Candace Parker and basketball — name a better duo. The accomplishments abound: a former #1 overall pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft, a Rookie of the Year, a two-time league MVP, a WNBA champion, a Finals MVP, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, the first woman on an NBA2K cover, and hitting 5,500 career points this season. The obstacles have too: seven knee surgeries, one shoulder surgery, and coming back from giving birth to a daughter.
It’s time you know more about the wonder woman, Candace Parker, of the Chicago Sky (and formerly the Los Angeles Sparks). Candace is arguably the most undervalued great of our time. While technically a forward, throughout her 14-season career in the WNBA, she’s effortlessly floated between all five positions on the court, and between playing, mom-ing, and broadcasting.
“I am such an individual that thrives on challenges. Ever since I was little, anything you try to tell me I can’t do, I’m going to do it 10 times harder, to the point where my family kind of like pulls those strings.” says Candace Parker
On the court, in 2016, along with teammates including Nneka Ogwumike and Alana Beard, Candace helped the LA Sparks win their first WNBA Finals title since 2002. Off the court, she recently signed a multiyear broadcast deal with Turner Sports. Everywhere, she’s helped create the blueprint for tall girls to drop threes, dribble the ball between their legs, and loop no-look passes behind their backs.
Meanwhile her Twitter bio simply reads, “Former University of Tennessee Lady Vol, currently playing for the WNBA’s Chicago Sky.” Please, tell us more about how she’s not humble. Candace is a pioneer, but she certainly isn’t past-tense, reports the Bleacher Report. Which has never been more true than this year, where Candace regularly delivered consecutive double-doubles.
So today, we’ll take a look at the evolution of one of the best bigs in basketball. We’ll explore Candace Parker’s basketball records, career statistics, her strengths and weaknesses, and the impact she’s having both on and off the court. Plus, you might find out a few surprises along the way — like that Candace first dunked in a game at the young age of 15. Let’s get after it!
How Candace Parker’s basketball game has evolved
From the start, Candace was blessed with height and tremendous athletic ability just like her biggest role models: her older brothers. Former NBA starting guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers Anthony Parker and Marcus Parker, who is a doctor but was once a foreboding athlete, were instrumental in shaping her desire to play and her game’s style.
“They were at every game I played,” Candace recalls. “And they used to take me out and show me different things on the court…and then Marcus would take me back inside and help me with my homework. When I would struggle with something, I would go to them and ask, ‘Can you help me with this?'”
But Candace shied away from basketball initially, wanting to make her own mark on the world. “When I picked up a basketball, I didn’t want to pick it up,” Candace recalled, says Camille Buxeda for Slam.
“I played YBA growing up, which was a great experience, but I didn’t want to play basketball, I wanted to have my own thing. I wanted to play soccer. When I watched the ’96 Olympics, I wanted to be an Olympic soccer player. I wanted to be like Mia Hamm, like Briana Scurry. I wanted to be like all of them.”
However her mom saw her potential, and her fear, and encouraged her to conquer both. “It was kind of my mom who pulled me aside, because at the time my brother was brilliant and played basketball, my other brother was pretty smart and played basketball…Anthony’s gonna kill me for that,” Candace says with a laugh. “But they were just so great, you know, and I didn’t know if I could follow in their footsteps. I remember my mom being like, Baby, you can do both, you can do anything you put your mind to.” So often, surrounding yourself with people who believe in you makes finding success more possible.
Anthony got drafted into the NBA when Candace was 11, and that was the eye opener she needed to begin investing in herself as a basketball player. At around that time, she started making sacrifices for her sport, getting into the gym, rather than going to the mall. And fell in love with the process of playing basketball, while her father, who played basketball at the University of Iowa in the 1970s, helped coach and critique her.
Candace 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.”
In addition to her being inspired by her brothers, Candace was also a huge fan of both Cynthia Cooper and Allen Iverson — and you can see their influence on her game today. “When the Comets were running four-peats, that was my team. I was raising the roof with Cynthia Cooper. That was the player I tried to emulate. And, obviously, she’s a guard. She’s nothing like me. But I tried to watch how she played and how she took over games.” Candace said.
