Parker eager for motherhood, return
Candace Parker spoke with a non-stop giggle in her voice. She is in Chicago, staying with her family as she prepares for the birth of her first child with her new husband, Sacramento Kings basketball player Shelden Williams.
Parker on Friday talked publicly for the first time since announcing she and Williams, who eloped last November, are expecting and that she probably will miss a part of the Sparks season, which begins in May.
“I want to come back and play this season and contribute,” Parker said. “That’s my goal. But not everything is in my control. I’m doing everything in my power to be ready to play as quickly as possible. I’m doing light elliptical training; I’m doing light, light weights. I really have been having an easy time of it. This hasn’t taken a huge toll on me.”
While Parker said she preferred to keep the due date private, Sparks General Manager Penny Toler had mentioned on the day of the announcement that the due date was in early May.
For Parker, it is simply a new challenge.
After a year of playing exceptional basketball -- she led her Tennessee college team to an NCAA championship, joined the Sparks as the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA draft and led them to the playoffs, and helped the U.S. women win an Olympic gold medal -- Parker now will find out what it takes to meet this new challenge of giving birth and returning to the basketball court in time to help the Sparks.
It doesn’t seem daunting to the 22-year-old. But she has her priorities.
“First and foremost this is a great thing for my family,” she said. “I’m excited to be expanding my family. So is my husband.”
Parker says she understands the expectations placed on her both because of her exceptional athletic talent and her engaging personality and star-quality appearance. She was chosen to film a set of ESPN SportsCenter commercials last November, a coveted exercise happily performed by male sports stars such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Alex Rodriguez but an opportunity offered less often to female athletes.
Parker, though, said she also had an obligation to herself and her husband. Starting a family was important, Parker said.
“Some things are better if you do them for yourself when you feel it’s right,” she said. “Obviously there are some naysayers out there but that only motivates me to come back quicker and better if that’s possible.”
Parker said she has talked to several WNBA players who have given birth, including teammate and three-time WNBA most valuable player Lisa Leslie.
“Everybody says it’s just a matter of time and of listening to your body,” she said of coming back to play basketball. “Whether it’s June or July, everybody’s different. The biggest thing for me is not a matter of if or when but of coming back with a good balance in my life. I think it is possible to have a child and dominate sports.
“When I was growing up, I had older parents and I missed out on their careers. My older brother knew my dad as a professional and I’d like to give that gift to my child.”
And Parker said it wasn’t her main purpose in life to have basketball be everything. She says she understands she is playing a sport in a league that has to fight for attention in a climate where both viewership and financial sponsorship of all sports is falling.
“But I think being a mother just adds to my profile,” she said. “It’s going to make me a fuller, happier person. Honestly, I can’t wait to have my child with me at practices and games. I have a great husband and now another blessing. You can’t plan everything in your life, but you can plan for how you handle things.”