What we know about Candace Parker’s parents

Candace Parker did it: She returned home and delivered the Chicago Sky’s first WNBA Championship. Parker’s parents and family watched on as the Sky battled from nine points down at the start of the fourth quarter in Game 4 to crush the Phoenix Mercury. It’s perhaps fitting that Illinois’ own Candace Parker sank the three that tied the game. 

An emotional Parker broke down as she embraced her daughter. Her parents would soon join the celebrations as the Chicago crowd went wild with delight at their team’s pioneering achievement. Candace is a two-time champion, with her first triumph coming with the Los Angeles Sparks. 

Candace’s parents encouraged the multitalented Parker to pursue one sport

Candace Parker was born on 19th April 1986 to Sara and Larry Parker in St. Louis, Missouri. The family moved to Naperville, Illinois, when Candace was two. 

Parker grew up surrounded by basketball. Larry was a basketball ace at the University of Iowa, and her brother, Anthony Parker, was a basketball prospect that would play in the NBA for nine seasons. 

Unfortunately, Candace’s brothers were nine and eleven years older than her. She grew in stature quickly but couldn’t match the physicality demonstrated by her older brothers. 

Nevertheless, Candace excelled in multiple sports against her players in her age bracket. She starred in football, volleyball, and basketball. In her younger years, she preferred soccer and wanted to become an Olympic champion, but her passion lay in basketball. 

Fear also motivated Candace to choose soccer – fear that she would never be as good as her brother and father. Sara talked to Wendy Sparks of Court-Side Moms about convincing Candace to pick the sport she loved:

“Candace was blessed with a great deal of athleticism and height. Her parents loved to take her and her dad taught her. She had options to do a number of things and we had to tell her, ‘You are good athlete. You are going to be pretty good at most of the things you do. You have to find what you love to do. Where is your passion?’”

Candace’s father had to alter his approach while coaching Candace

Candace started taking basketball seriously at around fifth and sixth grade. She was tall, an expert at ball-handling, and skilled on her feet due to football practice. In awe of her natural talents, Sara asked Larry to coach Candace. Sara told Grantland:

“I told her dad, ‘in order to have the same opportunities as her brothers, you need to coach. There’s no one that’s going to be able to give her the basic fundamentals that you can. You need to coach her, like you did your sons.’”

Larry initially resisted, saying that someone else could do it, but eventually gave into Sara’s prodding. “It was probably the best decision he ever made.” 

Larry initially adopted the same uncompromising approach he’d used with his sons. He played Candace in every position and set high targets for her. Larry demanded the highest standards from Candace during every session and didn’t react well when she failed to play to her potential. Candace explained:

“I was so much more athletic and had so much more knowledge of the game than everyone else that sometimes I just coasted. If me and my dad went to a park and he didn’t think I was practicing hard enough, he’d just get in the car and leave. And I’d have to run home. I mean run home.”

As time went by, Larry changed his approach to better suit Candace’s game. He toned down on the yelling and became more patient – he let Candace understand the reasoning behind his instructions. 

He also let Candace relax after a game before the conversation returned to basketball. “After a game, we did not talk about basketball for 24 hours,” Sara said. “It’s usually not as good as it seems, or as bad. And it helped make the car rides home not so stressful.”

Larry and Sara coached Candace into the most coveted women’s college recruit in history. Sara told Grantland that Candace never felt the pressure: she focused on the opportunity. “Do you look at it as pressure?” Sara said. “I mean, it’s an opportunity. It’s an opportunity.” 

Sara was on hand to help Candace return to top form after she welcomed her daughter. Candace had recovered from her injuries in the past, but recovering from the pregnancy proved to be more difficult. Sara offered the following advice:

“She always feels that she’s in control. If it’s an injury, I’ll do rehab, and I’ll get back. But when you have a baby, it just changes your body. Your center of gravity, your timing, your rhythm.”