Sometimes, one dream leads to another. And sometimes those new dreams are built on the backs of those who came before them.
That’s becoming the life of WNBA superstar Candace Parker. In 14 years as a player with the Los Angeles Sparks and Chicago Sky, she’s more than lived out her dream of being a basketball player – she’s literally one of the all-time greats. Her career accomplishments include two WNBA MVPs, two Olympic gold medals, a defensive player of the year and rookie of the year award, two college national championships, and after helping Chicago win the title last season, two WNBA championships. The list goes on.
But now she’s also a budding star as a studio analyst for Turner Sports, where she signed a multi-year extension in September.
It’s an opportunity she called “a dream.”
It’s also keeping Parker busy this time of year. She’s in the thick of March Madness, covering the NCAA men’s basketball tournament across Turner’s family of networks. This comes a month after she and di lei wife Anna Petrakova welcomed to the world their first child together. In two weeks, she’ll introduce another baby to the world; the very first film from her production company of hers, Baby Hair Productions, in association with Turner Sports and Scout Productions. Titled “37 Words,” the film is a feature-length documentary that will “chronicle and celebrate the societal and cultural impact of Title IX, anchored through the perspective of Parker,” according to a press release.
Oh, and the WNBA season starts in less than two months.
It’s not lost on Parker that her impressive portfolio may not have been possible without the 37 words tucked inside the 1972 education amendments that make up Title IX. The law prevents discrimination on the basis of sex in educational programs and activities. And though there’s still a way to go to create true equity across genders, as highlighted by the discrepancies between the 2021 men’s and women’s NCAA tournaments, there’s no denying progress has been made. That’s the story Parker wants to highlight, she told For The Win in an interview that took place just before the start of this year’s tournaments.
Candace Parker: Yes, it is the debut film and I’m excited that it’s at home on Turner’s networks. And I don’t know, I just think that this is a passion project that has been, you know, coming to light for a while. This is my baby in terms of what I’ve been super passionate about. Because I feel like I am a result of Title IX, I have the opportunities that I have as a result of Title IX. And I think, being able to tell the story from my eyes of the many women and many people that have been involved with bringing this and bringing these opportunities to the next generation, just being able to tell it through my lens of being in the middle of two generations, where my mom didn’t have the opportunity to play basketball in college – she was ’72 to ’76. That’s right when Title IX was enacted. And then fast forward to now my daughter having so many opportunities. So, I just look at this as a way to tell a story that Title IX is more than just sports. It’s about, you know, lifestyle, about culture, about, you know, opportunities for women in business and outside of the sports world as well.
CP: It’s unbelievable. I’d forgotten what having a baby around is and what it does. And, you know, it’s definitely difficult and it’s hard, but it’s like, he’s so amazing. And he just fits right into our family. So we’re definitely in love and being able to see my daughter with him, you know, and all of that. So we’re extremely excited about him choosing us.
CP: Laughs. Yeah, no, the documentary is definitely a passion project. So I’m excited about it as well.
CP: We have a lot of ways to go. I will say that, however, we cannot knock the progress that we’ve made. And I think the progress has come as a result of, you know, the Billie Jean Kings of the world that have really taken this thing and made it their life’s purpose. And I think coming into the NCAA tournament, coming into the WNBA, my whole goal was to make it better for my daughter, to make it better for my nieces, to make it better for the next generation. And, you know, I think the biggest next step that we have to make is not looking at it as a charity. Like, I think people support women’s basketball because they’re like, ‘We got to support it’ you know? No! Like, it’s an opportunity, you’re giving an opportunity to someone just as you give to all the men in the NCAA. And so I think it’s just having that outlook and then professionally, like, being able to have the outlook of you’re investing in women’s sports because you’re investing, not because it’s a charity. So I think that there’s a lot of room for growth, but, you know, it is a process and we do have to look at it, you know, day by day.
CP: In some ways, I was not surprised. You know, it is a rule. So, in breaking the rule, you understand. But I think sometimes, just as we had to unlock and uncover why so many rules are in place nowadays. What’s the reasoning behind it? That’s what I want to unpack. Why do you have this rule? Why is it there? And for how long? And I think that’s my biggest question is yes, when you break a rule, you know, whatever. But every rule is – it doesn’t mean that it’s right. And basically saying, ‘that’s the way things have always been done.’ I don’t know if that’s correct. So I think for me, I want to unpack more so why the rule is there.
CP: I mean, travel is crucial. Like, in recovery? I mean, if you think about how many extra hours of sleep … do you think about like, we used to play back-to-backs and we would get up at 6 am, take the first flight out and then play that night. It’s just, there’s certain things that yes, can you do that? But then you knock the product, you knock the play. So I just think that there’s so many things that go into just making the experience better, which will make the product better.
CP: “I don’t know. I mean, I think everybody, you can make a suggestion, but there’s so many hoops and loops and things you have to go through to actually get it approved. So I mean, a couple years ago, it was like we couldn’t fly – we weren’t flying business class to All-Star. Not even to like games, we’re talking about just to All-Star. That was the biggest deal ever. So, you know, I think as you get more exposure and people talking about it, I think more changes will come about.
CP: Honestly dude, I think all of us are just hoping that, you know, she gets home and is able to come back because I can’t even imagine going through that. And I think just even all of us in the league are just wanting her to get back as safe and soon as possible.
CP: Thank you. It really is fun, because I think it’s the second best job in the world. You know, if I’m not playing basketball, then I definitely want to be talking about it. So, to me just being able to watch March Madness and be able to watch the NBA, be able to cover the really fun and cool games. I mean, it’s a dream. It does come with work and obviously there are days that it’s more difficult than not but I’m telling you, it is so much fun to be able to watch something that you genuinely are interested in and to be able to cover it and that be considered your job. “
CP: Women I did fill out my bracket because I had to have it finished last night for something. So South Carolina was my winner in the women’s bracket. I do want to go out and say I don’t believe in having seven brackets. So I only have one bracket. “
CP: Laughs. And then secondly, I haven’t filled out my men’s yet. I think I’m going to wait until the First Four and then you know, get it filled out by Thursday. And that’s what I’m going to do. “
CP: I am aware of it. I think it’s, anytime you’re able to create more conversations around whatever’s happening. I think the more attention it’ll get, it’ll be a positive impact. I mean, if you think about, a lot of what the NBA writes on is storylines and people getting to know players and who they like and what they don’t like and what they do and their brands. And so, with that being said, we’re ignoring an entire portion of what makes it successful if we don’t do that for women’s basketball. So having fantasy is another thing to talk about. I mean, you know, betting is another thing to talk about. I think the NBA’s betted on a great deal. So I think there’s a number of avenues that we’ve taken strides forward in these last couple of years.