Candace Parker named AP Female Athlete of the Year for the 2nd time


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

Ultimately, the pull of a homecoming was too great for Parker to ignore, and it couldn’t have worked out better.

Parker, 35, shunned Father Time to help Chicago Sky win the franchise’s first WNBA Championship and closed 2021 by being named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year for the second time.

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

It’s a list that keeps the working mom and basketball analyst for TNT busy. Parker is finally starting to enjoy bringing a title to his hometown in the twilight of his career.

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As the final seconds ticked by in the WNBA Finals, Parker sprinted to the corner of the pitch where she hugged family and friends, celebrating being one of the few elite athletes to return. home and win a championship.

It was a long ending shot that few saw coming when Parker took the plunge. Winning it all seemed an even more distant possibility at the start of the WNBA season when Sky lost seven of their first nine games. Parker was ruled out with an ankle injury, but on his return Chicago started winning and was seeded to the No. 6 in the playoffs.

“I’m really grateful to those who made my trip and the people who supported me to make it as smooth as possible. My daughter, my wife, my immediate family, we drove with it. We wanted it, ”she said. “Things are going to get complicated, but stick with it. “

It was an approach to life that made Parker question his decision.

Parker feared she would be seen as a coward when she left Los Angeles. This is despite the fact that she was named the recipient of the AP Rookie Year Award with the Sparks in 2008, when she was honored as MVP and top rookie in the WNBA. She also guided the Sparks to the championship in 2016 and is one of 14 players to win varsity, WNBA and Olympic titles. She played college ball in Tennessee, where she won two titles.

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“I’m a big believer when you start something, you finish it. When you say something, you do it. I’m not perfect because I say things and I don’t follow through, ”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 finished my contract, I committed to that time frame. I didn’t ask to be traded. The best opportunity for me and my family was to come home.

The 13 years since his first AP Athlete of the Year award have linked Parker to Babe Didrikson Zaharias for the longest period between two wins in the award’s 80-year history. The award was voted on by a panel of sports writers. Parker received 11 votes for first place, edging swimmer Katie Ledecky and gymnast Simone Biles.

“You couldn’t write a better story than that of Candace Parker bringing the WNBA Championship to her hometown in her first season with the Chicago Sky,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. In addition to her accomplishments on the field and in the studio, she has continued to be a leader and role model for many, including working mothers around the world. The WNBA is proud to have players like Candace who continually raise the bar and raise the game and our league to the highest level.

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Parker is the only WNBA player to win the AP Female Athlete of the Year award. She hopes that will change soon as the league continues to enjoy more national exposure.

“The more visibility we have as a league, which seems to be coming, the more we will see,” Parker said. “If you see it see … more and more talented players … who are capable and This next wave of athletes who can follow their careers from start to finish is going to change the face of the WNBA.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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