By Ben York / @bjyork
The female Michael Jordan.
She’s heard it before. It’s a title that comes with great responsibility, pressure, and to a certain extent, stress (though she never shows it). That superlative label isn’t bestowed on individuals liberally; you have to earn it. Being compared, in any capacity, to the G.O.A.T. is both an honor and privilege.
However, in some way, that comparison isn’t necessarily a fair one for Parker. Sure, like Jordan, the things she does on a basketball court have that same awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping feel. But what if I told you that Candace Parker could become more important to women’s basketball than Michael Jordan was to men’s basketball?
When anyone brings up the topic of mainstream women ballers, there are a select few names that are immediately talked about. Obviously, CP3 is on that list. Still, her significance to the growth and respect of women’s basketball goes deeper than the game itself.
It’s been said that Parker will eventually be a household name in the same vein that Michael Jordan was, but that it won’t come from being a basketball player. That notion couldn’t be further from the truth. The way Parker plays the game demands reverence and adoration from any gender, any race, and any ability level. She does things with the basketball the women’s game hasn’t seen before; handles the ball with the touch of a point guard, goes after rebounds harder than anyone in the game, and scores the ball in virtually any capacity imaginable – and we haven’t even gotten to the intangibles of leadership, accountability, and the way she makes everyone around her better.
Just like they said about Jordan, Parker is one of the few basketball players in the world (male or female) with seemingly no weaknesses.
In a sport that has received its share (and more) of criticism, Parker makes anyone want to watch. Whether you’re a casual fan, a die-hard, or not even remotely interested in women’s basketball Parker draws you in. Similar to those who only watch the NBA when Lebron or Kobe is playing, Parker has the same appeal and star-power that other basketball legends have possessed.
But what separates Parker from other WNBA stars is the example she sets as a woman and mother. Clearly, her daughter Lailaa is her No.1 priority in life and its something she prides herself on. Having a baby in her 2nd professional season in the WNBA provided fans a different, and perhaps more important, look into her life. She personified the successful, working mother in a way we haven’t seen before – and has done so beautifully. The importance of what she has done so early in her career, both personally and professionally, cannot be overstated.
In a world where so many of our professional athlete’s have let us down, Parker continues to inspire. Her “brand” is simple, yet profound – success, role model, strength. The code she lives by isn’t manufactured or contrived; it comes naturally. Perhaps more importantly, she aligns herself with partners and organizations that have a positive impact in the community and specifically to women. She’s not a difficult person to like – she carries herself with a calm, positive energy that is infectious to anyone who has the pleasure of associating with her. When you think of Candace Parker, you think of success, positivity, kindness, and an indelible drive to win – what better example could young women have?
Here is the amazing part – she’s only been in the WNBA for three seasons. Imagine the possibilities of her impact in another 3-5 years. And this is just what we hear about; there is a plethora of uplifting things she does in the community that we don’t hear about because of her selfless nature.
Quite simply, Parker epitomizes the quintessential athlete/role model. She’s not just known in basketball circles or by fellow athletes. She’s a loving mother, a leader in the community, and a personification of where hard work and dedication can get you.
Parker’s transcendence of women’s basketball is nothing short of extraordinaryâEUR¦and it’s only just begun.
Ben York has covered the NBA/WNBA for over 5 years. He is currently a writer for SLAM Magazine and SLAMonline, has previously written for Dime Magazine, and is a guest contributor at WNBA.com. He can be reached on Twitter @bjyork and via email at bjyork15[at]gmail.com.