Parker completes resume with championship
For all Candace Parker had accomplished on the court, that glowing resume had one glaring omission — a WNBA title.
The championship she’d been chasing with Los Angeles since the Sparks made her the first pick in the 2008 draft was all the more special at the end of a trying season.
Nneka Ogwumike’s short jumper with 3.1 seconds left, off the rebound of her blocked shot, gave the Sparks a 77-76 victory over the defending champion Minnesota Lynx in the deciding Game 5 of the WNBA Finals on Thursday night for the franchise’s first title in 14 years.
Parker had 28 points and 12 rebounds to earn MVP honors of the finals and her first professional championship after winning two NCAA titles at Tennessee under coach Pat Summitt, who died this summer.
“I wasn’t upholding my end of the bargain in this series for my teammates,” Parker said. “I think in years past maybe I was doing a lot and maybe I could’ve used a little help, but this year it was on me. My teammates were doing their part. I had to step up and do mine.”
Parker was left off the U.S. Olympic team this year after helping them win a gold medal in the previous two Summer Games. The two-time league MVP was also conspicuously missing from the All-WNBA teams announced during the playoffs. She’d previously been picked for the first team four times and the second team twice.
“She’s been through so much,” Ogwumike said. “She’s probably the most misunderstood person in the league.
I told her I wanted her to get one.”
Sparks coach Brian Agler started his postgame news conference by playing a recording of the Tennessee fight song, “Rocky Top,” from a phone in front of him at the podium in an ode to Summitt. Parker cried as she leaned over to hug her coach.
“I’ve never been around somebody that has been critiqued so hard, and I’ve never been around anyone I’m happy for more than Candace,” said Agler, adding:
“She stayed on the high road, fought through everything, stayed with it, was persistent.”
Parker said she heard Summitt’s voice in her head, recalling the timeworn advice to focus on defense and rebounding.
“You can’t control if shots go in or shots don’t, but what you can control is defense and rebounding,” Parker said.