Candace Parker: A legendary career, and one of a kind

Candace Parker
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Legendary WNBA superstar and future hall of famer Candace Parker announced on Sunday that after 16 year career, she is retiring, saying in part “the competitor in me always wants one more, but it’s time.”

The list of career accolades are endless and her impact on college basketball and especially the WNBA are second to none.

Candace Parker’s college career is among the greatest

Before she even got to the pro level, Parker changed the landscape of women’s college basketball. She won back to back national championships in 2007 and 2008 with the Tennessee Lady Volunteers. She was also a two time winner of the Wooden Award, which is college basketball’s version of a regular season MVP award.

Over her three seasons at Tennessee, Parker averaged 19 points, nine rebounds and most impressively was her prowess on the defensive end averaging 2.5 blocks a game. She led the SEC in blocks for back to back years: 99 total blocks in 2006-07, and 90 total blocks the following season. Not to mention, she was the first woman to successfully dunk during the NCAA Women’s tournament. Not a bad resumé. Her professional career? Even better.

A WNBA career worthy of Mount Rushmore discussion

Candace Parker
Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

After being drafted as the number one overall pick by the Los Angeles Sparks in 2008, all Parker did was win Rookie of the Year AND MVP in the same season. She’s the only player in WNBA history to accomplish that feat. She also won the WNBA MVP award in 2013 and 2018. On top of all that, she’s a champion and an icon among today’s generation of players.

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Candace Parker: Three-time champ, two-time Gold medalist

Cancade Parer
Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

After being part of two American Olympic teams that won gold medal in 2008 and 2012 respectively, there was still one thing missing from her resumé: a WNBA championship.

Parker won three WNBA championships with three different teams. The first of her titles came in 2016 with the Los Angeles Sparks. LA had a great regular season finishing second in the Western Conference behind the Minnesota Lynx with a record of 26-8.

The postseason had a different format as well. Instead of doing the traditional Eastern and Western Conference split, it ended up being the eight best teams with single elimination games in the first two rounds and essentially a bye week for the top two seeds.

Los Angeles won in the semifinals against the Chicago Sky 3-1 on their way to the WNBA Finals against the Minnesota Lynx. The Sparks won 3-2 in the best of five series which was a thrilling matchup. Parker had a stellar close out game with 28 points and 12 rebounds.

But after the game, her mind and heart thought of another trailblazer that helped launched her career: her former college coach Pat Summit, who had passed away earlier that season. She had a simple yet heartfelt message: “This is for Pat.” Indeed it was. Her second title however might be the sweetest of all. Parker was named MVP of the Finals.

Hometown heroics for Candace Parker

In case you weren’t aware, Parker is a Chicago area native. Before the 2021 season began, she signed a contract as a free agent to join the Chicago Sky. It made an immediate impact. The Sky had a .500 season but were good enough to make the postseason. Parker missed nine regular season games due to injury but returned for the postseason.

Chicago’s path to the WNBA Finals was not an easy one: winning two single elimination games in the first two rounds against the Dallas Wings and Minnesota Lynx before upsetting the number one seed Connecticut Sun in the semifinals 3-1 in the best of five. The Sky steamrolled the Phoenix Mercury 3-1 in the Finals. Parker credited her teammates after the win saying “I’m so proud of this group with our fight, next man up mentality.”

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Last stop: Vegas

Parker entered free agency after the 2022 season and signed with the Las Vegas Aces in 2023. Unfortunately, a foot injury plagued her all year and she played very sparingly but she was effective when needed in helping the Aces win a championship. However, while she was away for most of the year, she found her next chapter.

Welcome to the TV business

WNBA: Los Angeles Sparks at Las Vegas Aces
Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

Parker has been a staple on NBA TV and TNT over the last few years as an NBA analyst on pre and post-game shows, specifically Inside the NBA. It’s been fascinating to watch her give her insight on the biggest topics across the league and she’s a great addition to the Turner Sports family. I’d imagine that’s the next step for her if she chooses.

Candace Parker’s Impact

The impact of this legendary figure across basketball is hard to describe. When she first burst onto the scene as a McDonald’s All American in high school, I think people knew how great she would be and she just carried that momentum through college and the pro ranks. She carried herself with the utmost dignity and class and literally gave everything she had.

Parker will be known as one of the many trailblazers of women’s basketball along with Diana Taursi, Maya Moore, Cheryl Swoopes and Sue Bird amongst others. Simply put, thank you to Candace Parker for the impact you had across basketball. You went out on your own terms and deserve to enjoy retirement.

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