WNBA Great Candace Parker Helps Inspire Women During Orlando Magic Webinar

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - No matter the platform she’s on – and these days she’s on many of them – empowering young women, including her 11-year-old daughter Lailaa, is a central part of Candace Parker’s life. On the basketball court, where she’s established herself as one of the greatest ever, the passion and persistence she plays with has inspired many. Her work off the court, which includes being an NBA television analyst, has motivated her admirers just the same.

Parker, 34, is proud to be a positive influence for all the girls hoping to follow in her footsteps on the hardwood, in the broadcast studio or in any other field they decide to pursue for themselves. It brings her tremendous joy and satisfaction to be a role model and help guide others down a successful path.

With the WNBA coming to the IMG Academy campus in Bradenton, Florida, where she will join her Los Angeles Sparks teammates for an abbreviated season, Parker will have more opportunities to encourage her supporters and use the stage to promote social change.

The younger sister of former NBA player Anthony Parker, who is currently the general manager of the Orlando Magic’s G League team in Lakeland, spoke about her life journey and shared some of what she has learned throughout her experiences that can benefit others with Magic season ticket holders, corporate partners and team staff all listening in during the Orlando Magic Women's Executive Webinar presented by XYMOPrint. The webinar, held on Tuesday, was moderated by Magic Director of Public Relations Trish Wingerson, who asked a variety of questions to the two-time WNBA MVP and 2016 champion pertaining to being an influential woman in sports.

One of the most interesting questions that drew a very powerful response was what Parker would tell her younger self if she was able to travel back in time.

“There are a number of things that I would tell my younger self but the biggest thing is calm is a superpower,” Parker emphasized. “Being calm is mastery. You have to master that. Once you master that, there is nothing that can knock you off of whatever you choose to put your mind to. When you don’t let outside things affect who you are, the decisions that you make, that you stand by your morals and your values. There’s so much thrown at us nowadays – the internet, what people say. My brother and I, Anthony, are complete polar opposites. He is the most rational, reasonable. He approaches things and takes his time. I am reactive. For a long time, he was my mentor in that calm and taking a step back and looking at things from different perspectives. And that just doesn’t go for sports. It goes for everything. If you really are able to be calm and not react and take a step back and figure out what the person is trying to say, really try to understand, then it will make your life a lot easier.”

Becoming one of the game’s all-time greats certainly wasn’t a walk in the park. She had to overcome many obstacles to reach the pinnacle of the sport. She’s had seven knee surgeries and a shoulder surgery. Her first major injury came when she tore her ACL in high school, which forced her to redshirt her first year at Tennessee, where she played for Pat Summitt, one of her biggest mentors and one of college basketball’s all-time greatest coaches.

Although it wasn’t easy to get through, those hardships made her stronger. It helps that she loves a good challenge, which kept her motivated during those tough and frustrating times. Learning to become patient, something she admits is still quite toilsome, has been a very important tool for her growth as well.

While she doesn’t know yet how much longer she will play in the WNBA, Parker plans to listen to her body and weigh all factors before making that kind of decision when the time comes. For now, though, her heart is still very much in the game with her daughter being her biggest cheerleader. Meanwhile, she’s having a blast working alongside some of the game’s all-time greats in the studio who she grew up idolizing, including Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade, Isiah Thomas and Charles Barkley.

Throughout her life, Parker has had many role models herself. Her two older brothers, Anthony and Marcus, are two of them. Anthony having played professional basketball was extremely motivating as she chased her dreams and Marcus, who is a doctor, has also always lifted her up. Television celebrities Robin Roberts and Oprah Winfrey are two others who have inspired her.

“They are fearless to me,” Parker said of Roberts and Winfrey. “I remember Robin Roberts when she was working at ESPN. I know she was a dear friend of Coach Summitt, so we connected on that (and she inspired me) just through her experience and knowledge. Growing up in Chicago, Oprah was Oprah. She was everything in Chicago. Just to see the way they can connect with a variety of people.”

What she learned from her heroes and mentors is what she hopes to pass along to those who look up to her. Being a woman in that position, she says, makes it even more special, as she hopes to set new trends and open up doors for other women in the sports industry and beyond.

“There are so many things that make me proud (to be a woman),” she said. “I just believe that we are fierce, when you talk about toughness, you talk about overcoming, you talk about obstacles, you talk about perseverance. And you also talk about we can do all those things and we can create life. That just blows my mind. With that being said, we are so powerful and we don’t even understand our powers yet. I think that’s what makes me so happy about being who I am and I think it’s also the nature in which we communicate. I think we communicate very well and we are very socially conscious. That power is unbelievable because we can read a room, we can read a circumstance, we can read our kids when something is wrong. Just to be a woman and be able to have that I think is super special. It’s a superpower.”

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