Los Angeles Sparks guard Candace Parker earned one more accolade in her prestigious career when the Associated Press named her WNBA Defensive Player of the Year. She earned a spot on the AP All-WNBA team along with Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson, Chicago Sky guard, Courtney Vandersloot, and Dallas Wings guard, Arike Ogunbowale.
This season, she led the WNBA in rebounds, making 9.7 boards per game. She played in all 22 games, making 10 double-doubles. On 12 different occasions, Parker made at least 10 rebounds. Parker ranks ninth in WNBA in steals with 1.2 steals per game and leads the Sparks in blocks with 1.2 blocks per game.
Parker noted how her college coach, the late coaching legend Pat Summitt, emphasized the importance of defense.
“I think she is so proud not just defensively, but rebounding,” Parker said. “Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, rebounding wins championships and that has echoed in my ear everyday since I played for her.”
Her rebounding carried the Sparks to be ranked third in the WNBA with a 15-7 overall record. She leads the league with 214 total rebounds and 177 defensive rebounds. The Sparks came in third in the league in steals with 9.0 steals per game. While the honor reflects on Parker and her efforts, it also reflects on the effort of her teammates and Sparks defensive coordinator Latricia Trammell.
“It’s been amazing just helping build that side of the floor,” Parker said. “From a team standpoint, I think about just how we’ve grown in this bubble together defensively.”
Her current teammates encouraged Parker and pushed her to become a better player. Past teammates set a proper example of bringing rigorous defense to games. Sparks legends Lisa Leslie and Alana Beard had won two WNBA Defensive Player of the Year awards each.
“I played with Alana Beard for many years and just to watch her tenacity on that end of the floor,” Parker said. “I’ve been lucky to be able to learn from those people and then play alongside some great defenders.”
Last season, Parker missed games due to injury. The WNBA Wubble provided Parker a means to compete without having to deal with the commuting that came with previous seasons. Driving to practices and home games and air travel to away games would put a strain on existing injuries, according to Parker.
“We’ll get on a bus and we’ll ride 20 minutes and we’ll be back at our apartments and we can do recovery,” she said earlier this season. “We’re all here and the focus is basketball. There’s other things to do, but there’s not a lot of other distractions as well.”
Parker has won several notable awards in her career. She is the first WNBA player to be named Rookie of the Year and WNBA MVP in the same season. In 2016, she led the Sparks to a WNBA championship.