In 1997, the first game in the WNBA was played. For us '90s kids, we can remember the pure hysteria it created to see women like Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie, and Cynthia Cooper putting on a show for the world to see. Twenty-five years later, love for the league has hit a fever pitch. Orange hoodies emblazoned with the WNBA logo are being sported by some of the world's most recognizable athletes and celebrities alike. Players in the league are becoming ambassadors for major brands, and fans are getting loud about their love for the athletes who make the WNBA as special as it is.
There is no doubt that the association has created superstars who we all admire, and perhaps one of the biggest among them is Candace Parker. After over a decade in the league, the five-time all-star and two-time MVP is lacing up her sneakers for something bigger than basketball.
Over the last few years, Parker, who spent 2010-2015 playing overseas between each WNBA season and racked up five championships in the Russian league, has become a bold advocate for social justice and economic empowerment for Black women. The sports veteran is proof that time is just a construct as she began her 13th season with her hometown team, the Chicago Sky, this past week. And with her latest partnership with Capital One, Candace joins the likes of Kevin Hart, Samuel L. Jackson and, her fellow TNT analyst, Charles Barkley, to make it easier to talk about money and relationships for their #ThisIsMyBlend virtual conversation series.
21Ninety caught up with the busy mom and athlete to talk about breaking barriers, having tough conversations, and how she balances it all.
Iman N. Milner: At this point in your life and career, who is Candace Parker?
Candace Parker: It's ever-evolving; however, I got advice from someone that I didn't understand when I was 19, but now I really understand it, about what's really important in life are your passions and the people who you surround yourself with. I think that's who I am right now. I'm really passionate about things, for sure, but I'm really fortunate to have really positive relationships and great people around me. I am my circle. I am what I love to do—every single day.
IM: When it comes to women having economic power, there's still so much more ground to cover. Especially when the conversation turns to Black women, what do you hope will come from this partnership with Capital One?
CP: This is going to sound cliche, but I do fully believe in the messaging of "life is a blend." It's literally a blend and a balance of everything. When everything is balanced, you feel so much better. When everything is interconnected—when your passions meet the right people, and the people meet finances, and the finances meet everything else—it's a great place to be. Communication is key. In my household, finances weren't the easiest thing to talk about, but I love that we're talking about more of those things in this day and age. This is authentic and honest—I love being a part of it, and I hope it sparks more conversations like this.
IM: How are you balancing all of these things? I mean, you're a TNT analyst, still in the WNBA currently, mothering…is there a secret sauce that we should know about? You got the Space Jam juice?
CP: (laughs) Sometimes, I think balance is about being honest with your emotions. Being honest enough to ask for help. That's how I really maintain the balance: when I need help, I ask for it. When I don't know how to do something, I ask someone who does. I've evolved into that. When you're younger, you try to do everything yourself, and as you get older, you realize you can't do that and be okay. You need people who are smarter than you in certain areas. You need to communicate and be able to rely on your circle.
IM: You are one of the women who continue to break barriers on every level. How do you have conversations with your daughter about what it means to move through the world as a Black woman?
CP: The biggest thing for me is that there's never just one conversation—there are conversations. It can be about finances, relationships, or even way harder topics. I'm just passing on knowledge so that my daughter, Laila, can be better. I don't want her ever to feel like she can't ask me something. And I want her to have a front-row seat to what it takes to do all of these things. She inspires me probably more than anything because I want to be a positive role model for her. We're past the "do as they say…" phase. We are living in "do as I do…" times.
IM: You've done everything a basketball player would want to do. You're a champion, MVP, and Defensive Player of the Year. Let's not forget that! Has legacy always been in view for you?
CP: I really think that legacy is what you do every single time and what you leave behind. When I first came into the game, I wanted to leave it better than I found it, and I believe that's going to happen. Legacy, obviously, is when it's all said and done, but in the meantime, you're building that every day. I don't think it's the individual accolades. I think it's the people you're impacting on the daily.