#ThankYouCandace: Candace Parker’s immense impact on women’s basketball duplicated by few


It will be hard to envision a WNBA sans Candace Parker – but that reality hit the women’s basketball landscape like a tidal wave this past Sunday when it was initially announced by the Las Vegas Aces themselves (as well as herself on her Instagram) that Parker would indeed call it a career. 

Greatest of All Time conversations are becoming more prevalent in women’s basketball given the number of years that the WNBA has under its belt. When the 2024 season tips off in a few weeks, the W will be in its 28thseason. 

At this point, we know a number of the names that have been in that conversation, but any conversation that fails to include Parker may not exactly be a real conversation of the game’s all-time greats.

There are few players whose name is as synonymous with greatness and winning as Parker is. Even when she was rising through the ranks of the sport out of the Chicago area – a region that has produced a number of basketball talents (Tamika Catchings, Cappie Pondexter, Jewell Loyd, Morgan Tuck, etc.) – one could see that she was destined to be a name to remember. Parker is the only three-time winner of Illinois’ prestigious Ms. Basketball award.


That only continued when she took the next step in her career in the college ranks under Pat Summitt with the Tennessee Lady Vols where she won two national championships before entering the WNBA. Those two national championships Parker led the Lady Vols to were the first for the program since 1998 which, by the standards of Summitt’s Lady Vols, were a drought. 


The Los Angeles Sparks knew they were getting a franchise cornerstone for the next several years when they drafted Parker with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft. It took only one game for the rest of the WNBA to know that with Parker’s arrival the rest of the league had a huge problem on its hands. 

She tallied 34 points in her WNBA debut and went on to win Rookie of the Year (and the MVP award) for 2008. Los Angeles also posted a 20-14 record and finished third in the Western Conference. 

The Sparks also posted 20-win seasons in 2013 and 2014 but it would be in the mid-to-late 2010s where the team’s profile would hit a peak.


That was when Los Angeles was embroiled in a heated rivalry with the Minnesota Lynx as to which team claimed WNBA supremacy. Following the Lynx winning championships in 2011, 2013 and 2015, the two teams did battle in the 2016 WNBA Finals. 

It was a hard-fought series that went the distance of five games, but it would be one that was won by the Sparks as it was the first WNBA championship for Parker (and the first for the Sparks since 2002) – one where she also claimed Finals MVP honors. Minnesota would get its sweet revenge the following season. 

While the Lynx would begin to decline from its championship euphoria they experienced throughout the 2010s, the Sparks would remain contenders as long as Parker continued to sport Los Angeles’ signature purple and gold colors. In 2019 and 2020, potential Sparks playoff runs were put to a halt at the hands of the Connecticut Sun. In 2020, Parker was named Defensive Player of the Year. 

The emergence out of the bubble also saw Parker emerge with a new team – her hometown team in the Chicago Sky – a team that had yet to claim a championship prior to Parker’s arrival but was on a clear upward trajectory at the time. With a core that included Parker, Kahleah Copper, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley plus James Wade as head coach, the Naperville native returned home to Chicago to help the Sky defeat the Phoenix Mercury in four games for the 2021 WNBA championship. 


Parker also won another championship – her third – in 2023 with the Aces. Along with her three WNBA championships, she also has a pair of Olympic gold medals as part of her future Hall of Fame resume. Parker also has a pair of regular season MVP awards not to mention was named to the All-Star Game on seven occasions.

Wherever she went, championships followed. It did not matter which team it was – any team that had her wearing its colors was a contender for a championship. 

There are many who pick up basketballs and envision themselves one day being among the greats. Parker established herself as one of the game’s all-time greats. 

In WNBA circles, there is so much talk about “growing” the game. The game is certainly bigger and better than when Parker first became a household name. Not too long ago, we spoke to Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve and she responded to the notion that the Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty have set a new standard for the W.

Reeve mentioned how it was the Lynx-Sparks rivalry of the mid-to-late 2010s – that Parker was a key part of – that paved the way for the astronomical success the WNBA is experiencing today.


It was somewhat poetic that on a weekend where a new class was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame – located in the same city of Knoxville, Tennessee where Parker became a household name on the national stage that one of Knoxville’s adopted daughters would call it a career. 

It will not be long before Parker herself is part of a future Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame class where she is sure to give a moving speech in the town she called home for four years. That is in addition to being part of a Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts. 

Icon. Legend. GOAT. 

Thank. You. Candace.