She also studied Iverson. “I was out there doing And-One mixtapes like Allen Iverson. Allen Iverson is the reason why I wear number three and maybe the braids, as well. I watched everything he did growing up.”
Candace Parker – Tennessee Lady Vols
After her years of hard work, Candace finally found herself recruited by Tennessee. But to her great surprise, the first recruiting letter she received was for their volleyball team. So she was devastated when she opened it!
Eventually, though, she heard from legendary Lady Vols basketball Coach Pat Summitt, and the choice to commit was easy: one she calls one of the best decisions in her life. Her parents had always wanted her to play for a role model on and off the court. And Pat walked the walk. Essentially, she was a great representation of what Candace’s dad and mom wanted her to be.
So, in the fall of 2004, Candace Parker entered the University of Tennessee. But her first year was no walk in the park. Ultimately she redshirted the season due to an ACL knee injury. She endured exploratory knee surgery, total knee reconstruction, and her parents got divorced, but she remembers Coach Summitt being there for her through it all.
As Candace came out of her initial surgery, when she learned her knee might never work properly again, Coach Summitt grabbed her hand and said “Do you trust me?…We’re going to get through this together.” And true to her word, her door was always open. Through pure determination Candace persevered, and once she began her career for the Tennessee Lady Vols during the 2005-06 season, she soared.
Candace was named the SEC Rookie of the Year, leading the Lady Vols to the 2006 SEC tournament championship, and even hitting the game winning shot that year. She went on to win back-to-back NCAA championships in 2007 and 2008, leading the team both in scoring (20.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.8) in her final season.
Of her time spent with Pat, Candace reflected in SLAM, “It’s weird, because when you’re going through it, you don’t understand the impact that it’s gonna have. At 18-22 years old, I don’t think I understood the impact that she was having on my entire life. But to be able to see a role model, even the way I parent as a career mom now, I watched her balance that and she was always present. I think that’s the biggest thing, being present in the moment, making sure that the people around you understand how important you are to them…And I think everything Pat, you know, from winning championships, to battling a terrible disease, she did it with so much grace.”
Candace Parker’s WNBA Career: Los Angeles Sparks
Then, after a successful college career, Candace transitioned into the WNBA, playing for the Los Angeles Sparks. But it wasn’t until 2016, her ninth season in the WNBA, before she got her first championship.
According to The Ringer, “She’d already been through a few serious injuries (shoulder, knee, etc.), and she’d already been through a few serious heartbreaker playoff losses (like the one when she hit the go-ahead bucket against Minnesota only to lose by one, or the one when she hit the go-ahead bucket against Phoenix only to lose by one), and she’d already shown everyone a few times that she could be the best player on the planet.
And then—finally, seemingly suddenly, and with great certainty—the Sparks were champions, and Parker was a champion. And a Finals MVP. And she’d done it on the road against the Minnesota Lynx, the team that not only had ended the Sparks’ season two out of the previous four seasons, but also the team that had won three of the five previous titles.”
Candace also evolved as a player with the USA Olympic team, where she twice won gold medals. But perhaps the biggest change in her game was the example she set by not playing at all. Candace was notoriously left off USA’s 2016 Olympic Team, which featured younger players like Elena Delle Donne and Breanna Stewart.
Candace played well in the training camp in Spain and Italy, even serving up a near triple-double one game. So it was a shock to almost everyone when Carol Callan, the chair of the USA Basketball Women’s National Team Selection Committee called and said “We have so much respect for you, we want to give you the opportunity to say you’re pulling out of the Olympics.”
Candace as relayed on the Just Women’s Sports Podcast, of course said, “Hell no. I’m not doing that. Y’all come out and say you guys cut me. I respect everybody on the team -it has nothing to do with that. Tell it like it is. If you think it’s not about talent, it’s about this, then whatever, then say it. Don’t say that I’m not good enough to be on the Olympic team.”
