Thomas Wolfe famously wrote “You Can’t Go Home Again”.
Candace Parker begs to differ.
Parker is the winner of our Best Female Athlete in a starring role award, and truly, this one was as obvious as it comes. Parker starred at Naperville Central High School, then went out and conquered the world in some of the highest-profile women’s basketball locales in the world, from University of Tennessee to the Los Angeles Sparks, a champion in both places.
But Parker decided she wanted to write the ending to her story by coming home to Chicago, to play for a Sky team that had reached the finals but never tasted the sweetness of a title. So when those last few seconds ticked off the clock, the final buzzer sounded, it all felt familiar yet new to Parker.
“I had flashbacks from high school when I first realized we won the state championship, and it was kind of similar,” a jubilant Parker told us postgame after Chicago closed out Phoenix to win the 2021 WNBA title. “It was amazing to just hug my dad and my mom and my family. It was just an amazing feeling to be from here and see so many people in the stands that have been supporting you since you started.”
The thing about Parker’s career is that she didn’t need this capstone to be one of the greatest, most influential players in the history of the sport. Already, by win shares, she is 11th in the history of the WNBA. And that, if anything, undersells the effect she’s had on this league, where bigs who can step out and shoot aren’t just common now, in a way they simply weren’t when Parker arrived in the league in 2008. They all credit her. They all wanted to be her, the Rookie of the Year and MVP in her very first campaign, the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year, and now, once again, the defending champion.
Candace Parker and Courtney Vandersloot swept the Best Female Athlete and Best Female Athlete in a Supporting Role awards at the FanSided Sports Oscars
While Courtney Vandersloot is not, like Parker and Augie March, Chicago-born, she has more than made up for lost time with her ties to the city. She’s even married into Chicago basketball royalty, with her wife, Allie Quigley, a former star at Joliet and DePaul before coming to the Sky from the great northwest in 2011 and defining the position of point guard ever since. Vandersloot was our choice for Best Female Athlete in a Supporting Role, and if you’ve seen her for even a minute out on the court, you’d understand why.
Vandersloot now has the most playoff games with double-digit assists in WNBA history, passing Sue Bird for the mark this past postseason. The Sky do not win the 2021 WNBA championship without Candace Parker, yes, but they also don’t win it without Courtney Vandersloot.
As Quigley explained from that happy podium, “We did this for each other. Kind of like a breaking point probably a month ago, and I feel like we all looked at each other and we said, what are we going to play for. And Candace, the first thing she said, she was going to play for me. It was just so inspiring that she wanted me to win a championship so bad, and I just — it just made me want to play harder. And everybody went around and said who they were playing for. In the end we all wanted to play for each other, and that’s what you saw tonight in this whole playoff experience.”
They’re all back, too, about to take on the league once again together. Parker, the leader. Vandersloot, the maestro. Quigley, the dagger threes.
They all know how special it was, what just happened.
“I sent Allie a picture this morning of us when we were in high school,” Parker said. “And it was like, man, not bad for two suburban kids, right, playing in the WNBA Finals together?”
No, Candace. Not bad at all.
Check out who else was nominated for Best Female Athlete and Best Female Athlete in a Supporting Role and who else won in all the major categories in the 2022 FanSided Sports Oscars.