When the Chicago Sky reeled in hometown hero Candace Parker this offseason, the franchise believed it had finally secured the final piece to its championship puzzle. And while their journey to get to the WNBA playoffs got a little bumpy—as evidenced by a seven-game regular-season losing streak that was immediately followed by a seven-game win streak—the team is peaking at the perfect time, beating the top-seeded Connecticut Sun 79-69 on Wednesday night to close out the WNBA Semifinals 3-1 and earn Chicago’s second-ever WNBA Finals berth.
Courtney Vandersloot, who finished the game with 19 points and knocked down five three-pointers, made it abundantly clear in speaking to reporters why the time is now for the Sky.
“We were missing one piece, and it was Candace Parker,” she said. “We knew what she brought to us. She was going to take us to this point right here. Whether we win a championship or not, she changed this franchise.”
Parker, who grew up in the western Chicago suburb of Naperville and first became a national sensation while playing for Naperville Central High School, spent the first 13 years of her career with the Los Angeles Sparks. But while she had lofty aspirations for her Chicago homecoming this season, it hasn’t exactly been the smoothest ride.
Instead of dominating the league, the team finished 16-16. But before you dismiss the team as underachievers, a big reason for their lackluster regular-season record was because the six-time All-Star missed the first part of the year with an ankle injury.
“It feels unbelievable,” Parker said after Chicago’s win. “It’s a full circle moment. To look up in the stands and just see all the people that I started playing basketball in front of. It’s super special.”
Those long-time fans include fellow Chi-town native Chance the Rapper and Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen.
“Scottie Pippen was at our game today,” Parker said. “He’s the next best thing to Ron Harper in my eyes since Ron Harper was my hero growing up. Chance the Rapper, Jessie Jackson. We had people come out constantly to our games.”
The Sky will face off in the WNBA Finals against whoever wins between the Phoenix Mercury and the Las Vegas Aces, whose semifinals series is tied at two games apiece. Game 5 of that series will be played on Friday night.