The next year Candace got the invitation to come to camp again, but decided to opt out to set a good example for her daughter. “If someone doesn’t treat you the way you feel like you should be treated or disrespects you in a way, that I’m going to go back and play again? I have two gold medals, I’m cool. At some point it was just like I’m done, I’m not about to go through this again.”
Again in 2021, Candace spoke out about the USA Basketball selection process when her former LA Sparks teammate Nneka was left off the Olympic roster. “I hit Nneka. I was like, ‘Listen it sucks, it’s unfair,’ all that blah, blah, blah,” Candace said “‘You’re one of the greatest. You’re the only MVP not to make an Olympic team, which is bulls***. But what’s what it is right? That’s why I’m commentating in Tokyo.'”
With her focus squared on her WNBA career in 2020, at only seven games into the season, by Estimated Contribution, Candace delivered the fifth-most impactful season of her career. Keeping in mind she saw a big jump in effectiveness at both ends of the floor over the previous two years, that’s a pretty big accomplishment and bodes well. Candace;s per-game averages were down from career peaks — 14.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists — in a few areas, but she still displayed her historic versatility.
In terms of how she helped her team, Candace was initially pleased with how they evolved, and with some early wins, according to The Next. But, at the time, she cautioned against thinking the Sparks had solved their slow start woes until they could prove they could do that consistently and win consecutive games.
While things got off to a great started, unfortunately the season didn’t end the way she wanted. In the second round of the 2020 WNBA playoffs, the Sparks were without forward Nneka Ogwumike, and disappointed, losing 73-59 to the seventh-seeded Connecticut Sun. Candace finished third in the most valuable player race, and tried to carry her team with 22 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. She was also named the AP Defensive Player of the Year.
While it’s not the ending she hoped for, that’s wasn’t the end of the road for Candace, especially if she was going to have anything to do with it.
“I was always taught to dream extremely big, that nobody should have higher expectations for myself than myself. I don’t want to say I expected this, but I dreamed of this,” Candace says. “I didn’t dream of my injuries, my setbacks,” she says. “I think despite that, to still be where I am? I take a lot of pride in that.”
Candace Parker on the Chicago Sky
In 2020, as a free agent, Candace hit the road and followed her heart back to her hometown Chicago to chase a Championship. Candace became the Chicago Sky’s biggest free-agent acquisition ever when she officially signed a two-year contract with the Sky, a league source said. It’s worth $385,000 in total, according to Her Hoop Stats.
“We needed a big-time player, we needed an MVP-caliber player,” general manager/coach James Wade said. “… On the court, she actually provides us with not only another All-Star but she’s reputed to be one of the greatest players to ever play the game.”
And that, they got! The impact Candace made on LA will never be forgotten. As anticipated, she’s continuing that elite-level impact in Chicago, now, after being out for seven games with an ankle injury. The Sky improved to 7-0, after a losing streak, with Candace back in the lineup, and Candace is averaging 13.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists.
Candace Parker’s basketball go-to moves
Because she is such a versatile player, Candace’s go-to repertoire is quite deep. Parker was one of the first to essentially play all five positions in the women’s game. Even from the start, “She didn’t want to be put into one box,” says Holly Warlick, Tennessee’s head coach. Today, as ESPN’s LaChina Robinson put it “She is so rare, with size, vision, IQ; a point forward with a smoothness like the league had never seen. A unicorn.” Here’s a look at some of the skills in her bag that she relies on the most.
1. The floater finish
One of Candace’s favorite moves is going behind the back and finishing with a floater, or doing a cross-over to the floater. And she can finish as well with her left, as her right, making this play lethal.
2. Spin drive
Another default for her when the defense is overplaying her to a side is to spin and drive. For as tall as she is, she uses as underhanded finish a surprising amount of the time, perhaps to create more space between herself and the defender.
3. The block
This one is pretty obvious, but the block is a steady part of her defensive arsenal. When she extends her arms she’s able to take up a lot of space, making it hard for offensive players to get a shot off. No hands down, man down, here.
4. The step through
Many post players get their feet a little twisted, and neglect to take advantage of the step through. But not Candace. She’s able to easily swing and pivot back and forth, keeping one foot in place, in order to ensure the travel isn’t called.
