Chicago — Candice Parker He knows very well what is at stake. She has been in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals twice before, with chances to win the title on her home court. But it was 0-2 in those matches.
Now here it is again, this time with Chicago Sky. Another game 4. Another tournament is almost at her fingertips. But the sky receded by nine entering the fourth quarter. Is this moment slipping away?
Despite all that glitters in Parker’s world, she’s had her share of heartbreak. Two influential playoffs come out with Los Angeles Sparks the last two seasons. Getting on the bench during the WNBA 2019 semi-final rounds.
Then this year, she decided to leave Los Angeles after 13 seasons and was pressured to go home to Windy City and prove herself with another team.
But everything that came before helped make what happened on Sunday mean more than that.
“You know, it’s funny, when I’m sitting at home watching TV and there’s a shot at the last second, I instantly vomit in my mouth,” Parker said. “My daughter knows I sympathize more with the person who is on the losing end of that. My heart breaks for them. Because I was there.”
On Sunday, Parker was on the other side. She won her second WNBA title, and led Sky to her first championship in franchise history with an 80-74 victory over Phoenix Mercury. With WNBA championships, two NCAA titles and a pair of Olympic gold medals, you might think the only thing Parker is all about is winning. But, she said, shortening was a big part of reaching the highest heights.
“I could have had four or five NBA titles now. I could also have a zero,” Parker, who scored 16 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, and four steals on Sunday said. “I think it really made me understand how important possessions are. We think about the last second shot, but every possession is just as important.
“And I think it made me less dependent on results, and just focus on doing what you’re supposed to do. You can really do whatever you’re supposed to do without reaching your goal. But are you going to stop working?”
Parker is one of the most successful and successful crossover players in women’s sports. She just finished her 14th season in the WNBA and will soon be analyzing the NBA and men’s basketball, the second chapter of her career that began while the first one is still going on.
“She’s the most talented player I’ve ever played on the court with,” Phoenix said Diana Taurasi He said during the finals. “Like, by far. Her ability to do certain things on the court at the highest level surpassed everyone else.
“And then what she’s been able to do for the last four or five years of her career, being an elite on the court, doing things off the field we can all aspire to too. That’s off the charts. She gives us a voice by doing all the work, and it’s not Easy feat. She is in the vanguard fighting for everything we love every day. I envy her for it; I just don’t have her in me. And she does it for all of us.”
WNBA Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year in 2008, Parker looked like she might add the WNBA title to the NCAA Championship and Olympic gold she won that calendar year. But with Sparks only 1.3 seconds off a curb in the WNBA Finals, Parker saw just how quickly things could go sideways.
San Antonio’s Sophia Young hit a 14-foot slash on the bell to save the Superstars’ 67-66 season, and the Stars finished Sparks’ season the next day in Game Three of the Western Conference Finals.
Sparks also lost in the 2009 conference finals to Phoenix and in 2012 to Minnesota. They have fallen to the conference semi-finals four times in six years during 2010-15. And if you thought history was all rotten and had no bearing on what happened on Sunday, you don’t know Parker. She remembers every detail, just like the 2016 WNBA Finals went the way of Los Angeles in Game 5, giving Parker her first title, and the 2017 Finals which didn’t.
Candace Parker finds her daughter Lily for a passionate hug after winning the WNBA title.
Among the many things she learned from the late Tennessee State coach Pat Summit, Parker said the idea of accepting tough times with good times is a lesson she probably doesn’t talk about like others do. But it was crucial.
“I am able to be here and able to bear the grief because of the way you trained me,” Parker said. “I am able to take people who don’t like me. Some of them love me now, but that wasn’t always the case. And I’m great at it. ‘Deal with success while dealing with failure,’ was one of my mottos too,” the coach said to me.
Parker said that nothing has changed about her passion for basketball, and the demands she makes of herself and everyone around her to strive for perfection.
“I never give up on that,” Parker said with a smile. “Now my delivery has evolved as I’m more mature.” “I play basketball, and there are much more serious things than that. But I want basketball to become a platform. I love the opportunities I got from basketball.”
One of those opportunities was the chance to return to Chicago, growing up in a Naperville suburb as a high school phenomenon, and in some ways closing the circuit by winning a championship here.
She will turn 36 next April, and while she hasn’t specifically talked about retirement, she knows she’s closer to the end of her football career than the start. And while she said she’s tried to focus more on the process than the results, she knows the athletes’ outside viewpoint.
“We live in a results-driven world, and that’s a great thing,” Parker said. “when you have [Michael Jordan], which everyone in Chicagoland aspires to be like, six episodes… I sometimes feel like it’s hard to stay on the track, you know? “
Parker reported her Game 4 losses to her teammates in Chicago before Sunday’s game.
“But I think yesterday I looked at myself and said why?” she said. “You can’t passively accept the other team and what they’re doing. So I just think there’s growth in those heart-breaking moments.
“I was like, ‘If that’s the case, I’m going to go swinging. Our group is going down swinging. We still have to keep our composure.'”
The Chicago Sky held out in Game 4 to win their first WNBA Championship, and Candace Parker was overwhelmed with emotion.
Heaven did on Sunday. They surged again in the fourth quarter, with the entire sold-out Wintrust Arena crowd cheering with every Sky basket. When the Parker Triple Pointer tied the score 72-72 with 1:57 left, a roar swept through it.
And this time, Game 4. She grabbed the last defensive rebound with 5.9 seconds left and quickly sprinted onto the field to her parents, daughter and other family members for a group hug at the opposite baseline.
Moving to Chicago meant breaking up with her daughter, Layla, who has mostly resided in Los Angeles this summer, but she asked her mother to go for it.
“We’ve been through this together. You know?” Parker, who gave birth to her daughter just before her second season in the WNBA, said in May 2009 when she was 23. “She sacrificed her mother so that I could live my dream. I am so grateful to her, because she is here for important moments.”
But Parker said Lily was also there for tough moments. Disappointments. The times Parker has to push herself to get her sports bike out in the off-season is when that’s the last thing she feels like doing. Layla helps motivate her.
As do past losses.
“Off-season, these are the games I play with myself,” Parker said. “I hate Peloton, that’s my heart. But it’s like, OK, ‘I’m going to take advantage of this, and somehow it’s going to give me the energy or the sense of dynamism to get the hits going the right way when the season comes around.'” “
But at the end of the day, it’s like, ‘Do it the best you can, and you’ll live with the results.
Sunday’s results were a bill due but already paid in full. Parker can certainly live with that.
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