© AP Photo/Chris O’Meara AP Photo/Chris O’Meara
- Candace Parker is one of the most accomplished basketball players in recent WNBA history.
- The six-time All-WNBA First Team selection teamed up with The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation to surprise young athletes in the inner city of Chicago with sports gear.
- Parker spoke with Insider about giving back in her home city, the significance of the 2020 WNBA season, why DPOY is the most important award she’s won, and her investment in an NWSL team.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Candace Parker has had a jam-packed 2020.
The WNBA superstar spent a chunk of the year in the WNBA’s bubble – or Wubble – leading the Los Angeles Sparks to their ninth consecutive WNBA playoffs appearance. All the while, she was juggling her jobs as an NBA and college basketball analyst for Turner Sports and as mother to her 11-year-old daughter, Lailaa.
© Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports Candace Parker (left) attacks Alyssa Thomas during their 2020 WNBA playoff matchup. Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
But even now, as the year is winding down and she has some much-needed moments of calm at home in Los Angeles, Parker is reflecting on the chaos that was 2020, checking in with her own priorities, and looking ahead to 2021 and beyond.
After teaming up with The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation to provide young athletes in the inner city of Chicago with much-needed sports gear and surprise a virtual visit, Parker spoke with Insider about the importance of giving back in her home city, the significance of the 2020 WNBA season, why DPOY is the most important award she’s won, and her investment in an NWSL team.
This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.
© AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack Candace Parker defends Indiana Fever forward Candace Dupree. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
How are you holding up with the pandemic? Are you home right now?
I’m in LA balancing the virtual school and the work and everything like that. I can’t complain, honestly. My kid is doing really well in school and has taken to it so I really can’t complain.
You partnered with The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation to help give out sports gear and virtually visit with young athletes in the inner city of Chicago. What made you get involved in that initiative?
As you know, sport has given me so much. I align with DICK’S Sporting Goods and their foundation and their belief of how important sport is, especially in young kids’ lives. That caught my interest, and being able to take part in my home city of Chicago. This orange ball has given me so much and it’s taken me so many different places and allowed me to meet different people, so to be able to give back and to have that opportunity to give it to somebody else is just something that I’m really passionate about.
© The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation Candace Parker (center) virtually connects with young athletes as part of The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation’s Sports Matter program. The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation
What were the logistics of surprising the kids?
It’s really cool. I just got off the Zoom. It’s amazing what technology can do nowadays. We’re in the midst of a pandemic and we’re able to continue to make it work so I’m definitely grateful for that. We were [parked] outside the boys and girls club and I was able to surprise kids as they got their gifts from The DICK’S Sports Goods foundation and was able to just talk to them, say happy holidays, take pictures, answer questions, and really just be there to talk and see them. For me, it was really special to be apart of that.
A post shared by Candace Parker (@candaceparker)
Why is giving back so important now?
[The pandemic] is definitely effecting our kids and it will continue to affect our kids, so anything that we can do to kind of get back to some sense of normalcy. I must say, being able to do things virtually is special, but you definitely lose the human aspect of things. It was a little bit difficult but I definitely got to know a lot of the girls and was able to talk to them.
The holidays are about giving and are about making things better for others. I’m very proud to be aligned with DICK’S because if you didn’t realize before, sports are very important. Within our communities but also just for happiness and shaping human beings for later in life. The lessons that we learn playing sports, those are second to none. To be part of that, it means a lot.
© The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation Candace Parker looks on as young Chicago athletes receive sports gear through The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation’s Sports Matter program. The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation
What was it like living and playing in isolation down in the WNBA Bubble – or Wubble – in Bradenton, Florida, this summer?
We played in a historical season, honestly. It was historic just being a part of the bubble for what it stood for – not just sports and playing and basketball and championships – but what it stood for and the messaging that we wanted to leave there with and wanted it to represent. To be a part of that is truly special. I hope it continues to build on what we’re capable of and we use our platform and we’re able to use our voice.
And also it just, it shows and reiterates how important sports are to our country, to individuals, to families, to kids. It matters, and there’s so many things you can get across and so many barriers that you can overcome as a result of sports. The bubble proved that. And hopefully we don’t have any more bubbles. Hopefully everyone wears their masks and does what they’re supposed to and we can get back to some sort of normalcy, but to be a part of that was definitely special.
© AP Photo/Mike Carlson Candace Parker (left) battles 2020 WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson for a loose ball. AP Photo/Mike Carlson
You left the Wubble as the WNBA’s Defensive Player of the Year. You’ve earned many honors throughout your career, including WNBA MVP, first-team All-WNBA, WNBA Rookie of the Year, WNBA Finals MVP, WNBA All-Star Game MVP, and more, but you’ve publicly acknowledged that this is the most important individual award you’ve ever received. Why did winning 2020 DPOY mean so much to you?
I’m the type of player that when you tell me I can’t do something, I’m gonna try to do it. I think that’s the award that people would’ve put as – if you see Candace Parker’s name it would’ve been kind of the opposite of what they would’ve expected to be in my trophy case. To have that and to kind of quiet or silence some people who said I didn’t or couldn’t play defense, it means more to me, for sure.
What’s left to add to that trophy case?
I’m all about championships. Individual awards – those can be disputed. Finals MVPs and championships, those can’t be disputed. I’ve won two in high school, two in college, and I’ve gotten one in the pros, so honestly I would be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that I wake up every day and think about winning another championship.
© AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack Candace Parker averaged 14.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game in the Wubble. AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
You and your daughter recently invested in the National Women’s Soccer League [NWSL] franchise that’ll begin playing out of Los Angeles in 2022. What attracted you to the opportunity to join the star-studded Angel City FC ownership group, and why include Lailaa in the project?
I think it’s so important – especially when I’m going out and telling people to invest in and watch women’s sports – to be aligned with my messaging, and being aligned with my messaging by trying to prove value to other people. I can’t tell everyone else to invest in women’s sports and I’m not doing it.
© Meg Oliphant/Getty Images Candace Parker (left) hugs her daughter, Lailaa Nicole Williams, after a 2019 Los Angeles Sparks game. Meg Oliphant/Getty Images
With that being said, I think it’s so important for my daughter to see that and be along for the journey. I’ve always wanted to have a family business or a family type of environment, so what better business partner is there than to have your daughter? She’s so excited. I think she’s more excited to go to the games than anybody is. My daughter plays soccer – not as seriously as I did – but she did play for four or five years.
For me, as a kid that grew up playing soccer, to be part of an ownership group that owns a soccer league team, I mean my 11- or 12-year-old self is just bursting. That’s definitely what I would’ve dreamed of.