5. No look pass
This one is a beauty, and I’ve seen her execute it seamlessly a ton. In the same way that Harden gives a little glance to one side, and then fires the pass to the other – all to slow down the game and shake off the defense – Candace will look you off in the opposite direction, and then slip the pass right on through.
Candace credits her brothers with teaching her now-patented “inside-out” offensive move. Here she uses one hand to bring the ball towards the inside of her body and then quickly out again, making her play shifty and hard for the defense to read. She can finish it with a quick cross over and burst of speed in the other direction.
Candace Parker’s WNBA career strengths
Candace’s repertoire is informed by her mental strength, as much as her physical. She shared, “If I lose, I’m going to learn. And so I’m going to come back and I’m going to win later.” A versatile player, Candace mainly plays the forward position today and is a play creator – able to get the rebound, push it up the floor, and finish the play. Though, in college she was listed on Tennessee’s roster as a forward, center, and guard. Here’s a quick look at some of the strengths that make her the unstoppable player she is today.
We have to say it again: She is obviously one of the all-time greats, but more specifically she is likely the player most will point back to and say, “There it is. She’s the one. She’s the one who made positionless basketball a viable thing in the WNBA.”
2. Defensive rebounds
While her per-game numbers have dropped due to a decrease in minutes in 2020, per minute Parker averaged a career-high in defensive rebounds, complimented by a career-high in 2-point percentage. Her block percentage is higher than it’s been since 2012 and her steal percentage is the highest it’s been since 2017. Her work on defense, in particular, has been driving the Sparks and she’s been the foundation for the third-best defense this season.
3. Owning the paint
Candace has been very effective in leveraging her mobility in helping close down the center of the floor. Of her 11 blocks mid-way through the 2020 season, none came at the rim. She blocked a 3-pointer and then 10 that have fallen in the 4-14 foot range.
But she’s also been an intimidating presence in the middle of the floor, just keeping opponents away from the basket even if she’s not blocking shots. Just 42 percent of opponent shot attempts have come in the paint, the third-lowest mark in the league.
4. Defense, period
Full-time rim protection was high on Candace’s list of accomplishments in 2020, earning her Defensive Player of the Year. Candace is strong when defending the post, giving up just 19 points on 39 possessions, according to Synergy Sports, putting her in the 92nd percentile.
5. Knock down twos
She’s brutal in the paint. She can make short hook shots over outstretched defenders, and if she needs to, she even has the strength and footwork to finish through the biggest bigs. There have been 10 seasons during Candace’s career when she has averaged at least 15 points and 7 rebounds per game. The only player ahead of her there is Lisa Leslie, who did it 11 times.
Candace is one of the best passing interior players in the league, and is always a bucket on transition and fast breaks. There have been only six times during the 23-year run of the WNBA when a player has averaged at least 15 points, seven rebounds, and four assists per game. Out of everyone of all time. That’s it. SIX. And here’s the kicker: Tamika Catchings did it once in 2007. And the other five instances all belong to Candace Parker in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.
Candace has endured tons of setback surgeries. When she got hurt in college Coach Pat Summitt made her go talk to a sports psychologists. As she tells it, she was rolling her eyes like “I don’t need this.”
But ultimately it helped her look at the other side – instead of thinking about those who never had an obstacle and wondering why she couldn’t be one of them, she learned to look at how many couldn’t play at all. That changed perspective made it a little easier, and she just kept at it. She readily admits her basketball career would have been better without injuries, but knows persevering through the obstacles taught her a lot in life.
Today, her sharp mental game makes her a wicked competitor, ready to beast any challenge. She brings that same energy to everything she does, including each practice and every rep to ensure she’s prepared to win, “training your body when you’re tired teaches you how to play when you’re tired, when you need to find the energy to finish a game.”
8. Vocal leadership
As one of the most experienced players on the court at all times, Candace often gives her teammates feedback, perspective, and pumps up the energy with her fierceness. You’ll see her quickly pull her team together on the floor throughout the game.
