Sky's Candace Parker Named 2021 AP Female Athlete of the YearDecember 29, 2021
The Associated Press has named Candace Parker its Female Athlete of the Year for 2021.
Parker ended a 13-year run with the Los Angeles Sparks and signed with the Chicago Sky in the hope of bringing a WNBA championship to her hometown franchise. The 35-year-old did just that as the Sky beat the Phoenix Mercury in four games in the WNBA Finals.
"There was something about going to where you started playing the game," she told the AP's Doug Feinberg. "It's exciting to play in front of the people who first saw me pick up a basketball. To win at home, I'm just now recognizing it a little bit. How special that really is. Something that is top on my list."
Parker averaged 13.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists in the regular season with Chicago.
In the team's title-clinching victory, she dropped a 16-point, 13-rebound double-double. Beyond hitting clutch shots, her leadership was invaluable to help Chicago remain even-keeled before outscoring the Mercury 26-11 in the fourth quarter.
It was the exact ingredient that was missing for a Sky squad that had shown promise but failed to advance past the second round in its last two playoff appearances.
For Parker, winning a second title was a legacy-affirming achievement. The Athletic conducted a poll of WNBA players in 2019, and Parker received the most votes for the most overrated player.
The Naperville, Illinois, native might be a two-time MVP, six-time All-Star and a future Hall of Famer, but her greatness has been taken for granted at times. The 2021 season was a reminder that she's a generational talent.
Parker's legacy in Chicago could extend well beyond her tenure there whenever she retires from the WNBA.
Prior to her signing, the Sky weren't a major draw for marquee stars. Sylvia Fowles requested a trade in 2015, and Elena Delle Donne engineered an exit in 2017. Parker could reverse that trend for the organization.
More than that, she could help ignite the city of Chicago as a major market for the WNBA. According to Across the Timeline, the Sky were sixth in average attendance in 2018 and 2019, their first two years at Wintrust Arena. They climbed to second in 2021.
Everybody loves a winner, and the 2021 championship could bring in a number of fans who had previously failed to jump on the Sky bandwagon.