LAS VEGAS — The sports world woke up Wednesday to Candace Parker’s making history as the first woman and WNBA player to grace the cover of an NBA 2K video game.
The response was instant and the praise universal. Parker eclipsed the hype surrounding the 17th WNBA All-Star Game that pitted Team WNBA against Team USA.
“It’s a signal and a sign around our players and the league,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said. “It’s a signal that the WNBA is here to stay and the next 25 years are going to be really interesting.”
In her first All-Star appearance in 2013, Parker finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds. On Wednesday night, Parker played in her sixth All-Star Game, and she had five points, five rebounds and five assists. Team WNBA won 93-85, and Arike Ogunbowale was named MVP.
Engelbert said after the game that she never saw so much defense played in an All-Star Game.
Parker’s performance with the Sky left no question in anyone’s mind that she belonged on the All-Star roster. Despite sitting out eight games with a high ankle sprain at the beginning of the season, Parker’s impact on the team can’t be overstated.
Without Parker, the Sky had a seven-game skid. Upon her return, they flipped the script with a franchise-setting seven-game winning streak. Parker is the franchise player the Sky have needed since they traded away Elena Delle Donne, but even better. In her 14th season, Parker is the Sky’s second-leading scorer behind first-time All-Star Kahleah Copper with 13.3 points. Parker also has pulled down 8.8 rebounds and dished out 3.8 assists. The Sky are 10-10 at the Olympic break but 9-3 with her on the floor.
Parker’s NBA 2K22 cover is not only a signal of what’s to come for the WNBA, but what the future might hold for the Sky.
“Candace’s impact on basketball is like very few in the game,” Sky coach and general manager James Wade said.
Sky owner Michael Alter said Parker’s image on the cover reinforces what the organization has been building. But what stood out more to Alter was the support shown by the entire team.
This year’s Sky team has a unique connection and one that is not a given for every organization. Almost every member of the Sky was in Las Vegas supporting Parker, Copper, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley, who won her third three-point contest.
“I am blown away by the cover, truly,” Diamond DeShields said. “As someone who grew up playing video games, that’s literally always been a dream. I’m just amazed, to be honest.”
Parker is the biggest piece of the Sky’s puzzle and their pursuit of another history-making moment, winning the franchise’s first WNBA championship. The focus for the team coming out of the Olympic break needs to be on developing consistency. When the Sky has clicked on all cylinders, their offense has run at a high pace and their defense has been disruptive. When that happens, they are a top team.
They need to figure out a way to be that squad through four quarters.