She’s also helped colleagues such as Nneka Ogwumike grow, who shared, “We play through our mistakes together, we’re always communicating, we’re switching people on defense. We’re that voice in each other’s head that really gets us going. That’s the relationship we’ve developed.”
Even at her height, she can move and elevate better than much smaller players in the WNBA. When she’s around the free-throw line, or free-throw line extended – all that is lunch time for her, even when contested. She first dunked at the age of 14, she’s got ups.
Candace Parker’s WNBA career opportunities
It’s hard to find opportunities for Candace to improve, as she’s developed every aspect of her game for more than a decade. But here are a few things she could do to help set the tone for her team and make others look good.
1. Three-point shot selection
Shot selection is something she gets called for a lot, to much chagrin. But with a .3 career average from the three it seems like a real opportunity. On the one hand she wants to take the three to ensure she remains a threat from that placement, which provides her the opportunity to surprise the defense with the drive. On the other hand, literally any time Candace drives, the defense has to collapse, whether she fakes the three or not.
When she takes advantage of the drive situation, has the ability to find shooters on the perimeter and pick teams apart, or stop on a dime and pop the shot. There are times where she opts to settle for the outside shot herself, when the team could get off a higher percentage shot. We always want the easy shot.
There’s a trickle-down effect in her play. She’s got to be the one to bring it from the first minute. She readily admits the team needs more aggressive consistency: “We got to figure out how to string together wins. I feel like we always bounce back after a loss but we always lose after a win,” Parker said.
“I think it’s our defense, but we’ve also gotten outrebounded every game with exception of one and that was last game and we tied them in rebounding. I think we need to commit and trust and help each other. Those are all things that teams say when they’re not getting things done on the defensive end. If we rebound, and we outrebound them, there’s not many teams that are going to want to stay with us in transition.”
3. Anticipating the wrong foul call
Because she’s got a long wingspan, she’s going to get hit with unwarranted foul calls. It’s easier for her to look like she’s interfered, even when she’s straight up. So she’s got to fight for position with her leg strength, and clear the area out, rather than anything that looks like over-the-back blocks. She could also just keep her hands up high and aim to block out the player’s vision, rather than picking the ball off.
4. Turn overs
It’s not that her number of turn overs is particularly high. But we want Candace out there sending a message to her teammates and setting the tone. Basically “we’re not going to be careless with the ball.” Against Indiana she had a lazy pass out to the wing that got picked off, and was a little lackadaisical in her response. It would be better for her teammates to see her protecting the ball with her life.
5. Mastering the calm
With experience, Candace has also built out the mental and emotional intelligence side of her game. Though, this is something she continues to actively work on, to maintain her state of calm. “There are a number of things that I would tell my younger self but the biggest thing is calm is a superpower,” Parker shared.
“Being calm is mastery. You have to master that. Once you master that, there is nothing that can knock you off of whatever you choose to put your mind to…And that just doesn’t go for sports. It goes for everything. If you really are able to be calm and not react and take a step back and figure out what the person is trying to say, really try to understand, then it will make your life a lot easier.”
6. Believing in the next play
Players need to have a good short-term memory in order to keep going even if things aren’t quite falling for them on any particular day. Essentially, they need to believe the next shot is going in, period. This is something historically Candace has struggled with.
According to Candace, Pat gave the team 12 principles each year. And every single year Candace was given “handle success as you handle failure.” Pat was trying to teach her not to be as hard on herself when she misses a shot or wasn’t having a great game. Surely that’s an area she’s improved, but there’s always more to be gained.
Candace Parker basketball video highlights
One of the most dazzling feats of Candace Parker’s game is that she handles the basketball like a guard and she finishes like a center. Which makes sense for someone who has professed she “wants to be the Magic Johnson of women’s team sports.” Let’s take a look at a few of her best video highlights spanning her career.
Candace Parker’s top basketball plays of 2013 video
Parker’s show and go is just nasty. And the dream shake at :12 is ridiculous!
Candace Parker 2017 All Star Season highlights video
Here she shows off her depth from beyond the three.
