The 2021 WNBA season came to an end this past Sunday when the Chicago Sky beat out the Phoenix Mercury 3-1 to secure their first championship win in the franchise’s history. One particular team member, University of Tennessee alumnus Candace Parker, played an integral part in that process.
Candace Parker makes victorious hometown return to Chicago
Originally from Naperville, IL, the 35-year-old 6’4″ power forward returned home after playing 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks to sign a two-year deal with the Chicago Sky.
In her debut year in Chicago, she started in 23 games, averaging 13.8 points and 8.4 total rebounds per game.
Ranked sixth in the Eastern Conference, the Sky logged a 16-16 record — one of the best in program history.
Chicago Sky odds
Parker joins the Sky in another championship journey in 2022, a season that could potentially expand to a 36-game schedule.
While Tennessee sportsbooks have yet to post 2022 WNBA futures odds, Chicago is expected to open as next season’s favorite.
Illinois sportsbook BetRivers currently situates three teams in the lead with +300 odds: the Chicago Sky, Las Vegas Aces and Connecticut Sun.
Bettors can look for Chicago Sky and Candace Parker futures odds to go live as the season grows closer.
Candace Parker’s Vols career history
Parker’s rich history spans far beyond her time with the Sky, however. Her impressive basketball accomplishments began as a teenager at Illinois’ Naperville Central High School. USA Today named her High School Player of the Year in 2003 and 2004 when she guided her team to two consecutive Class AA state titles.
Her talents flourished further when she began her college career in 2005 at the University of Tennessee.
After redshirting her freshman year, Parker became the NCAA’s first woman to dunk during a tournament event, a feat that earned her the nickname Shebron. That same year, she was named to the 2006 FIBA World Championship for Women.
Her legacy continued in 2007 when the SEC named her Player of the Year.
And in 2008, she decided to forgo her final season of college eligibility to train for the 2008 Olympics. It was a choice that ultimately paid off, however, when Parker led her team to a Gold medal in Beijing.
Parker’s professional WNBA career
Fresh out of college, the Los Angeles Sparks drafted Parker as the first pick into the WNBA.
She came out of the gate strong, setting records as soon as she took to the court. Her first appearance on the team came on May 17, 2008, against the Phoenix Mercury, where she set a new WNBA record with her 34-point debut.
Now 13 seasons later, Parker’s professional career came full circle, winning the WNBA Finals against the Mercury last weekend.
Her debut year also saw her become the first WNBA player named Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season.
The basketball star then took a break from her decorated career in 2009 to give birth to Lailaa Nicole Williams. A 2010 shoulder injury further postponed her play before she eventually returned to the Sparks in 2012.
Parker’s Olympic return
Parker came back in full force, leading her team to another Gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. She was named WNBA MVP again in 2013 and played in her debut All-Star game the same year.
After missing half of the 2015 season, Parker returned for the second portion to be named to the year’s All-WNBA Second Team.
She led the Sparks to a WNBA Championship win in 2016 after becoming an unrestricted free agent. The WNBA All-Star game welcomed her for the second time in 2017.
Then in 2018, she averaged 17.9 points per game, while hamstring injuries benched her in 2019 during the WNBA semifinals.
Although she averaged only 14.7 points per appearance in the condensed 2020 season, she led the league in rebounds with 9.7 per game, resulting in the Associated Press naming her WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.
Parker led the Sparks to the playoffs in 2020 with their 15-7 record before she made her return home to win the WNBA Finals with the Sky.