WNBA

Parker Finds Empowerment in New WNBA Era

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Is basketball a game of failure? It certainly is in baseball and softball, where almost all batters swing below .500. And in football, every mistake becomes a meme. Basketball, however, exceeds other sports in frustration. The season ends in heartbreak for 63 (now, 67) teams in the women’s tournament. Also, WNBA ballers faced a frightening situation with Europe’s massive loss this season.

Candace Parker, however, isn’t one to play just to lose. After remarkable success in Los Angeles, she succeeded tremendously in Chicago on and off the court. And while the rest of the W adjusts rosters to dethrone the Chicago Sky, Parker continues to demonstrate that. Despite guaranteed heartbreak for every hooper, a determined player will ultimately find her long-sought passion’s success.

Haters In The Building

Parker, of course, played her college ball under Pat Summitt at Tennessee, who failed only 208 times in 1,306 games. One may think that Parker would put her college past behind now that she’s a professional.

However, after the NCAA men’s committee lowballed Tennessee’s excellent men’s team, Parker reinforced her Volunteer passion.

Summitt had to deal with too many haters in her buildings, as she recounted in her autobiography Sum It Up. She sought incremental gains in the sexist world of college basketball and did so magnificently. Parker participated in the Vol’s seventh and eighth national championships before the Los Angeles Sparks took her with the number one pick.

While baseball players have to fail numerous times in the minors before (maybe) making the big leagues, Parker experienced tremendous success immediately, winning the MVP in 2008, her rookie year. Unfortunately, LA heartbreakingly finished one game away from the Finals, losing to the San Antonio Silver Stars (of all teams).

No problem, as surely Parker would soon be back where she belonged: the championship.

But Parker, too, had her frustrations.

This Is For Pat

After losing in the playoffs seven times, Parker needed an assist. True, according to Basketball Reference, she has dished out 1,422 dimes in her career. Even the GOAT, however, can’t make every winning play.

Enter Nneka Ogwumike.

While the NBA too often descends into a 48-minute three-point contest, there’s still love for a paint menace in the women’s game. Ogwumike dominated in 2016, earning the MVP and boosting LA to the second seed. And good timing, too, as the W implanted a new playoff system that gave the top two teams a double-bye to the semifinals.

After quickly dispatching the Sky in their first series, the Sparks battled the defending champion Minnesota Lynx. Ogwumike refused to let LA fail again. After having her attempt at a winner blocked in the decisive game five, she calmly tried again, this time hitting the winner.

The great Holly Rowe found Parker after the horn, finding an intimate moment. After inexplicably being left off the 2016 Olympic roster, Parker needed only four words to express her joy at finally becoming a professional champion.

 

But an athlete can never entirely defeat failure. The Lynx devastatingly beat LA in the 2017 Finals. Then, Parker grew frustrated as she didn’t have the best rapport with her new coach, Derek Fisher.

A Vol never lets disappointment have the last word, however. Parker took her talents to the Lake Michigan beach, igniting a new era of player empowerment.

Last Dribble

Before Parker and Elena Delle Donne, WNBA players rarely left their first team. But Parker stated that the ladies, too, have the power to choose their employer. She led Chicago to an average 16-16 season and seemingly had little chance considering the remarkable success of the Las Vegas Aces and Connecticut Sun.

Funny how reality is always stranger than it seems.

After quickly dispatching the Dallas Wings and nemesis Lynx in the single-elimination rounds, Parker eclipsed the Sun, earning a matchup with Diana Taurasi and Phoenix Mercury.

Chicago evaporated the Mercury in the first Phoenix game. Then, after trading wins, Parker had an opportunity to win the title in front of her new fanbase.

True, Parker served a more mentor-oriented role in 2021, averaging only 26.7 minutes a game and missing nine games with an ankle injury.

But as her new teammate Courtney Vandersloot headed to the line at season’s end with Chicago already up four, Parker again became overwhelmed with emotion.

With time still left on the clock!

(See 4:50).

It was perhaps the most incredible moment of Parker’s basketball career. She had time to let championship euphoria sink in even before the last dribble.

Not Done

Parker succeeded at more than outscoring her opponent. She declared that 50 years after Title IX, a woman could succeed in what’s been too long a man’s world.

Women continue to succeed in the battle for respect. With the NCAA giving increased consideration to the women’s tournament (about time!) and the US national soccer team winning equal pay, life has never been better for an American female athlete.

And Parker’s not done! Joyously, Vandersloot and her wife Allie Quigley re-signed with the Sky and safely made it home from dangerous Russia. Hopefully, Parker still has many happy winning seasons left in her career. With Summitt cheering from inside Parker’s passionate heart and her country awakening from a pandemic’s nightmare, Parker debunked the biggest lie in sports.

Is basketball a game of failure? Parker proved that a Volunteer, dismissing any obstacle, always reaches the summit.

About Jeffrey Newholm

"Jammin Jeff" Newholm had been a basketball fanatic since his high school days, and remained a casual fan as a student in Whitewater. Wishing to check in as an active participant, he also completed a writing certificate program at UWM. He loves seeing Bucks games more than any other activity in hometown Milwaukee and especially screaming really really loudly to get someone to miss a free throw. Twitter: @JeffreyNewholm

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