2017 WNBA Finals Candace Parker highlights video
Meet Candace the brick wall at :07.
Candace Parker career highlights video
The dunk is 110% fire.
Candace Parker’s 2019 highlights
In this video, Candace shows she knows how to finish expecting contact, by using the backboard to ensure she gets the bucket and the foul call.
How to play Candace to win
Good luck! There are a few options for defending against Candace. By forcing her left you might be able to decrease her makes.
You could also try to limit her touches by keeping a man glued to her. And it’s important the defender ensures Candace doesn’t get in front of her – basically no fronting. And bring over another defender from the baseline to support when she’s in the post or below the foul line.
You can also attack her early, to try to get her in foul trouble and force the issue. Have a player try to be physical on her at the start of the game on offense.
The main thing though, is to focus on how to ensure she gets off to a slow start, as she sets the expectations and pace for the team. Shut her down, and you’ll have a better chance at shutting them down. “We go as she goes,” teammate Sydney Wiese said, “and she feels that, she senses that. Her competitive energy, her desire to win, it trickles down to the rest of us. She’s really set the tone for us since the beginning of the season.”
Influence of Candace Parker’s WNBA career
According to The Bleacher Report, “Candace Parker has been labeled many things: egotistical, standoffish to the media, difficult to play with, settles for too many jumpers, is too intense and argues with the referees too much.
‘A lot of people love her, and a lot of people on the court hate her because of how good she is, how talented she is, but also because of the confidence she exudes,” says Connecticut Sun forward Chiney Ogwumike. “She’s very, very misunderstood.’
Few know the real Candace Parker. The woman who gets lost in books and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Kennedy family. The woman who almost two years after Pat Summitt’s death is still sometimes overcome with grief before taking the court.” And that woman has accomplished some tremendous things both on and off the court.
Candace made her mark early on with her brand partnership with Adidas. Prior to her first WNBA game, Parker had already signed long-term endorsement deals with Adidas and Gatorade.
“I’ve been actually unofficially with Adidas since 2003, which is when my high school team got sponsored by Adidas.” says Candace. “I don’t know whether it was fate, but I went to an Adidas college at Tennessee, and then when I came out of college it was just natural to sign with Adidas just because I’d been with them. It had become more like a family. I knew everybody within the company. They wanted to grow with me and have that type of partnership.”
Though as she’s gotten older she’s learned it’s not necessarily about going for dollar signs, when it comes to brand partnerships. It’s about going with what makes the most sense and could pay off bigger in the long-term. Sometimes you have to say no when thinking about who you want to be. “Building your brand is way more important than taking quick cash.” says Candace.
And, by continuing to build relationships, Candace was also able to land a broadcasting role. Recently, Candace Parker has been absolutely spectacular in her role on TNT’s Tuesday NBA broadcasts. She has also previously appeared on the SEC Network, the Pac-12 Network, Inside the NBA on TNT, SportsCenter, and more. As @DwyaneWade puts it “Every job she has it seems like she’s A1 in each job.”
Candace has been an advocate for PETA, Loaves & Fishes, the March of Dimes, D.A.R.E, the Ronald McDonald House, and No Kid Hungry. Also, Candace has been involved in both the Alzheimer’s Association and Pat Summitt Foundation in honor of her beloved Coach Pat Summitt. She was a voice for women at the first ever Glamour Women of the Year Live Summitt in 2016, and was once named to People Magazine’s “100 Most Beautiful People.”
Candace has also been a huge part of the WNBA’s social advocacy, at the forefront of important conversations about social justice and gender equality. “We’re the majority of the minority. We take it seriously, leaving the game better than we came into it. If we don’t, who’s going to?” she posed to Just Women’s Sports.
Candace believes every generation is going to, hopefully, leave the game better than when they came into it. “That’s how the game of basketball grows. That’s why I get on people judging the state of sports and things like that because you have to give a league some time and give players a chance to evolve and grow.
You have people 6 feet 4 inches, 6 feet 5 inches who can handle the ball and can shoot like Breanna Stewart and Elena Delle Donne. You’re seeing that more and more. I mean, the young woman who’s committed to Stanford that just had a tip dunk — Fran Belibi.
