The beautiful thing about the WNBA playoffs is it affords all sports fans more opportunities than ever to witness some of the most amazingly awesome female basketball players in the world.
And then there’s Candace Parker.
There are those who blindly view her other-wordly talent through the lens of gender. But any limitations set on her greatness means you do not fully understand or appreciate it. She’s one of the all-time greats to have ever played the game. Period.
And as the pages of time continue to turn towards the final chapters in a storybook career unlike any other, she’s more than deserving to get her flowers while her game is still in full bloom as she sets her sights on what may be the most improbable twist: leading her hometown team, the Chicago Sky, to its first-ever NBA title.
Parker moved one step closer to making that dream a reality as the Sky advanced to the WNBA Finals last Wednesday against the top-seeded Connecticut Sun. In Chicago’s series-clinching win on Wednesday, Parker delivered a near triple-double performance before finishing with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
“Chicago is where my family raised me; where I first learned the game of basketball; and where I first fell in love with this orange ball,” Parker said in a statement shortly after signing a two-year deal in January. “I am excited to continue the next chapter of my career where it all began. To my new teammates, my new organization, and my new fans: I’m home.”
How big a deal was her return?
On Sept. 16, the city of Chicago honored her with Candace Parker Day which coincided with the release of her latest Adidas shoe and apparel line as part of the Candace Parker Collection.
Olympic Gold medals. WNBA titles. WNBA MVP awards. Defensive Player of the Year accolades. There are very few WNBA awards that haven’t found a home on Parker’s mantel.
In addition to Adidas, Parker has additional endorsement deals with JBL Audio, Gatorade and the Kellogg Company, among others.
And when she has played overseas like most of the WNBA’s top players in the off-season, she has won five championships in Russia and the EuroLeague.
Parker has left an indelible imprint on the game of basketball that should firmly entrench her among the greatest to have ever touched a basketball.
Far too often, time dictates when we honor the greatest athletes among us, with praise and adulation coming well after their careers are over.
That is what makes Parker so special.
Although the calendar says she’s nearing the end of what will be a Hall of Fame-bound career, she still has the talent and tools to contribute to winning at the highest level.
The WNBA has a long list of talented players who at this moment, are showing the strength and depth of the league when it comes to top-shelf talent. This is particularly true when you look at the impact that Blacks have had on the league in terms of the most recent seasonal awards. Of the top six individual awards in the WNBA (MVP; Defensive Player of the Year; Most Improved; Sixth Player of the Year; Coach of the Year; and Sportsmanship) this season, four Blacks were honored. And when you take a look at the league’s all-WNBA first and second team, nine of the 10 chosen were Black.
But even with all that Black excellence in the WNBA, Parker is still one of the top players when it matters most—the playoffs. So while it makes sense to exert some patience when it comes to giving all-time props to athletes, there are some athletes whose game-changing DNA should be honored in real-time.
Parker is that athlete!
That’s why giving Parker her flowers for her greatness, shouldn’t come about years after she’s done playing. The time to toast her amazing career is now when she can still do some pretty amazingly awesome things on the court.