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  • Isa Almeida

Candace Parker announces retirement, leaves lasting legacy

With the first pick of the 2008 WNBA Draft, the Los Angeles Sparks selected Candace Parker from the University of Tennessee. And the rest is history. 

Women’s basketball says goodbye to one of its biggest legends after Parker announced her retirement via Instagram on April 28.

“I promised I’d never cheat the game and that I’d leave it in a better place than I came into it,” Parker wrote. “The competitor in me always wants one more, but it’s time. My heart and my body knew, but I needed to give my mind time to accept it.”

Parker’s award list stretches from high school to college to professional, from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, America to Russia. Two decades ago, back in Naperville Central High School in Illinois, Parker became the first and only player to win USA Today’s High School Player of the Year. In 2004, heading into her first year at Tennessee, she became the Gatorade National Player of the Year while making the McDonald’s All-American team. As a McDonald’s All-American, Parker became the first to win the slam dunk contest.

That same year, after becoming the first woman to announce her verbal commitment live on ESPNEWS, Parker packed her bags and moved down south to Knoxville. Parker redshirted her first year at Tennessee due to a knee injury, but from the moment she put on that No. 3 jersey her sophomore year, she was unstoppable. 

Having already made dunking history before, Parker became the first woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament game, and then the first to dunk twice in a game. Named Rookie of the Year by both AP and the coaches association, Parker hit the game-winning shot at the conference final against LSU and the Lady Vols won the SEC tournament in 2006.

The Lady Vols might have not won the national championship, but in the September of that year, Parker was called up for the FIBA World Championship in Brazil, and was the only college player on the roster. And her team won back-to-back national titles in the next two years. 

After four years in college but only three on the courts, Parker decided it was time to go professional and declared for the WNBA draft. She would call Los Angeles home for the next 12 years of her life.

In her 12 years with the Sparks, Parker made the All-WNBA team six times, was named most valuable player twice and won one league title. Despite having missed part of the 2009 season due to maternity leave, she led the league in rebounding and made the All-WNBA and All-Defensive second team.

Due to payment discrepancies in the WNBA, many players choose to play overseas in the offseason. Parker won five consecutive league titles with UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian League. Also in her time with the Sparks, she earned two Olympic gold medals with Team USA.

Parker joined two league-winning teams to wrap up her career. In 2021, she joined the Chicago Sky and won the championship in her first season with the team. In 2023, she signed a one-year contract with the reigning champions Las Vegas Aces and captured her third championship as the Aces won their second consecutive title.

“Although the majority of her career was played in opposing uniform, we were blessed to have her as part of our championship team a year ago,” the Las Vegas Aces said in a statement. “We are saddened that she won’t be a part of our three-peat aspirations, but we look forward to welcoming Candace back to Las Vegas as an Aces alum, and we can’t wait to see what the next chapter in her life has to offer.”

The soon-to-be mother of three hung up her boots after a remarkable, history-making career. 

“No matter how you prepare for it, you won’t be ready for the gap it leaves in your soul,” Parker wrote. “Forgive me as I mourn a bit, but I’ll be back loving the game differently in a bit.”


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