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Candace Parker named AP Female Athlete of the Year

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Candace Parker has been voted the 2021 AP Female Athlete of the Year for the second time in her basketball career. She received the award for the first time during her rookie season with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2008, when she was also named WNBA MVP and Rookie of the Year.

After 13 seasons with the Sparks, Parker made the decision last offseason to move home to Chicago and play for the Sky. The six-time All-Star then led her hometown team to their first WNBA championship in October.

“There was something about going to where you started playing the game,” Parker said in an interview with the Associated Press. “It’s exciting to play in front of the people who first saw me pick up a basketball. To win at home, I’m just now recognizing it a little bit. How special that really is. Something that is top on my list.”

The Sky were a lot better this season with Parker on the court than off of it. When Parker was sidelined with an ankle injury early in the season, Chicago lost seven of its first nine games. When she returned, the Sky went on a seven-game win streak and eventually earned the No. 6 seed in the playoffs, where they upset the Minnesota Lynx and the Connecticut Sun on their way to defeating the Phoenix Mercury in four games in the Finals.

“You couldn’t write a better story than the one of Candace Parker bringing the WNBA championship to her hometown in her first season with the Chicago Sky,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said. “On top of her accomplishments on the court and in the studio, she has continued to be a leader and role model to many, including working moms around the world. The WNBA is proud to have players like Candace who continually raise the bar and elevate the game and our league to the highest level.”

Parker is the only WNBA player to win the AP award. The 13 years in between her first and second honor tie her with Babe Didrikson Zaharias for the longest time spanning awards. Parker received 11 first-place votes from a panel of sports editors, just ahead of Katie Ledecky and Simone Biles.