The dopest talent the WNBA has to offer was on full blast in these 2016 WNBA Finals. There were shooting stars, rim-rockers and all-stars abound. In the end, however, one shining star elevated above the rest.
Her name is Candace Parker.
Despite all of the highs, lows, obstacles and slights she has endured this season, Parker, a graduate of the legendary Tennessee Lady Vols program, a two-time NCAA Champion and one of the most highly-touted women’s players to ever lace up a pair of kicks and clean the court, showed everyone once again, why she has been nothing but a godsend for women’s basketball.
Her grace, humility and focus, despite being unfathomably left off the U.S Olympic Team in Rio de Janeiro, watching her younger teammate win the league MVP under her expert guidance and unselfishness, then being left off the All-WNBA first and second teams, has done nothing to diminish her worthiness as a baller.
Or kill her spirit.
When Parker's Yoda, friend, mother figure and mentor passed in June, Parker went through a very tough time. She was an all-time favorite of coach Pat Summitt who taught her many lessons on basketball, life and dealing with adversity, particularly as a woman in America.
(Photo Credit: sports.yahoo.com)
In these WNBA Finals, Parker took MVP honors. She saved her best ball for last and played with the precision of a sniper, the heart of a champion, the poise of a surgeon, the brashness of a boxer and a basketball wisdom fused into her DNA by one of the greatest women’s basketball coaches in history.
As the Sparks celebrated their series-clinching, Game 5 victory over the Minnesota Lynx to win the 2016 WNBA Championship on Thursday, Parker sobbed and rejoiced in the moment as she reflected on her whirlwind season.
"This is for Pat (Summitt)," Parker said on the court after the game, while trying to hold back tears. “This is for Pat.”
(Photo Credit: wnba.com)
When you take a dump on greatness, as Olympic Czar Geno Auriemma and the All-WNBA team voters did, it doesn’t stink. As Parker has shown us, the beautiful smell of success remains and the ultimate glory becomes an even more fulfilling achievement.
Despite her obvious superiority and celebrity as an athlete and the game-high 28 points she delivered in the biggest contest of her illustrious accolade-infested career, bringing a chip back to the city of L.A. was no easy feat.
Game 5 was undoubtedly an instant classic.
Behind the Jordanesque play of Parker, the Sparks had a seven-point lead with two minutes left in the championship finale.
However, the Lynx and their championship triumvirate of Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus were not ready to give up hope for their third title in four years.
After an extended double-digit scoring drought, Moore hits a three and cuts the lead to 71-69.
Then Whalen steals the inbounds pass and ties it at 71-71 with 1:40 left. The momentum was swinging and Parker’s title hopes were in limbo as an Augustus jumper and a Lynx free throw put Minnesota up 74-73 with about 23.5 seconds left in the game before Parker, the only woman in league history to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season (2008), poured in her 28th point off a layup with 19.7 seconds left, giving the Sparks a 75-74 lead.
Moore answered back with a bucket to give Minnesota the lead at 76-75 with about 15 seconds left and then the league’s MVP Nneka Ogwumike, who has greatly benefited from playing with a basketball genius like Parker, hits a layup while falling to the ground to give L.A. the lead for good at 77-76.
Whalen’s desperation heave with time expiring was bricked.
Candace Parker lost many a battle this season, but she won the war of attrition and secured her first WNBA title as she took out three members of the WNBA 20@20 and saved her best performance of the series for when it mattered the most.
“She's been through so much...she's probably the most misunderstood person in the league,” said Ogwumike… "and she deserves it more than anyone... She's been our leader... We knew we could do it and we were the only ones who knew we could do it “