Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Candace Parker voted AP Female Athlete of Year for 2nd time | Ap

Candace Parker struggled with the decision to make a big change in her life and leave Los Angeles – where she had played her entire WNBA career – and return to Chicago.

In the end, the appeal of homecoming was too great for Parker to ignore and it couldn’t have gone any better.

Parker, 35, banned Father Time to help Chicago Sky win the franchise’s first WNBA championship and crowned 2021 with The Associated Press’ second female athlete of the year.

“There was something about going where you started playing the game,” Parker said in a phone interview. “It’s exciting to play in front of the people who first saw me pick up a basketball. It’s only now that I realize a little about winning at home. How special it really is. Something that is at the top of my list. “

It’s a list that keeps TNT’s working mom and basketball analyst pretty busy. Parker is finally starting to appreciate bringing a title to her hometown at the dawn of her career.

As the last few seconds of the WNBA Finals ran out, Parker sprinted to the corner of the court where she hugged family and friends and celebrated becoming one of the rare elite athletes to return home and win a championship.

It was a long ending that not many saw coming when Parker made the move. Winning it all seemed like a distant possibility at the start of the WNBA season when Sky lost seven of their first nine games. Parker was sidelined with an ankle injury, but when she returned Chicago started winning and was ranked sixth in the playoffs.

“I’m really grateful to those who made my trip and the people who supported me in making it as smooth as possible. My daughter, my wife, my immediate family, we rolled with it. We wanted it, ”she said. “It’s going to be difficult, but stick to it.”

It’s a way of life that made Parker reconsider her decision.

Parker feared that if she left Los Angeles she might be seen as a newcomer. This despite the fact that she was named an AP award winner in her rookie year with the Sparks in 2008 when she was named MVP and top rookie by the WNBA. She also led the Sparks to the championship in 2016 and is one of 14 players to have won college, WNBA and Olympic titles. She played college ball in Tennessee, where she won two titles.

“I firmly believe that when you start something, you end it. If you say something, you do it. I’m not perfect because I say things and I don’t persevere, “said Parker, two-time Olympic gold medalist. “My parents taught me not to give up. I wanted to end my career in LA, but I also ended my contract, I promised myself that time. I did not ask to be traded. The better opportunity for me and my family was to return home. “

The 13 years since her first AP female athlete of the year have joined Parker with babe Didrikson Zaharias for the longest time between winning the award in the 80-year history. The prize was voted on by a jury made up of sports editors. Parker got 11 votes for first place, beating swimmer Katie Ledecky and gymnast Simone Biles.

“You couldn’t write a better story than Candace Parker’s, who brought the WNBA championship to her hometown in her first season with Chicago Sky,” said WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “In addition to her successes on the court and in the studio, she continued to be a leader and role model to many, including working mothers around the world. The WNBA prides itself on having players like Candace who continue to raise the bar and raise the game and our league to the highest level. “

Parker is the only WNBA player to have received the AP Female Athlete of the Year award. She hopes this will change as soon as the league continues to gain national recognition.

“The more visibility we get as a league, which looks like it’s on the way, the more we’ll see,” said Parker. “When you see it, you see … more and more talented players … who are capable and deserving. This next wave of athletes, who can follow their careers from start to finish, will change the face of the WNBA. “

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