NAPERVILLE, IL — When Candace Parker returned home from spending much of her WNBA career on the West Coast, she did so with very clear goals in mind: To bring a championship back to where her basketball career started.
Now, the former Naperville Central star and former three-time Illinois Player of the Year, is leaving the Chicago Sky, who she helped lead to the franchise’s first WNBA title in 2021, to allow her to be closer to her family.
Parker, 36, announced on Saturday that she is signing with the Las Vegas Aces, the reigning WNBA champions. Parker, who starred at Naperville Central before heading to the University of Tennessee, does so after the Sky were unable to repeat as WNBA champs despite being a favorite to do so with a talent-laden roster that included Parker, Courtney VanderSloot, Allie Quigley and Kahleah Copper.
“My family is my reason and my purpose,” Parker wrote in an Instagram post on Saturday, announcing her decision to leave Chicago after two seasons. “They have given me the greatest joys I’ve ever experienced and continue to show me new levels of love and devotion I never knew existed.
“When I made the decision to go to Chicago in 2021, I made the decision to go home and be with my family in the place where it all began. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to win a championship in my hometown and parade down the same streets I watched the Bulls parade down as a young girl first falling in love with the game of basketball.”
Parker, who also won a WNBA title with the Los Angeles Sparks, said she selected the Aces because she feels like she has a good chance to add a third championship ring. The Sky were looking at the possibility of losing Quigley who is mulling retirement, and Vandersloot, who is considering free agent offers from the Seattle Storm and New York Liberty.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Sky coach and general manager James Wade said he understands Parker’s decision.
“Candace has done so much for our franchise in her time here,” Wade said in a statement. “I understand her reasons for wanting to be closer with her immediate family. We wish her nothing but the best. She will always be a part of the Sky family. We will celebrate her time here as she deserves.”
In addition to chasing another championship, Parker said her main focus was her family, including daughter, Laillaa, who she said always sacrificed for her mother and supported her in whatever she wanted or needed to do “even when it was tough for her.”
“I need to be there for my daughter, for my son, for my wife. I can’t be without them for parts of the season when Lailaa is in school and I won’t miss her volleyball games or school dances simply because of distance,” Parker wrote on Instagram. Lailaa starts high school in August and I need to be there for her, just as she’s been there for me. “
Parker wrote that she will always be appreciative of everyone in Chicago, which she called “the city that raised me” and said she will always cherish key moments of her life here. But, again, citing the need to be closer to her family, Parker said that Las Vegas represented the best opportunity for her moving forward, both personally and professionally.
“While Chicago will always be my home, my family’s home is on the west coast,” Parker wrote. “To play for a championship close to home is the perfect situation for us. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey this summer in Las Vegas.”