Los Angeles, CA— The 2016 WNBA season has come to an end with the Los Angeles Sparks 77-76 win over the Minnesota Lynx, and so has Candace Parker’s time without a title.
One of the best players to ever step onto a WNBA court can finally add WNBA Champion and WNBA Finals MVP to her long list of accolades. She’s also a two-time league MVP, a three-time WNBA All-Star, a four-time first team member, and a former WNBA rookie of the year. Add in her NCAA Championship and her two Olympic gold medals, and tonight just cemented her legacy.
She didn’t have the game she wanted in Game 4. In fact Parker said during this Finals, she knew she wasn’t playing her best.
“I wasn't upholding my end of the bargain in this series for my teammates. I think in years past maybe I was doing a lot and maybe I could have used a little help, but this year it was on me,” Parker said following her team’s win.
“My teammates were doing their part, I had to step up and do mine.”
So in Game 5? She played like a woman possessed.
28 points. 12 rebounds. 3 steals.
And if you’ve been keeping track, tonight bumped her Finals averaged up to 14 points and 9 rebounds a game, making her the obvious candidate for series MVP.
The stat line says it all, but there is more to the story than that.
This year was a year unlike any other for Candace Parker.
For the first time, she was left off of the Olympic roster. Parker addressed what was perhaps the most discussed story in women’s basketball up until that point in a team minded way, even though her early numbers suggested she was trying to prove all of her doubters wrong
"I don't think I need to prove myself," Parker said following a game against the Mystics on May 20. "I think our team needs to prove ourselves, and we need to be in the hunt for a WNBA championship."
And while being left off Parker also dealt with tragedy in her personal life.
In July, her former coach and mentor, the legendary Pat Summitt passed away following complications from early onset dementia. Summitt was so influential on Parker, both as a player and as a woman, that when Parker was asked what this meant following her team’s win, she immediately responded, “This is for Pat.”
“I listened to one of her speeches before the game and she would have been proud of my rebounding,” she continued during ESPN’s broadcast.
“I could hear her voice, telling me to keep going. And she was definitely present tonight.”
Despite adversity, Parker put herself and her team in the best position possible tonight. Nneka Ogwumike was quick to acknowledge what it meant to give Candace Parker her first league championship.
“She’s been through so much. She’s probably the most misunderstood person in the league and she deserves this. And I told her that I wanted her to get one more than anyone else,” Ogwumike told ESPN’s Holly Rowe after the win.
Parker faced numerous hardships this year, and they all made her stronger. And now she and her team have the hardware to prove it. But now that she is finally, crossing this accomplishment off of her to do list, Candace Parker is hardly complacent. A special moment with Sparks owner and NBA legend Magic Johnson following the win proved that.
“I had a moment with Magic Johnson after the game where I was like, you did this five times? Like you felt this feeling five times? This is how it is?
“And I mean, the journey is difficult, but once you get here and you feel this feeling, it's like you want to do it again.”
Congratulations to Candace Parker and all of the LA Sparks. It’s a win that was long overdue.