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The Immense Legacy of Candace Parker: WNBA Icon Calling It a Career



In an emotional press conference today, Candace Parker, one of the most accomplished and iconic players in WNBA history, announced her retirement from professional basketball following a legendary 16-year career.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 forward/center, hangs up her sneakers as a three-time WNBA champion, two-time league MVP, and with a staggering list of accolades and records that cement her status as an all-time great. She became the first player ever to win titles with three different franchises, capturing crowns with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2016, the Chicago Sky in 2021, and then her hometown Las Vegas Aces this past season.

“It’s been one hell of a ride – I’ve given this game absolutely everything I had for over two decades,” said an emotional Parker as she addressed the media. “From my days as a kid with a basketball permanently glued to my hands, to the NCAA championships at Tennessee, the Olympics, and of course my pro career in the WNBA, I’ve been blessed beyond my wildest dreams.”

“Now it’s time for me to begin the next chapter. I’m retiring from the game of basketball eternally grateful and with my soul completely at peace knowing I left it all out on the court every single night.”

Parker’s retirement comes on the heels of capturing yet another WNBA title with the Las Vegas Aces this past season at age 37. She was instrumental in Vegas racing out to a blistering 16-2 start before suffering a season-ending foot injury that required surgery. 

Even missing the second half of the campaign, Parker’s early-season production and leadership proved invaluable as the Aces captured the first championship in franchise history. It marked Parker’s third career ring, an incredible feat that may never be matched.

“There was no way I was going to miss the chance to come home and try to win a title for Las Vegas and make history,” said Parker, who grew up in nearby Naperville, Illinois. “I gave everything I had those first few months and I’m so proud of what we accomplished as a team. That ring completed my journey in so many ways.”

With her retirement, the WNBA is losing a once-in-a-generation superstar, cultural icon, and one of the players most responsible for the growth of the league over the past 16 seasons since being selected first overall in the 2008 draft.

A 10-time All-WNBA selection, Parker accomplished virtually everything possible over her illustrious career. In addition to the three WNBA titles, she captured two regular season MVP awards (’08, ’13), a Defensive Player of the Year award (2020), Finals MVP (’16), and was named to the WNBA’s prestigious 20th and 25th anniversary teams.  

On top of that, Parker won two NCAA championships at Tennessee, earning Most Outstanding Player honors at the Final Four both times. She also captured two Olympic gold medals with Team USA in 2008 and 2012.

“You’re talking about one of the greatest winners and competitors our game has ever seen. Candace left an imprint on every stop of her career,” said Cathy Engelbert, WNBA Commissioner. “But beyond all the accolades and championships, she was a pioneer that helped make our league and women’s basketball as a whole more popular and more visible than ever before.”

Parker retires ranked in the top 10 in over a dozen statistical categories in WNBA history, including third all-time in total rebounds (3,467), second in defensive rebounds (2,846), seventh in total field goals made (2,471), ninth in points (6,574), and eleventh in blocks per game (1.5).

However, her impact transcended the court. In addition to her WNBA playing career, Parker simultaneously worked as an NBA and college basketball analyst for Turner Sports, further cementing herself as one of the most famous and marketable Black female athletes of her era.

Parker’s humble beginnings in Naperville, an unincorporated suburb outside Chicago, make her rise to superstardom even more remarkable. She honed her skills playing in the driveway against her older brothers and plowed through injuries and setbacks at every level – first being told she’d likely never walk again due to a high school ACL tear, then overcoming additional knee injuries at Tennessee.

Through it all, Parker remained steadfastly dedicated and laser-focused, driven by an insatiable inner competitive fire and a tireless work ethic. Those characteristics were evident from day one when she took the WNBA by storm, capturing both Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in 2008.

That summer, Parker’s fame skyrocketed as she helped lead the US to Olympic gold in Beijing while gracing the iconic cover of ESPN The Magazine’s annual Body Issue. Her skill on the court, striking physical stature, and charismatic personality made her an immediate marketing star and media darling.

Over the next decade-plus, Parker became one of the WNBA’s most bankable and famous figures, constantly shattering attendance records and dominating television ratings whenever she played. Her appeal cut across various demographics and age groups as she achieved mainstream crossover success.

“It was bigger than basketball. Yes, I wanted to be one of the all-time great WNBA players and rack up championships and personal accolades,” reflected Parker. “But I also took pride in being a role model and opening doors for the next generation. I wanted to make the game as big and visible as possible.”

Now, with a legacy firmly etched among the legends of the sport, Parker walks away from a Hall of Fame-worthy WNBA career with her head held extremely high. She will go down as a once-in-a-lifetime athlete, a tireless warrior, and a pioneering icon who helped blaze a trail for the rise of women’s sports.

While she may no longer be lacing up her sneakers, Parker knows her impact and influence will carry on for decades to come within the WNBA and well beyond. Those fortunate enough to witness her transcendent career were able to see true, unparalleled greatness up close and personal.

“I left every single ounce of myself out on the court over 16 amazing years,” said Parker. “Now it’s time for the next chapter, but I’ll forever be a champion of this game that gave me absolutely everything and more. The journey was incredible, and I have no regrets.”

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