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Candace Parker revolutionized basketball, but she's not done

By Thuc Nhi Nguyen, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Basketball

It started to sink in at home. Candace Parker was at the crescendo of her career: two high school state titles in Illinois, two college national championships at Tennessee; finally her first WNBA championship.

The height of her success also came during a year of significant heartbreak: the loss of her legendary college coach Pat Summitt, to whom she tearfully dedicated the long-awaited title, and a controversial snub from the 2016 Olympic team.

It weighed on the Sparks star forward after she returned to L.A. from Minnesota, where she was named Finals MVP of an epic five-game series against the Lynx. She was exhausted. She was happy.

She wasn't content.

"There are a lot of people that have one," Parker said recently, "but winning two is really the bar."

Parker reaffirmed her status as one of the best in the WNBA this season, when the 34-year-old averaged 14.7 points, a league-leading 9.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists and carried the Sparks to the No. 3 seed in the playoffs, where they earned a bye to Thursday's single-elimination second round.

 

What started as a "trial year" to test her body against the toll of time and injuries has ended with the Associated Press defensive player of the year award and a most valuable player campaign. Yet there are no stat lines or individual awards that seem to appease Parker. She is a two-time MVP, two-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time All-Star. There's only one trophy that can put the final embellishment on her Hall of Fame resume.

"If she wins another championship, she is no doubt amongst the greatest," ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson said. "I do think that it's something that people frown upon that she's only won one. But still, she's changed the game."

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There were no limits in the Parker household, whether it came to gender or sports. Growing up in suburban Chicago, Parker remembers her mother, who stayed at home while raising three kids, mowing the grass as often as her father cooked. Bill Russell and Muhammad Ali were celebrated in the Parker home as advocates as much as athletes.

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