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Cheyenne Parker taking motherhood one step at a time

For the Atlanta Dream’s Cheyenne Parker, the experience of being a mother to a six-month-old daughter has been quite the journey indeed.

Seattle Storm v Atlanta Dream
Cheyenne Parker
Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

During the Atlanta Dream’s second home game of the 2022 WNBA regular season on Friday, May 13, the video screen at Gateway Center Arena in College Park, Ga. showed the fans something you don’t see all the time: an athlete and her child. Dream forward Cheyenne Parker held her daughter Naomi in her arms for a pre-recorded video as the song “Right Here” by SWV played.

This is a common sight for Parker at Dream games, both home and away: her boyfriend, Keevin Tyus sitting courtside, holding their six-month old daughter in his arms as they both cheer her on.

For Parker, this entire experience of becoming a mother has been the culmination of the obstacles and trials that she has had to overcome in her life. Ever since she announced her pregnancy on July 14, 2021 in a Players Tribune piece, it’s just been one long learning process, one that is based on her relationship with her own mother.

“It’s a beautiful process,” Parker said. “It’s a beautiful story right now, just living in it, her being a part of Naomi’s life and having an impact on her and the relationship that she’s building with her, it’s so beautiful and it’s like it’s just only going to help me learn how to be the best mother that I can be. I would love to be half of the mother that she was to me to Naomi because she was really ideal.”

Parker was raised by a single mother who moved her and her three siblings from Queens, N.Y. to Georgia and then to North Carolina. Her mother managed to balance a full-time job with raising four children all by herself.

“It definitely had its challenges, but it was also something that helped build character within my approach on life,” Parker said. “It showed me that anything is possible with the guidance of the most high.”

Parker was always close with her mother, considering herself to be the closest with her as the youngest of four children. She credits her with teaching her how to be selfless and what a strong woman looks like. Her mother especially encouraged her in the pursuit of her basketball dreams.

“She literally lives for her children in every aspect,” Parker said. “I feel like God made her my mother because He knew that I needed someone like her in my life. I credit everything that I’ve accomplished, where I am right now, is because of her support, her encouraging words throughout my whole life.”

Naomi was born on Dec. 27, 2021 and Parker has considered it to be fun raising her daughter with help from her mother.

“Being a first-time mom, there’s a lot of stuff I don’t know, so I’m thankful to have my mom around to help me and guide me,” she said.

When Naomi was born, Parker spent the first four weeks of her life with her all the time and didn’t spend a single second away from her. It gave her a new perspective on her career and why she does what she does.

“I look at it as my career is something that I’m doing for her and I have to give my best in everything that I do because she’s watching me now and it’s super important for me that she sees that hard work pays off,” Parker said.

As a Black mother especially, Parker feels a responsibility to teach her daughter about her heritage and history. She especially wants Naomi to know that she is descended from strong and powerful people.

“I don’t want her to ever feel like a minority, even though we are in this country, I want her to know that it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, you can be great,” she said.

Parker would be the first person to tell you that she wouldn’t be able to do what she does without the help of Tyus. He has been the ideal father and partner according to her.

“When Naomi came, I was really impressed by how he is with her as a dad and how supportive he is with me, how he’s always there when I need him … taking time off of his career and work just to sacrifice for me,” Parker said.

How active Tyus is in her life and their daughter’s life defies the stereotype of the absent Black father. As someone who grew up without a father, Parker is happy to have found Tyus, who is a provider and embraces his responsibilities instead of running away from them.

“So that’s why I was impressed, especially because of you know, just his experience and his come up, so I was just very impressed with the type of man that he’s becoming, especially now that he does have a daughter and just seeing how he is with her, it really is admirable,” Parker said.

Naomi loves her father, as he was the first one that got her to smile and laugh, which did make her mother jealous. Tyus also helps clean up the house and walk the dogs along with various other things such as grocery shopping, running errands and checking the mail.

Ever since the two met in January of 2015, they have just been inseparable. After Parker was kicked out of High Point University in 2013 for smoking marijuana, she transferred to Middle Tennessee State in 2014, where she had the chance to play with Tyus’ sister on the women’s basketball team.

Tyus at the time was playing for the men’s basketball team at Lee University and after a game, him, Parker and his sister all went to eat at an IHOP, which is where the couple first met. Parker was impressed by the confidence that he had when he approached her, the fact that he also played basketball and how sentimental he was.

The thing that has really drawn Parker to Tyus is just how supportive he has been during the difficult times in her life. Both had fallen into a life of drinking, partying and smoking a month after they started dating, Parker was kicked off of her team again, this time for an athletic department policy violation.

Both of them supported and lifted each other up during this time in their lives. Parker especially was fearful that she wouldn’t be able to make it to the WNBA and that her basketball career was officially over.

“He was there throughout that time and that was a time where I really needed support and so, he just was always very supportive,” she said.

After Parker was drafted No. 5 overall by the Chicago Sky in the 2015 WNBA Draft, Tyus began working with her in the gym and continues to work with her to this day.

“He stays in the gym with me, we get shots up, we work on my game, we watch film, whatever it is I need at the time, we do it,” Parker said.

For Parker, it really was getting kicked off of her team as a senior in college that was the wake-up call for her that she had to start acting like an adult. It was during this time that her and Tyus really started reading the Bible and praying together.

“It’s a very powerful thing, having faith, learning what faith is and learning how to really have it,” Parker said. “When you get into that Word, when you’re reading it, it builds something in you. It builds strength in you, a focus, a spiritual fortitude to handle anything and everything, no matter what it is that comes my way.”

Tyus helped introduce her to the Bible back in college. Now, in her professional career, her mother shares Scripture with her often and introduced her to the Bible app in order to encourage her to keep up with reading the Word of God.

Having both have read what the Bible has to say when it comes to marriage, Parker and Tyus plan on getting married someday. It has been hard planning a wedding given the fact that Parker plays not just in the U.S., but also overseas. They hope to be able to do a destination wedding, hopefully in the Caribbean, and right now are just focused on getting their finances together. Once all of their affairs are in order, Parker and Tyus will officially tie the knot and become one.

Until then, they will continue to raise Naomi together, helping her to grow up as they both continue to grow as people, always being right here in the moment.