Candace Parker, a 3-time WNBA champion and 2-time Olympic gold medalist, announces retirement

By DOUG FEINBERG | Associated Press

Candace Parker always said she’d know when it would be time to retire. That day came Sunday.

The three-time WNBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist announced on social media that her career was over after 16 seasons.

“The competitor in me always wants 1 more, but it’s time,” Parker wrote in an Instagram post. “My HEART & body knew, but I needed to give my mind time to accept it.”

Parker, 38, had told The Associated Press in November she wanted to play another season if she could get healthy from a foot injury that kept her off the court last season. But she cautioned that she didn’t want to “cheat the game,” or herself, and expressed the same in announcing her retirement ahead of the Aces’ attempt to win a third title in a row. Parker has had 10 surgeries over her career.

“I promised I’d never cheat the game & that I’d leave it in a better place than I came into it. … I always wanted to walk off the court with no parade or tour, just privately with the ones I love,” she wrote. “What now was to be my last game, I walked off the court with my daughter. I ended the journey just as I started it, with her.”

Parker played her first 13 seasons in the league with the Los Angeles Sparks, establishing her dominance early as a No. 1 pick who won Rookie of the Year and league MVP in the same season. Parker was the only WNBA player to accomplish that feat, averaging 18.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists while helping the Sparks to a 10-win improvement in 2008.

Parker earned her second MVP award in 2013 and won her first title in 2016 with the Sparks.

“We are deeply grateful for the remarkable contributions Candace Parker has made to the Los Angeles Sparks and to the sport of basketball as a whole,” said Los Angeles Sparks managing partner and governor Eric Holoman a statement. “She will forever be enshrined in Sparks history — from her standout MVP and Rookie of the Year season, to leading us to a 2016 WNBA Championship, and the way she’s revolutionized the game. Her impact in the community and ability to inspire will always be felt here in LA. Through my many conversations with her about life after basketball, I am certain that she’ll be just as successful in the boardroom.”

She would go on to win a second title with the Chicago Sky in 2021 and a third with the Las Vegas Aces last season. She’s the only player in league history to win a championship with three different teams.

“The memories Candace Parker created for a generation of women’s basketball fans will remain ingrained in our collective conscience forever, but she has given so much more to the game beyond her accolades and statistics,” The Aces said in a statement. “As a teammate and mentor, a mother and wife, a baller, broadcaster, and businesswoman she has inspired countless young people, both boys and girls, to chase and achieve their dreams.”

Parker played for the late Pat Summitt’s last two national championship teams at Tennessee in 2007 and 2008. She then left with one year of eligibility remaining.

She won Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012 before shockingly being left off the 2016 team.

“I think obviously Candace has had an amazing career. I’m a little bit sad about it because you love going up against her, the legend that she is,” Liberty star Breanna Stewart said. “What she has done on and off the court has been amazing for our league. Appreciate all she’s done to help me get to where I am. We’ll definitely miss her this season.”

Liberty coach Sandy Brondello coached Parker overseas in Russia for a few years during the winter.

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“She’s a trailblazer. Just a wonderful human being and what she’s done for this sport,” Brondello said. ‘Hopefully it’s celebrated. I’ve got a lot of respect for her. Our kids grew up together when I was coaching in Russia. It’s kind of sad. Everyone knows when it’s the right time.”

Parker began working in broadcasting during her playing career. She has worked as an analyst for the NCAA Tournament with CBS Sports and for NBA TV.

She had surgery on her foot in July 2023 and told the AP it still pained her at the end of last year.

“This offseason hasn’t been fun on a foot that isn’t cooperating,” she wrote in her post Sunday. “My mission in life, like Pat Summitt always said, is to ‘chase people and passions and you will never fail.’ Being a wife & mom still remains priority #1 & I’ve learned that time flies, so I plan to enjoy my family to the fullest!”

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