In order to do it, you have to first see it and believe you can do it. Now with social media, YouTube and all these things, there are all these different outlets for exposure for not only the players but also the fans.
I know each part of my career there have been people growing up watching me, saying they remember me from the McDonald’s All-American dunk contest. They remember me from when I committed to Tennessee. They followed my career. A lot of that is the storyline and getting attached to a player.
I think the game is in great hands as far as talent and skill and passion. I’m really excited what the young crew is bringing right now. I don’t feel like I’m done, yet but I’m happy.” Candace shared with Forbes.
In fact, the development she is most proud of as a female athlete took place off the court and brought to life the words inked across her left wrist: To whom much is given, much is expected.
“I know it’s a responsibility to continue to work hard and to be a great role model,” she says. “It was great the first time I saw someone in my jersey. It really brings a smile to your face when someone admires you and looks up to you…I’m just a generation removed from my mom not being able to play basketball in high school or college, so I feel very blessed. And now having a daughter, I’m playing so that she can play in these professional leagues and so that she can have everything that my son would have.”
Candace Parker’s daughter Lailaa Nicole Williams
On November 13, 2008, Candace married Shelden Williams, who played college basketball at Duke University and also played in the NBA. Then, the couple had a daughter named Lailaa Nicole Williams on May 13, 2009.
When asked about balancing her daughter and the WNBA, Candace says it’s come naturally because it’s had to. “I had Lailaa my second year in the league, so honestly it’s been me and her my whole career. I can’t remember life before her. We grew up together. She has the greatest positive attitude; I am so lucky to be her mom so it’s not a challenge with her.”
She also revealed that becoming a mother has unleashed a new side to her, and provided her with more patience and compassion. “I didn’t realize becoming a mother would make me a better teammate, a better friend, a better basketball player, a better daughter. I’ve read somewhere, and I think Obama said it, they’re like little heartbeats. They’re like your heart walking around outside your body…You’re able to kind of live life again through them.” she shared.
Today Candace is creating a legacy for her daughter, who was originally into soccer, but more recently has been getting into basketball. Candace has previously spoken about wanting to coach her daughter in the future.
Candace also recently launched a podcast called Moments with Candace Parker, produced by Robin Roberts. In the show, she and celebrity guests open up about navigating the triumphs and challenges of parenthood, with Candace diving deep into her personal life as a mom.
“I’m very excited to be starting ‘Moments With Candace Parker,’ ” Candace said. “I have a 12-year-old daughter, and she’s just the center of my entire world. Just talking with other parents … (and) really excited to chat (about) a lot of different experiences because there’s no blueprint when it comes to raising a child.”
What’s next for Candace Parker?
Today, Candace Parker is doing her best to live in the moment. “If I could go back and tell my WNBA draft self something it would just be to live in the moment, because your career does go fast. And opportunities you think are going to come around quickly and easily it doesn’t always go that way.” she said.
Though, Candace remains as busy as ever. On the court, it’s all about maintaining her health. And, luckily, Parker saw this year’s pandemic-driven bubble as an opportunity to regain a competitive advantage. “If I can keep my body healthy then I can play…I looked at [the bubble] as a positive. We’re not traveling. We’re not gonna have to recover on a flight after a back-to-back. We’re not gonna have to get up early and travel.” she shared.
And while she knows basketball isn’t a forever thing, she’s not done just yet. “I just know when the time comes and I am not myself — it’s not fun for me to not be the best version of myself — that’s it,” she said.
“I don’t want to cheat the game of basketball that’s given me so much, so when it’s my time to go out, I’m going to do just that. I’m going to know. I’m going to wake up one day and that’s going to be it,” she said, adding. “For now, I’m focused on the present day.”
Off the court, she loves broadcasting and talking about basketball. She loves that it is like a team, you still go to work, the lights come on, you get an adrenaline rush a little bit when you get on air.
“I eat, sleep, breath the game of basketball. I love learning more about it, I love watching players, I love seeing the development of players. I love everything about the job, except for being in the studio at 2 or 3 AM.” she articulated.
