball in a collegiate basketball game) and grabbed the baton from Sparks legend Lisa Leslie and never looked back.
— Chicago Sky (@chicagosky) February 2, 2021
In between her first game and last contest as a member of the Sparks, Parker did it all for Los Angeles. In her rookie season proved she was special as she averaged 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds a game to earn the WNBA MVP award. It was pretty much gravy after that for Sparks and the Sparks.
She played in five WNBA All-Star games, made the All-WNBA First Team a total of six times, won two Olympic gold medals, and led the Sparks to the WNBA title in 2016. What more could Los Angeles ask for in a player who brought it every night? Parker closed her last season with the Sparks by winning the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year award.
“Candace Parker is a generational talent whose impact goes far beyond the game of basketball,” Sparks head coach Derek Fisher said. “I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with her the past two seasons. Our entire organization appreciates the positive influence Candace has had on the Sparks and women’s basketball. We respect her decision and wish her and her family the best moving forward.”
All of these accolades and honors that Parker has earned through the years still don’t do justice to the impact that Parker had within the Los Angeles community. While in Los Angeles, Parker became more than just a pretty face dribbling a basketball. She became a global icon, a role model who inspired both girls and boys alike.
She was the girl next door but who was also someone who could flip the switch and become a glamour queen at a moment’s notice. Parker did all of this while still elevating her game to the highest level, year after year. The game of basketball nor the many of her adoring fans who showed up at Sparks’ games ever felt cheated out of their money by Parker. That’s because game recognizes game.
And even after 13 seasons, Parker remains of the premier players in the WNBA, a nod that the Sparks ownership group understands.
“On behalf of the entire LA Sparks ownership group, staff and extended Sparks family we want to thank Candace Parker for a remarkable 13 seasons in Los Angeles,” said Sparks CEO & Governor Eric Holoman and the team ownership group said in a released statement.
“Candace Parker has already cemented her legacy not just as a champion but as a pioneer in the game of basketball,” Holoman added. “She has inspired a generation of young girls and boys and the entire basketball community as an athlete, entrepreneur and social justice advocate. We want to congratulate Candace on this next chapter of her career. We’re forever grateful for this era of Sparks basketball with Candace Parker.”
Besides her 2008 rookie campaign, Parker won her second WNBA MVP honor as a member of the Sparks in 2013. Picked by the Sparks as the No. 1 overall draft selection in the 2008 WNBA Draft, Parker now gives Chicago a vast uptick in their chances to win the WNBA championship.
“It’s indescribable to put into words what this moment means to our organization and to the city of Chicago.” Sky general manager and head coach James Wade said. “It’s an incredible story of a homecoming between a team striving to become a championship organization and one of the best players in basketball. Candace is someone who has meant so much to the game – and not just in L.A. or Chicago – her stature is truly unmatched. It says a lot about the strides we’ve made in the right direction and we believe Candace is the one who is going to take us to that next level.”