Candace Parker Balances Basketball and Family
Candace Parker arrived in Spain last week for the USA Basketball Women’s National Team European Tour. After the first practice on Friday, she confessed to still feeling a bit jet-lagged. Judging from her performance two days later in the team’s first exhibition game, Parker has recovered.
Parker, one of the most decorated basketball players in the world, recorded a triple-double in the USA’s 84-52 victory over Uni Girona, which won the Spanish League title last season. She made 7-of-11 field goals for 14 points, and had game-highs of 10 rebounds and 12 assists. For good measure, Parker added two blocked shots and three steals.
As Parker noted after that first practice last week, “It’s easy to play with other fantastic players.”
Of course, Parker has had plenty of experience traveling the world and playing with USA Basketball. She’s won seven gold medals, including the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.
The trip to London for the 2012 Olympics was especially memorable for Parker because she was accompanied by her daughter Lailaa – who was three years old at the time.
“She was old enough to remember London,” said Parker. “When she got back she told everyone that ‘we’ won a gold medal -- including her. She thought she was on the team!”
As part of the balance between her career and her home life, Parker truly does treat her daughter like a member of the team. Now six, Lailaa has traveled the world with her mother, who in addition to competing for USA Basketball and playing for the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks has also played in the winter for the Russian professional team UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Euroleague.
As Parker pointed out in a story she wrote for Time Magazine’s “Letters From Mom” issue earlier this year, “Who can say they attended pre-school in Russia, spent Christmas in China, and crawled for the first time in Istanbul?”
She also swam with Dolphins in Dubai, which is probably the reason Dubai is Lailaa’s favorite place to visit. Lailaa can say she’s been to more places than most adults will ever be in a lifetime. And that’s certainly made her mature beyond her six years.
“She’s very well traveled and very accepting of everybody,” said Parker. “She’s experienced different cultures. She’s not picky either, so I’m lucky from that standpoint.”
Lailaa didn’t make this current trip, however, as she just started first grade. “Missing two weeks of school probably wasn’t going to work.”
If all goes according to plan for Parker, she and Lailaa might not venture outside the United States again until the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Having played professional basketball year-round since 2010, Parker is taking the upcoming Euroleague season off to rest her body.
“I’m going to take a break, be home and spend some time with my family,” she said. “This will be the first time ever. I’m just looking forward to being at home during the holidays, that’s probably the most exciting part.”
If the 2015 WNBA season is any indication, the time off will also pay dividends on the court. Parker returned from Russia and announced she was taking off the first half of the WNBA season to rest. When she came back after the WNBA All-Star Game in late July, she set a torrid pace, leading the league in both assists per game and rebounds per game. She also finished in the top five in points, blocks and steals per game.
The rest Parker is getting this winter will also serve her well in her bid to make her third U.S. Olympic team. Parker is one of three players on the current European tour with Olympic experience, along with Sue Bird and Angel McCoughtry. Overall, Parker is one of 33 athletes on the 2014-16 Women’s National Team pool roster vying for one of the 12 spots on the team.
If she is in Rio, Parker will get a chance to continue her climb up the USA Basketball record books. She currently ranks eighth all-time among U.S. Olympic career record holders for points (159), fifth for rebounds (98), second for blocked shots (14) and 10th for field goal percentage (.614) through two Olympiads.
More than the records, though, Parker is just excited to have another chance to get to the medal stand. “I’m excited about the possibility,” she said. “It’s always a lot of fun to be able to represent your country. It’s a great honor.”
It’s even better when you get to share it with your daughter.
“This time around she’ll be older and she’ll be able to remember it for a long time,” Parker said of the prospect of bringing Lailaa to Rio. “It’ll be special.”