SAN ANTONIO — Candace Parker received the WNBA’s most valuable player award Friday, becoming the first player to win the award along with the rookie of the year honors. The Los Angeles star was unanimously selected rookie of the year.
The awards capped a big run for Parker, who was college player of the year last season for national champion Tennessee. Parker also was a member of the gold-medal winning U.S. team in the Beijing Olympics.
Parker edged teammate Lisa Leslie and Connecticut’s Lindsay Whalen in the MVP race.
“You know, coach [Michael] Cooper set this goal for me early on, and I looked at him like he was crazy,” Parker said. “He’s like, ‘We’re going to win the rookie of the year, and you’re going to win a championship and you’re going to win the MVP.’ I just looked at him like, ‘That’s what you expect of me already?’”
Parker, the top overall draft pick this year, averaged 18.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. She had a high of 40 points and grabbed 10 or more rebounds in 17 games. She led the league in double-doubles with 17, led the league in rebounding and led rookies in scoring, blocks (2.3 bpg) and minutes (33.6 mpg).
Candace joins a select group of athletes to win league MVP during their rookie seasons, with only Jim Brown (NFL), Wilt Chamberlain (NBA), Wes Unseld (NBA), Fred Lynch (MLB) and Ichiro Suzuki (MLB) as the only other U.S. pro athletes to pull off a similar accomplishment.
In the playoffs, Los Angeles beat Seattle in the Western Conference semifinals before losing to San Antonio in the conference finals.
Leslie and Whalen joined Parker on the league’s first team. Diana Taurasi, of the Phoenix Mercury, and Sophia Young of the San Antonio Silver Stars, were also named.
Sue Bird, of Seattle Storm, Becky Hammon, of the Silver Stars, Asjha Jones, of the Sun, Deanna Nolan, of the Detroit Shock, and Lauren Jackson, of the Storm, were named to the second team.
The all-rookie team, selected by league coaches, included Parker, Minnesota’s Candice Wiggins and Nicky Anosike, Chicago’s Sylvia Fowles, Houston’s Matee Ajavon and Connecticut’s Amber Holt. Ajavon and Holt tied for the fifth spot on the team.