Candace Parker Q&A: Two-time WNBA champ on winning title at home, her sneaker journey, Pat Summitt's influence

Candace Parker Q&A: Two-time WNBA champ on winning title at home, her sneaker journey, Pat Summitt’s influence

If it was a movie script, Candace Parker’s life this past year could easily be an Oscar-nominated production. After an illustrious 13-year run for the Los Angeles Sparks, a championship, five All-Star appearances and countless other accolades, Parker made an enormous career change when she decided to sign with the Chicago Sky as a free agent and return to the state which she calls home. That homecoming will go down as one of the most memorable stories in WNBA history after Parker helped the Sky, as a No. 6 seed in the playoffs, fight off elimination time and again en route to a championship.

Now in the offseason, Parker took time to virtually visit with basketball players from both the boys and girls team at Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago on behalf of Gatorade. As a two-time Gatorade National Player of the Year, Parker spoke to Chicago’s next generation of hoopers to discuss advancements in sports technology when it comes to the Gatorade Gx Sweat Patch.

In an exclusive interview with CBS Sports, Parker discusses the incredible title run at home, her message to the next wave of athletes, her sneaker journey and the countless inspiration the late Pat Summitt provided her along the way.

CBS Sports: Tell me what you are doing today with Gatorade.

Candace Parker: It was really cool. We surprised Whitney Young [High School], both their boys and girls’ team on Zoom. Spoke with them about how they need to take advantage of having access to what the pros are doing and that’s the Gatorade Gx Sweat Patch. We talked a lot about that, how you just download an app and get all the information from the Sweat Patch. We spoke about anything that you can do differently to better your sport and I think it goes across the board. It’s not just about the pro, it’s about trying to be good at the grassroots level, it’s about trying to be better if you’re running a marathon. Whatever it is. It was cool to talk to them about that because I know I’m not a spring chicken anymore but I didn’t have access to this stuff when I was younger so I’m just encouraging them to take advantage of it.

CBS Sports: As a two-time Gatorade National Player of the Year, how do you think this technology would have helped you back in the day?

CP: First of all, I don’t know because my dad probably would have made me run even more [laughs]. I’m just kidding. It would have been amazing, honestly. I’m thinking that it would’ve been cool to just see the data and it be backed up with actual stuff, like you’re able to really test it. When I was a kid I was trying to have access to all the stuff the pros did. I had all the finger bands, all the wristbands, I had everything. So I would have definitely been on it, 100 percent.

CBS Sports: I want to talk some hoops with you. You’re fresh off such an amazing season. You come home to Chicago and win it all in your first year. Are you able to put into words yet how surreal that all is?

CP: It’s surreal to be honest with you. To go back home and to be able to win a championship and especially with this group. This group was special. I can’t even put it into words. Maybe I’ll be able to when it’s all said and done, but I was able to win a championship in front of the people that first saw me bounce a ball, first saw my high school games or whatever it is. My high school coach was there. I had high school teammates there. So many teachers and family friends. It was unbelievable. And I dreamed of the moment of jumping on the scorer’s table. I think every baller dreams of that moment with the trophy and just jumping on the scorer’s table. I was able to do that and I really took that moment in.

Candace Parker celebrates after the Chicago Sky won the WNBA title.

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CBS Sports: You’ve had a longstanding relationship with Adidas — you have your own collection and your own exclusive kicks. If you think back to your high school days when this relationship first came together, could you ever think you’d be here?

CP: It was a dream, honestly. To some it was crazy but to my mom and dad it was like, ‘yes!’ My nickname growing up was “Can-Do,” my brothers were like, ‘can do anything and get away with it.’ [Laughs] But for my parents it was “CanDo,” so anytime I doubted myself they would say, “Can-Do.” So that’s a story that’s on the shoe and it really is amazing. I’m really sitting here as a Gatorade athlete. Everybody saw the Michael Jordan-Mia Hamm commercials. Those commercials are etched in my mind. It’s crazy to think of the things that have inspired you and to be able to be in that situation and in that position now is something that I dreamed of but I still don’t take for granted.

CBS Sports: A lot of details in your kicks over the years and with the Exhibit A shoes pay homage to the late Pat Summitt. How important was it to include those details when coming up with your shoes?

CP: Pat is in every shoe, whether it’s my shoe or a PE or a shoe that they give me. I have orange [for the Tennessee Volunteers] in every shoe so I was able to kind of tell that story. Her influence has been huge from age 18 to 22 even to now at 35. I’m still inspired by things that she told me and I think I understand them even better now. When I’m parenting my daughter, I feel like [Pat] is there. I’ll hear her words and sometimes I use them. So it was very important for our team to put her on the shoe, because she’s on every shoe that I have and she’s a huge part of my story.

Candace Parker wearing the Adidas Exhibit A Candace Parker shoes.

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CBS Sports: What needs to happen for more women to match this level of representation when it comes to a major brand like Adidas and having a company like that put resources into a line and a shoe?

CP: I think it’s visibility. I think a huge part of that is athlete empowerment. It’s no longer as consumers that we’re OK with buying something we know nothing about. We want to know where it came from. We want to know the story behind it. I think that’s why social media is great because it allows athletes to control their narrative and control their story. So when you’re able to do that then that’s when you have partnerships that are authentic and, to me, that’s what it’s about being genuine and authentic. It was important to me, even as a Gatorade athlete or an Adidas athlete, not just to speak to girls. I want to speak to people, I want to speak with young boys and girls. First time I went by a gym and saw a little boy in my shoes it was so cool. Today, I got to talk to the boys and girls team at Whitney Young, so I think the more you do that the more I think you’ll be able to see women in leadership positions, women in sports doing badass things and the more you ‘ll respect it.

CBS Sports: Have you ever clicked on your Wikipedia page and looked over at the ‘accomplishments’ section? It’s LENGTHY.

CP: [Laughs] No, I haven’t. I know my daughter is big on pulling up YouTube clips. She’s hilarious. Her favorite is sometimes pulling up altercations in games [laughs]. So that’s her favorite thing to send me. She told me that one time at lunch her and her friends had their phones out at lunch and she says, ‘yeah, me and my friends we’re looking at your fight against DC,’ and I’m like, ‘can you stop ? Like you’re at school and you’re watching your mom fight. So I haven’t done Wikipedia but I’m sure that’s coming with my daughter once she figures it out.

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