She’s even producing a documentary about the impact of Title IX on women’s basketball and culture.
Another high priority on her list is continuing to advocate for social justice for all women, and black women. “I would lie to you if I said I didn’t ever experience racism,” said Candace.
“When I first went to the park, because I was a girl I got picked last. And then next time I made it my mission, like, I was gonna be the one picking the team because we were gonna win every game,” she recalled. “I think it’s just about perspective; when people try to put individuals in a box and then get mad at them because they don’t fit. Don’t get mad at me because I don’t fit what you think I am.”
We’re not mad at what this amazing player has done for the women’s game so far, breaking barriers: both physical and mental, across a stand out career. One that should be required studying by every up and coming basketball player – male and female alike.
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Everything else to know about Candace Parker
Candace Parker is 6’4″ tall.
Candace Parker’s net worth is $5 million, which is a combined net worth with her husband, former NBA player Shelden Williams according to CelebrityNetworth. Candace Parker signed a 5 year / $577,500 contract with the Los Angeles Sparks, including an annual average salary of $115,500 according to Spotrac.
No, Candace Parker is not still married. In November 2016, Sheldon Williams filed for divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences”.
Candace Parker’s Twitter is @Candace_Parker.
Candace Parker’s WNBA career statistics
So now that you know more about Candace’s career, take a look at a quick recap via her career statistics.
What a wild career! Candace is now in her 14th WNBA season. She hit her career high of points per game back in 2010, but clearly got better at making others look good, as her assists rose. She’s been a league leader in rebounds per game multiple years. And she’s also been a leader in assists per game and blocks per game.
Candace Parker WNBA career records & awards
Beyond her statistics, Candace has also made an impact in terms of the records and awards she’s received. So let’s just get the fun part out of the way first: Parker was the first woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament game and the first woman to dunk twice in a college game. But her awards and records don’t stop there.
Candace’s WNBA records
Candace woke the league up when she entered, winning Rookie of the Year in 2008.
- In 2016, she was a WNBA Champion and WNBA Finals MVP
- She’s also a 4x WNBA All-Star Team, 2× WNBA Most Valuable Player, 5× All-WNBA First Team, and 2× WNBA All-Defensive Second Team
- And in both 2008 and 2009, she was a WNBA rebounding leader and a WNBA peak performer
Candace Parker’s college awards
Candace was named the 2007 and 2008 Collegiate Female John R. Wooden Player of the Year, State Farm Player of the Year, Basketball Writers Association National Player of the Year, Kodak All- American, and earned the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player award in both 2007 and 2008.
- Academic All-America of the Year award (2008)
- Naismith College Player of the Year (2008)
- USBWA Women’s National Player of the Year (2007, 2008)
- Associated Press Women’s College Basketball Player of the Year (2007, 2008)
- Wade Trophy (2007)
- Honda Sports Award, basketball (2007, 2008)
- SEC Athlete of the Year (2007, 2008)
- SEC Tournament MVP (2006, 2007)
Her high school awards
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.
- From 2001-2004 she made the All-State Team
- From 2002-2004, she was Illinois Miss Basketball and Illinois State Player of the Year
- She also was a First Team All-American from 2002-2004
- And she was the 2004 Powerade Jam Fest Winner
Her USA Basketball awards
With USA Basketball she earned two gold medals.
- 2004 FIBA U18 World Championship
- 2007 FIBA Americas Championship
- 2008 Beijing Olympics Gold Medal
- 2012 London Olympics Gold Medal
Her UMMC Ekaterinburg awards
During each WNBA off-season from 2010 to 2015, Candace traveled across the world to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg of the Russian league, where she won five consecutive championships with the international club, according to her website. In December 2017, Candace signed with the Xinjiang Tiashan Deers Chinese franchise for the 2017-2018 off-season.
- Championship of Russia (2010-2014)
- Cup of Russia (2010-2014)
- EuroLeague Women Champion 2013
- EuroLeague Women Final Eight MVP 2013