Women's Activism NYC

Candace Parker

1986 - Today

By: Teri Graham | Date Added:

Candace Parker is a former professional basketball player who was one of the superstars of the WNBA in the early 21st century. In 2008 the 6-foot 4-inch forward-center was named league Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Rookie of the Year, becoming the first player in WNBA history to receive those honors in the same year. She earned the MVP award again in 2013 and later won three WNBA titles: 2016 (Los Angeles Sparks, 2012 (Chicago Sky), and 2023 (Los Angeles Aces). At the international level Parker was a key member of the U.S women’s basketball teams that captured the gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Parker grew up mostly in Naperville, Illinois, where her father, a former basketball player at the University of Iowa, coached her in the sport from the time she was six years old. Parker developed into a highly versatile player, capable of playing any position on the court. She also possessed phenomenal athletic ability and could dunk a basketball by the time she was a sophomore at Naperville Central High School. In 2004 she made national headlines when—competing against some of the top boys’ high school players in the country—she won the slam dunk contest at the McDonald’s All-American basketball game. Parker was named national player of the year by several organizations in both 2003 and 2004. She went on to play at the University of Tennessee under legendary head coach Pat Summitt. On March 19, 2006, she became the first woman to dunk in a women’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament game (she dunked a second time later in the same game, an opening-round victory over Army). She led Tennessee to back-to-back NCAA championships in 2007 and 2008 and won the 2008 Naismith Award as the most outstanding player in women’s college basketball. The Los Angeles Sparks selected Parker as the first overall pick of the 2008 WNBA draft. Parker quickly established herself as one of the league’s premier players. En route to winning the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in 2008, she posted a league-best average of 9.5 rebounds per game. In a June 22 matchup against the Indiana Fever she became the second player, after Lisa Leslie, to dunk in a WNBA game. In 2009 Parker led the league in both rebounds per game (9.8) and blocks per game (2.1). Injuries limited her play over the next couple of seasons, but by 2012 she was healthy again. By winning a second MVP trophy in 2013, Parker became only the fifth WNBA player to have garnered multiple league MVP awards. In 2016 she and teammate Nneka Ogwumike powered Los Angeles to a five-game victory over the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA finals. Parker, who averaged a team-high 17.2 points per game in the series, was named finals MVP for her efforts. In April 2024 Parker announced that she was retiring. In an Instagram post she wrote, “The competitor in me always wants 1 more, but it’s time.”

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