The Los Angeles Sparks are one of the few original WNBA teams left since the league's beginning in 1997. The Sparks began their new quest in 2008 with the first round drafting of a Tennessee baller Candace Parker, who was groomed for the bright lights and golden smile to descend upon the nation's second largest city, Los Angeles.
Having played along side one of if not the greatest player to grace a WNBA court in Lisa Leslie, Parker would have some big shoes to fill once Leslie stepped away from the court. She had a year to learn from Leslie, and apparently she soaked up all that was provided to her. In 2008 she won Rookie of the Year along with her first league MVP trophy, along with being the second player to dunk in an WNBA game.
She grew up in an athletic, close knit family who was taught at an early age that family support and love were the most important things in life. Candace began as a soccer player which isn't surprising especially when you watch some of her agile moves against defenders on the court. Her older brother Anthony Parker is a solid player in the NBA.
She would eventually became a McDonald's All American and from that point there would be no question the path that Candace Parker would take. A road not traveled by many, but traveled by the one who it was specifically paved for.
Parker was also selected to the highest honor in representing the USA in Olympic play in Bejing, where should picked her very first Gold Medal. An achievement she had dreamed of since the age of the 10.
Coming off a great year in 2008, Parker would learn that she would be carrying the greatest gift of all, being pregnant with her daughter. She missed the first several games of the 2009 season, but returned to lead her team to the Western Conference Finals, only to lose to the Phoenix Mercury. Parker would capture All WNBA 2nd team honors which was amazing, especially when she missed the first month of the season.
After a couple of injury ridden season to follow, Parker was determined to continue to play for her Russia UMMC Ekaterinburg team, and return to the WNBA for a full healthy season. With the support of her family, that included husband and NBA player Sheldon Williams and daughter Laila, 2012 would prove to be that determining year.
Parker entered training camp with a new coach, a new offense to master, and most importantly a renewed mindset on reaching the mountain top to hoist that prestigious trophy with her teammates.
First goal was to stay healthy and get this team on the right track, beginning with the Sparks defending their home court at Staples Center. Parker emerged as a leader before our eyes, taking a more proactive roles amongst the veterans and rookies on the team. By the time the Olympic break arrived, the Sparks would finish 1 game behind their Western Conference division rival Minnesota Lynx.
She would make a second appearance for the USA basketball team in the Olympics in London, and would capture her second Gold Medal.
"It's funny now how I'll walk around L.A., and people will ask where is your medal? Like I'm suppose to walk around with all the time," said Parker. "It's a fun experience, it was great, I enjoyed every minute of it."
After playing with her USA teammates in Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Angel McCoughtry, and others, it was time for Parker to shift back to the goal at hand in the WNBA.
The Sparks behind Parker would finish behind the Lynx, and get revenge against the San Antonio Silver Stars whom they sweep in the first round of the playoffs, that would guide them on a collision course with the Lynx in the Western Conference Finals.
Parker put all of her heart and soul into that series only to come up short losing by one point at home and were eliminated from from continuing on in post season play. A very emotional Parker, was immediately consoled by her mother who watched court side her daughter's heartbreak.
She played healthy and should've been MVP with the type of outstanding season she had, and clearly on her way of capturing a WNBA title.
Parker also appeared in and on one of the many covers of ESPN The Magazine's The Body Issue.
2013 is going to be a fantastic year for Candace Parker, however the road to the WNBA championship will only become more difficult, especially in the Western Conference.
With the highly anticipated Britney Griner scheduled to be drafted first for the Phoenix Mercury to join a healthy Diana Taurasi, Candice Dupree, Penny Taylor, the Mercury look to rise again. Along with the Minnesota Lynx who will be doing some off season moves to upgrade their roster, it's shaping up to be a very exciting 2013 season.
Parker who is a definite fan favorite, can be found conversing and interacting with her fans worldwide through various social medial platforms like Facebook and Twitter @Candace_Parker.
The rafters at Staples Center are just waiting for the Sparks who are very talented with Nneka Ogwumike, and Kristi Toliver, look to add another banner as Candace Parker is just the player to close the deal.
As great as Candace Parker is, the Sparks need to provide her with more help, especially on the bench. A parade at L.A. Live is long overdue for the Sparks team and their fans.