Top five basketball moments from Naperville Central’s Candace Parker

With Naperville Central legend Candace Parker retiring from the WNBA after 16 sparkling seasons, this week’s High Five looks back at the top five moments in her basketball career.

It’s not easy summing up someone who may be the best woman to ever pick up a “little orange ball,” as she might say. After winning two IHSA state titles with the Redhawks, Parker won two NCAA titles at Tennessee, two Olympic gold medals with Team USA and three WNBA titles.

Parker was named USA Today, Gatorade and Naismith national player of the year in high school, earned more national player of the year honors at Tennessee and twice was named MVP of the WNBA.

5. Back to back

Months after tearing her ACL, Parker as a Naperville Central senior leads the Redhawks to a second straight IHSA state championship in 2004. Parker scores 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting and grabs 13 rebounds in a 48-37 win over New Trier in the title game.

Naperville Central finishes the season with a 33-2 record. Not quite as impressive as the 35-0 mark the year before, but Parker’s resiliency coming back from injury is inspiring.

4. Back to back, part two

Parker had won gold with the USA Women’s Under-18 team in 2004, and stars on the Olympic team in 2008 and 2012.

Parker and Team USA win a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, beating Australia 92-65 in the final. She repeats in the 2012 London games, capped by an 86-50 win over France.

3. Back to back, part three

Parker, playing for legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, leads the Volunteers to a second straight NCAA championship in 2008. It was the last national title for Summitt and the program.

Despite dislocating her shoulder in the regional final, Parker is named the tournament’s most outstanding player for a second straight season. The season means a little extra for Parker, who forgoes her senior year to concentrate on the Olympics and her move to the WNBA.

2. Homecoming

After playing for the Los Angeles Sparks from 2008 to 2020 — winning rookie of the year, two MVPs and a WNBA championship — Parker signs with the Chicago Sky before the 2021 season.

“To my new teammates, my new organization and my new fans: I'm home,” she announces.

Her impact is instant, but the Sky only manage the sixth seed in the playoffs.

No matter. After surviving two single elimination games, Parker and the Sky upset top-seeded Connecticut and beat Phoenix three games to one to win the title.

1. The dunk

As a sophomore at Naperville Central, Parker already is known to be a gem on the basketball court.

But on Dec. 27, 2001 at the Dundee-Crown holiday tournament, she becomes a legend.

Picking up a loose ball at midcourt, Parker takes advantage of a clear path to the basket and slams down a one-handed dunk. It’s the first time a girl from Illinois accomplishes the feat.

Parker becomes nationally known as her highlights spread. Interview requests pour in, autograph-seekers hound her and attendance soars at Naperville Central games.

Parker dunks again later in the season, but the superstar was born weeks earlier at Dundee-Crown.

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