WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert: It’s more than just a weight room
The WNBA commissioner speaks out on the NCAA weight room and what it represents.
The addition of Candace Parker is incredibly exciting, perhaps even monumental, for the future on-court success of the Chicago Sky. But beyond that, it also symbolizes a significant new era for a franchise that has suffered more than its share of big-name break-ups.
In 2015, Sky center Sylvia Fowles sat out the first half of the season in order to force the Sky’s hand in trading her to the Minnesota Lynx. At that point, the 2008 second overall draft pick was a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, and three-time Eastern Conference All-Star. After the Sky finally agreed to her trade in July 2015, Fowles and the Lynx went on to win the WNBA Championship with Fowles earning Finals MVP, adding an extra sting to the sore spot for Sky fans.
Just a couple years later, the Sky endured another heartbreaking departure when superstar Elena Della Donne decided she wanted out of Chicago. Della Donne, the 2013 second overall pick and WNBA Rookie of the Year, carried the torch in the wake of Fowles’ departure, earning league MVP in 2015. But after four seasons with the Sky, she made it clear she would no longer play in the Windy City. Della Donne followed in Fowles’ footsteps by forcing her own trade, in this case to the Washington Mystics, where her family lives nearby.
In addition to Della Donne and Fowles, the Sky have suffered a few other premature departures over the years: Candice Dupree after four seasons, Epiphanny Prince after five seasons, and Kristi Toliver after only a single season.
Needless to say, after Della Donne left in 2017, some changes needed to be made if the Sky were going to right the ship. Hiring James Wade as head coach in 2018, adding key draft picks in Diamond DeShields and Gabby Williams, and retaining veteran stars Allie Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot, and “Big Mama” Stef Dolson moved the Sky back into playoff contention for the past two seasons. With bench support from Kahleah Cooper, Azurá Stevens, and Ruthy Hebard, the Sky were already on track to be playoff contenders again in 2021.
And now in walks CP. The woman, the myth, the legend. Someone whose proven greatness is even more potent than what was lost in Fowles and Della Donne at the time of their departures.
Candace Parker is a WNBA Champion (2016), two-time league MVP (2008, 2013), Finals MVP (2016), five-time All-Star, and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist. Oh and by the way, her 2008 league MVP was earned as a ROOKIE. Granted that was thirteen years ago, and as the 34-year-old Parker admits herself, the bulk of her career is behind her. But in 2020’s Wubble season, she shot a career high in 2-point field goal percentage, came in third in league MVP voting, and was awarded Defensive Player of the Year for the first time in her career. She oozes greatness, and that in and of itself will raise the bar in Chicago.
We’ll have to wait and see how she’ll be incorporated into the Sky’s on court system and if it’s enough to push them deep into the playoffs. For one thing, we’re excited to see the 6’4” center use her guard-level ball-handling skills to initiate the offense and give Vandersloot some needed breaks.
The fact Candace Parker chose the Chicago Sky out of many eager admirers does as much for them off the court as it does inside the lines. Her signing has put an end to the era in which Chicago was a place where players didn’t want to play, while also solidifying the franchise’s refreshed, cohesive, Championship-caliber identity.
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