Candace Parker, a 3-time WNBA champion and 2-time IHSA champion at Naperville Central, announces retirement

Candace Parker — a three-time WNBA champion and two-time IHSA champion at Naperville Central High School — announced Sunday she's retiring after 16 seasons in the WNBA.

“I promised I’d never cheat the game & that I’d leave it in a better place than I came into it,” Parker wrote in a social media post. “The competitor in me always wants 1 more, but it’s time. My HEART & body knew, but I needed to give my mind time to accept it.”

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 first 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. She returned to her hometown and won 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.

Parker ends her career seventh on the WNBA’s all-time scoring list with 6,574 points.

Candace Parker led Naperville Central High School to back-to-back state championships in 2003 and 2004. Daily Herald file photo

Parker began her ascent to superstardom at Naperville Central. She dunked as a sophomore at the Dundee-Crown holiday tournament, putting her firmly on the national stage. Parker led the Redhawks to two state titles despite suffering a torn ACL before her senior season, and garnered USA Today, Naismith and Gatorade national player of the year honors.

“I fell in love with a little orange ball at 13 years old and BECAUSE of it my world goes ‘round,” she wrote on social media. “The highs are unmatched & the lows taught me lessons.”

Parker played for coaching legend Pat Summitt at Tennessee, where she won two NCAA titles and earned more national player of the year awards. She also won two Olympic gold medals playing for Team USA.

“I’m grateful that for 16 years I PLAYED A GAME for a living & DESPITE all the injuries, I hooped,” she wrote. “I’m grateful for family, friends, teammates, coaches, doctors, trainers & fans who made the journey so special.”

In her social media post, Parker said she’ll spend her time focusing on family and her multiple business ventures, including her acclaimed broadcasting career. She also wrote about owning NBA and WNBA 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.”

— Daily Herald sports writer Kevin Schmit contributed

FILE — Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker celebrates during the second half in Game 3 of the WNBA basketball finals, Sept. 29, 2017, in Los Angeles. The three-time WNBA champion has announced she's retiring. Parker, a two-time league MVP, announced in a social media post on Sunday, April 28, 2024 that she's ending her career after 16 seasons. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, file) (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, file)
FILE — In this March 31, 2008, file photo, Tennessee's Candace Parker smiles as she takes questions from reporters during an Oklahoma City Regional NCAA women's basketball tournament news conference in Oklahoma City. The three-time WNBA champion has announced she's retiring. Parker, a two-time league MVP, announced in a social media post on Sunday, April 28, 2024 that she's ending her career after 16 seasons. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki,file) (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki,file)
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