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Candace Parker and Sparks honor Kobe Bryant during win over Wings

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Candace Parker finishes with 22 points and 14 rebounds in Sparks’ win.

On what would have been Kobe Bryant’s 42nd birthday, Sparks forward Candace Parker honored the late Lakers legend with custom sneakers and a win.

Wearing white Adidas adorned with Bryant’s two jersey numbers and his name in purple and gold accents, Parker scored 22 points with 14 rebounds and six assists in the Sparks’ 84-81 comeback against the Dallas Wings on Sunday. The Sparks (10-3) overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win their seventh straight game.

“I hope we honor him in action,” Parker said of Bryant. “It goes to basketball for sure, but I just feel like basketball is a vehicle for other things and that’s what he was doing and that’s what we have to continue to do, just in the mind-set and what you’re passing forward.”

With Brittney Sykes scoring 23 points while also defending the league’s leading scorer, Arike Ogunbowale, and Chelsea Gray scoring eight of her 12 points during a 13-2 fourth-quarter run to spur the comeback, coach Derek Fisher praised his team’s toughness and ability to live up to the “mamba mentality.”

“Oftentimes talented people get underestimated for how hard they have to work and the mentality that it takes to really be successful at the highest levels,” said Fisher, who won all five of his NBA titles alongside Bryant. “Kobe represented that on so many levels. … Our team, we’re continuing to connect with how hard you have to work to be great and not just relying on the exceptional talent we have.”

Under Sykes’ watchful defense, Ogunbowale, who averages 21.6 points per game, had 20 points on labored six-for-16 shooting from the field and seven-for-eight shooting from the free-throw line. The one missed free throw came with 19.1 seconds to go and the Wings (5-9) down by three.

“Arike is a great scorer,” Sykes said, “so with a great scorer that she is, she’s going to get hers, but we just have to limit how much and the ways that she gets it.”

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Rookie Te’a Cooper, who scored all six of her points in the fourth quarter, helped seal the game with the final free throw and drawing a charge on Ogunbowale on the final possession.

Cooper was one of several Sparks to honor Bryant before the game as she walked in wearing a black T-shirt with images of Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who were two of the nine people killed in a helicopter crash in January. The WNBA printed Bryant’s jersey numbers on the court for Sunday’s games. Fisher wore a small purple and gold “KB” pin over the white WNBA logo on his bright orange T-shirt.

Amid the poignant remembrances, Parker thinks about the family Bryant left behind: his wife Vanessa and three daughters. She then hears his voice echoing in her head. It’s not good enough to do something for one day, he would tell her, do it all the time.

For Parker, she’s seeing a team that’s starting to find that kind of consistency on the court.

“This team is special,” Parker said. “These are games that we’re going to wish we would have had later when we’re jockeying for position. There was just an attitude and a trust in our preparation but also doing what we needed to do to win.”

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Nguyen reported from Los Angeles.


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