Candace Parker is a goddamn beast. She always has been.
She was a beast at Tennessee, where she led the team to two consecutive national championships and just so happened to be named the Final Four’s most outstanding player for both of those wins. She was a two-time consensus national player of the year and the first woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament game.
Parker was taken with the first pick in the 2008 WNBA draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. She would win the WNBA Most Valuable Player Award as a rookie and then win it again in 2013. In 2016, she led the Sparks to a WNBA title. She won every goddamn award possible and was selected to six All-WNBA teams and five All-Star teams.
So it only makes sense that the woman who plays like she’s in a video game actually becomes the face of one, as the Chicago Sky center will appear on the NBA 2K22 cover marking the 25th anniversary special edition of the game slated to be released Sept. 10. Parker becomes the first woman in the history of the game to grace the cover.
“I grew up a video game fanatic, that’s what I did, to the point where my brothers would give me the fake controller when I was younger where I think I was playing and I wasn’t,” Parker told ESPN.
“All I wanted to do was just be like them. As a kid growing up, you dream of having your own shoe and dream of being in a video game. Those are an athlete as a kid’s dreams. To be able to experience that, I don’t take it lightly.”
Parker added that as a seasoned veteran she’s learned to appreciate the spoils that come with dominating a league for years.
“I think when you’re young and experience these type of things, you’re onto the next thing,” she said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really savored the moment.”
ESPN notes that while the NBA 2K franchise has never had a woman on the cover, other sports have.
“Parker joins an exclusive group of female athletes to adorn covers of sports games. Shawn Johnson was on a Gymnastics by Wii game in 2010, and Jelena Dokic was on a tennis game in the early 2000s.”
“I think it’s a benchmark of women’s basketball for sure. I think most importantly it speaks to visibility and how important it is and how important the WNBA is,” Parker said. “Everyone is looking at it that it’s impacting little girls, but it’s also impacting little boys and young men and young women and men and women. I think our game is different than the NBA; now it’s embracing that fact. Now more than ever, fans want to follow the athlete. Through social media, through video games, it’s adding and benefiting the WNBA.”
The 35-year-old knows that plenty of players could have been chosen to be the first to make the cover and she is honored and humbled that her number was chosen.
“It means a lot to me,” she said. “I’m a fan of basketball. I eat, sleep and breathe basketball. I’m a historian within basketball. I am a fan of basketball. I commentate basketball. I play video games. It was really the perfect storm because there are a lot of other people well-deserving of this, and I know that.”
Parker joins Luka Doncic, who will be on the cover of the game’s regular edition and “Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who were recognized as cover athletes for the NBA 75th anniversary edition,”
And don’t give me that women’s basketball doesn’t have the same physicality that men’s basketball has, as Parker routinely dunks on Shaquille O’Neal as an analyst for TNT.