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Candace Parker: The Legacy of WNBA Great Who Broke Records


Whether you’re a longtime Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) fan or a casual observer, Candace Parker may be a name you’ve come across. She’s one of the most successful basketball players in league history, having clinched titles at all levels of the game. She’s a two-time WNBA MVP, and three-time WNBA champion and has won multiple awards.

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Parker announced her retirement on Sunday, April 28, with a sweet Instagram post, recalling her career moments and sharing her next ventures. She’s already built her resume in broadcasting and will expand to other areas. Learn more about her below.

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Candace Parker’s Early Life

Candace Parker: The Legacy of WNBA Great Who Broke Records
Candace Parker in a WNBA game. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-4.0

Candace Parker was destined to play basketball. She’s the youngest of three children, one of whom was a former NBA player, Anthony Parker, and so did the dad. Candace experienced basketball from a young age.

From early on, she knew she would have to meet high standards and shied away from the game. Instead, Parker played soccer. She would later take up basketball again. This time, it was for good.

Her father was her first trainer. He pushed her to improve and wouldn’t allow her to get away without working hard. These moments lay the foundation for her career.

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High School Career

Parker became nationally known at Naperville High School. She helped the team win the state championship in 2003 and 2004 and collected numerous individual awards. The power forward was the Naismith Prep Player of the Year and the Gatorade Prep Player of the Year. 

She featured in the McDonald’s All-American Game in 2004, defeating Rudy Gay and Josh Smith. She still had more to give. Parker is believed to have executed the first slum dunk by a woman in Illinois. 

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College Career

After her breakthrough in high school, Parker committed to the University of Tennessee. She worked with the late highly acclaimed coach Pat Summitt, who molded her into the legendary player we saw.

Parker became the first player to dunk in a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) game. In 2006, she scored a vital point that won her team the SEC Tournament Championship. Her stellar performance earned her a place in the USA team that played in the 2006 FIBA World Championship for Women in Brazil. 

Her time with the Lady Vols bred more success for her, culminating in the national championship win for the first time since 1998. The team retained the title in 2008, the year when Parker joined the USA team roster for the Olympics in Beijing. 

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Professional Career

Candace Parker talks about her career and motherhood. Video Credit: The Kelly Clarkson Show.

Candace Parker turned professional in 2008. The Los Angeles Sparks picked her as the first-round first pick in the WNBA draft. She joined a star-studded team, playing alongside Lisa Leslie and DeLisha Milton Jones.

Just like her high school and college careers, Parker bagged the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards and is the only player to have won both awards in the same season.

She became the second WNBA player to dunk and broke the record for the most points scored by a rookie. Cynthia Cooper held it after making 25 points in 1998 and Parker got 9 more points in her first game in the league. 

Parker is a two-time Olympic gold medalist with the United States having won the 2008 and the London 2012 Olympics.

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First WNBA Championship

Candace Parker’s game highlight. Video Credit: WNBA Hoops.

Throughout the years, Candace Parker was the star of the team. However, foot injuries held her back and she also took time out to give birth to her daughter. Additionally, the Sparks played in the playoffs multiple times but didn’t make it to the finals.

This changed in 2016 when the team beat the Chicago Sky in the playoff series to advance to the final. She scored 24 points to give the Sparks a 2-1 series lead. All the team needed was one more win to clinch the title but the Minnesota Lynx made things difficult.

This led to a winner-take-all final match and Sparks won it 77-76 to win the first WNBA Championship in 14 years. Parker remained with the Sparks until 2020 and then joined the Chicago Sky and the Las Vegas Aces.

She finished her career as the ninth all-time leading scorer, seventh in assists and third in rebounds.  

Parker won two more WNBA Championships in 2021 & 2023. This made her the first player in the league to win the title with three different teams. 

In between the years, she played for: 

  • UMMC Ekaterinburg
  • Guangdong Dolphins
  • Fenerbahce
  • Xinjiang Tianshan Deers

Off Court

Candace Parker has built her resume off the court in broadcasting and working with the Alzheimer’s Association. She’s made several appearances on TNT, SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and CBS Sports. 

Candace Parker had an amazing career and she’ll always be part, of it off the court with media engagements and more. She’s one of the players who’ve contributed to the growth of the game. Her long list of accomplishments shows why she’s a legend of the game.

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