Every superstar had to go through it at some point in their career. LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning, and Derek Jeter, just to name a few. You know, the athletes that are larger than life, the ones that know when stepping on that court or field they are better than everyone else, but..
They need help.
It has taken Candace Parker 9 seasons to figure out that she alone will not win a WNBA Championship. If you watch Parker play you know she can score 30 points any given game and she has tried for the majority of her career but 2016 was about team. Maybe someone sat her down or maybe it was the constant disappointment season after season of being so close, yet so far away. The WNBA has a wealth of talent spread across the league unlike the NBA where superstars are found in the same lineup where players may feel the added pressure of having to do too much every night.
Parker entered the league with much fanfare, she was to be the savior when Lisa Leslie retired but it just hasn’t gone her way. Parker’s been dealing with the James issue, great players but will she ever do enough to win a title? Much like LeBron, it wasn’t a matter of doing enough, it was a point of doing less. When you have the complete package as she does, it’s easy to look at the competition and feel as if no one can stop you and for the majority of her career that’s how she felt. Parker was groomed for the Los Angeles throne right next to Kobe but the playoffs have not been nice to her.
Parker has led the Los Angeles Sparks to six trips to the WNBA playoffs and each time she and the team has come up short, so what was the difference this year?
There’s no need to average 20 points on a nightly basis, she has help, has finally learned to trust and how can we argue with the results? The Sparks had the talent to win, it was just getting the execution down. Parker is the leader still, but Nneka Ogwumike has stepped into the role of lead scorer with her 71 percent shooting. Alana Beard has made huge baskets and provided defense but the steady play of Kristi Toliver and the bench scoring of Jantel Lavender have allowed Parker to play worry-free basketball.
This is not last season or the seasons before. The Sparks were focused from the beginning to the end of the season. What they were able to accomplish this season was remarkable. Often teams have the moniker of “Championship or bust” but for the Sparks it held true. Now, Parker can place her name and team banner in the rafters with Magic Johnson, Kobe and her mentor, Lisa Leslie. She is now a WNBA champion.
Congrats to the 2016 Los Angeles Sparks.