How Candace Parker keeps proving doubters wrong

Candace Parker is one of the most recognizable faces in women’s basketball.

The Chicago Sky star is the only player in WNBA history to win Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player — an award she has won twice. Parker is a two-time Olympic gold-medal winner. She has received so many basketball accolades, it would take too long to list them all. She also has become a staple on “NBA on TNT” alongside Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal and eventual Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade as a studio analyst.

Younger players in the WNBA and college list her among their idols.

Yet she continues to be disrespected. After being slighted by her peers in the All-Star vote — she still was named a starter based on fan and media voting — Parker later posted lyrics to Jay-Z’s “Dear Summer” on her Instagram story.

“Seven straight summers, critics might not admit it/ But nobody in rap did it, quite like I did it.”

Coach Geno Auriemma left her off the Team USA roster for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, a move to which she responded by saying she never would play for the team again. She was benched by then-Los Angeles Sparks coach Derek Fisher in an elimination game in the 2019 WNBA playoffs after playing only 11 minutes. The Sparks lost.

In a confidential poll conducted by The Athletic in 2019, Parker received 20% of the vote as the league’s most overrated player from players who participated.

Since signing with the Sky in February 2021, though, Parker has been on what some might refer to as a revenge tour.

After playing her first 13 seasons with the Sparks, she helped the Sky win their first championship last year, but it was far from guaranteed. The team started 2-7 and entered the playoffs as the No. 6 seed after finishing 16-16. But they went 8-2 in the postseason, beating the Phoenix Mercury 3-1 in the WNBA Finals for Parker’s second ring.

Not a bad return “home” for the Naperville Central alumna and three-time Ms. Basketball of Illinois winner.

“And no I’m not through with it/ In fact, I’m just previewin’ it.” — Jay-Z, “What More Can I Say”

In May, upon entering the final year of her contract, Parker told NBA TV’s Kristen Ledlow she’s operating under the assumption this season is her last. But Parker, 36, still is playing at an elite level — she’ll start in the WNBA All-Star Game on Sunday at Wintrust Arena. It will be her seventh appearance in the game and second straight with the Sky.

The Sky are tied for the best record in the league at 15-6, with Parker playing in 19 of those games. She’s averaging 13.3 points and shooting 45.7% overall, 38.4% on 3-pointers and 85.1% on free throws. She became the first player in WNBA history to record 6,000 points, 3,000 rebounds and 1,500 assists.

Despite her performance, Parker ranked 13th in All-Star voting by her peers. In the game immediately after the results were released, Parker recorded her third-career triple-double — in three quarters — giving her the most in league history. The feat had an extra layer: It came against her former team.

“It’s unfortunate that players aren’t showing her that respect or showing that love,” Sky teammate Allie Quigley said. “There are a lot of good players in this league and I don’t know if they are just voting for their own teammates. She’s proven (to be an All-Star). Two championships and the leader in triple-doubles. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s a little hate I’d say.”

Clearly that “hate” doesn’t reside with everyone. In this year’s All-Star draft, captain A’ja Wilson selected Parker with the No. 1 pick.

“If it ain’t directed directly at me, I don’t respect it.” — Jay-Z, “Dear Summer”

In order to be a professional athlete, one must have that internal “thing” that pushes them to compete at the highest level and to go out night after night and attempt to prove their haters wrong. Perhaps Parker is a little tired of the disrespect and has taken it personally?

“No, I (couldn’t) care less,” Parker told the Tribune. “At the end of the day, I always say this: You are not going to ever make me think less or more of myself. I have a very good value of self, I have competence and I understand my value within this franchise.

“I didn’t even vote, to be honest with you. I was just like, ‘I’m not participating in this,’ because honestly, and we will go into it, how you don’t see the value in certain players that didn’t make it and then you see the value of others benefiting off of it, it blows my mind. Just make it a fan vote. Why are you involving the players?

“That’s my thing. It’s comical, so I don’t pay too much attention to it. I just want to get more rings. That’s it. And then what are you going to say?”

With Parker proving she’s a generational talent and the way the Sky have started the season, perhaps the entire team is out to prove last season wasn’t a fluke.

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