September 27, 2012
By Kenneth Miller
LA Watts Times Staff Writer
Candace Parker, arguably the WNBA’s most popular star, is on a unique journey, which will undoubtedly take her to the basketball Hall of Fame. But as the organization’s post season tips on Thursday Sept. 27 she is still in search of her first WNBA crown with the Los Angeles Sparks. Parker is the darling of women’s basketball filling the sneakers left behind by Lisa Leslie and Cheryl Miller, but as the Sparks ready for the San Antonio Silver Stars at the Galen Center at 7p.m. she will be reaching down deep to propel the Sparks to their first championship in 10 years.
Championships and becoming the first woman to dunk in an NCAA women’s tournament and the WNBA are the ingredients that have spiced Parker to the level of being the league’s savior.
While at Tennessee for three years she led the Lady Vols to consecutive NCAA championships in 2007 and 2008, earning back-to-back Most Outstanding Player awards in the process.
While in college she was not only the first woman to dunk in the tourney, but the first to do it twice in a college. Parker is only the second woman behind Leslie to dunk in a WNBA game.
A five-tool star, she played guard, forward and center. For basketball novices those are all of the positions on a basketball court.
Parker didn’t just excel on the hardwood, she maintained a 3.35 grade point average in the classroom and was a University Division Academic All American.
She shares the distinction of being one of only three National Gatorade Players of the Year with Brandon Knight and LeBron James while prepping in Illinois where she was both WBCA All American and McDonalds All American.
Twice she was named USA Today Player of the Year in 2003 and 2004 and the Naismith Player of the Year. You get the idea that Candace Parker was pretty special.
Imagine what she would have accomplished had she not tore her ACL while a junior.
She still managed to become a three-time Illinois Player of the Year where she established school records in points and rebounds with 2,768 and 1,592, respectively.
Born and raised near Chicago she grew up adoring the Michael Jordan led Bulls, but her favorite player was Ron Harper.
It was her father who taught her how to play, but it didn’t hurt that her brother Anthony Parker was a standout player in his own right and is currently playing in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
However, it is Parker who right now is the shinning jewel of the family and for the most part, the Los Angeles sports scene with both the Angels and Dodgers on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
There could not be a better model and purposeful example for the city and particularly African Americans in a sport that has had its popularity shortchanged by the monopolized NFL, the off season acquisition of Dwight Howard, Magic Johnson’s purchasing of the Dodgers and their multiple acquisitions and a presidential election of the highest stakes.
Meanwhile, the Sparks have been quietly going about their business of being community oriented and putting a winning product on the court, and of course with Parker as the centerpiece they have finally arrived at their pinnacle.
Finishing second in the Western Conference to the Minnesota Lynx, the Sparks won 24 games against just 14 defeats and are 6-4 over their last 10 games aiming for that elusive crown that has been gone for a decade when many thought they would own the league.
The drafting of Parker with the first pick in ’08 came with the lofty expectations that prominence would be immediate.
Since then head coach Michael Cooper left to take the same position with USC, Kobe’s dad came in a year ago and the team flickered on brilliance, boredom and mediocre.
But during that span, Parker missed nine games when she was giving birth to her daughter Lailaa Williams and in 2010 missed the entire season with a shoulder injury.
The shadow of Leslie stood even taller than ever and many wondered if the prospects of grandeur were mere illusions.
A healthy Parker could change all of that and the emergence of her Olympic teammates, which captured gold in London, has put the Sparks in a position they are familiar with.
She will need the help of Tina Thompson among the greatest players in the world; Delisha Milton Jones and former Narbonne star Ebony Hoffman coming off the bench if it is to work.
A champion with her team in Russia, an Olympic gold medal, two NCAA titles, and all of the accolades are enough to satisfy anyone, but for Parker it’s a WNBA title on her resume that will make the candy taste sweetest at this time of the year.