Chicago area legend and two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker signed with the Chicago Sky. This is the biggest free agent signing ever for the Sky and one of the biggest in Chicago sports history.
How big is it? Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot led off the “Welcome Home” press conference. I cannot recall a Chicago mayor ever joining the celebration of a sports player acquisition.
Sky co-owners Michael Alter and John Rogers proudly and excitedly followed Mayor Lightfoot. They talked about bringing home one of Chicago's finest.
Next up was GM-Head Coach James Wade, who said “It’s indescribable to put into words what this moment means to our organization and to the city of Chicago. It’s an incredible story of a homecoming between a team striving to become a championship organization and one of the best players in basketball. Candace is someone who has meant so much to the game – and not just in L.A. or Chicago – her stature is truly unmatched. It says a lot about the strides we’ve made in the right direction and we believe Candace is the one who is going to take us to that next level.”
Finally Parker took center stage and wowed everyone with her eloquence, charm and enthusiasm. Parker talked of the decision as joining the Sky, not leaving the Sparks. She has no animosity towards her former organization. She simply added a new WNBA home. It was a decision based on coming home. She had not considered any other WNBA teams.
Parker was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but her family moved to Naperville, Illinois when she was two. She was a star basketball player at Naperville Central High School, before going on to more success at the University of Tennessee. After red-shirting her first year, Parker played 110 games over the next four seasons, averaging 19.4 points per game. The Sparks selected her with the first pick in the 2008 WNBA draft.
In 13 seasons with the Sparks, Parker has played 337 games (starting 333), while averaging 16.9 points, 3.9 assists, 8.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. She shot 48.2% from the field, 33.7% from three point land and 76.1% from the free throw line.
Along the way, she picked up several awards and achievements., including but not limited to the following:
WNBA Champion: 2016
WNBA Finals MVP: 2016
2× WNBA Most Valuable Player: 2008, 2013
5× All-WNBA First Team (2008, 2012–2014, 2017)
2× All-WNBA Second Team (2009, 2015)
2× WNBA All-Defensive Second Team (2009, 2012)
3× WNBA rebounding leader (2008, 2009, 2020)
2× WNBA peak performer (2008, 2009)
WNBA Defensive Player of the Year (2020)
WNBA All-Star Game MVP (2013)
WNBA Rookie of the Year (2008)
Turning 35 in April, Parker knows the bulk of her career is behind her, but she feels she has plenty left in the tank. She talked about other athletes keeping up high levels of performance at older ages, such as Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady playing in his 10th Super Bowl at the age of 43.
The whole press session simply felt warm and fuzzy. Obviously Parker wants to finish her career in her home city, surrounded by family and friends. She also wants to get back to great Chicago food, specifically mentioning Lou Malnati's, Portillo's and Giordano's. This brought one of the many laughs of the press conference.
Parker summed it up by saying, “Chicago is where my family raised me; where I first learned the game of basketball; and where I first fell in love with this orange ball. I am excited to continue the next chapter of my career where it all began. To my new teammates, my new organization, and my new fans: I’m home.”
Chicagoans are just as excited as Parker. Suddenly the Sky are the talk of the town. Parker Sky jerseys are being ordered. Sky tickets are being purchased. All as good in Skyland, because Parker has come home!