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Sparks’ Brittney Sykes, not Candace Parker, makes All-Defensive team

Sparks guard Brittney Sykes blocks a shot by Mercury center Brittney Griner during a game July 25, 2020, in Bradenton, Fla.
Sparks guard Brittney Sykes blocks a shot by Mercury center Brittney Griner during a WNBA game July 25 in Bradenton, Fla.
(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)

Less than a week ago, Candace Parker was selected the best defender in the WNBA. On Tuesday, she fell out of the top 10.

After the Sparks forward won WNBA defensive player of the year honors, as voted on by a media panel, Parker was absent from the league’sAll-Defensive first and second teams, which were released Tuesday. Guard Brittney Sykes was the Sparks’ lone representative, earning second-team honors after a vote from league coaches.

Seattle Storm forward Alysha Clark was the only unanimous first-team selection, leading the way for Atlanta guard Betnijah Laney, forwards Brianna Turner (Phoenix) and Alyssa Thomas (Connecticut) and Atlanta center Elizabeth Williams.

Parker, who led the league in rebounding this year, edged out Clark and Thomas for the WNBA defensive player of the year last Thursday. It’s the first time that the league defensive player of the year was not named to the All-Defensive first team in the same season. In addition to the WNBA award, Parker also won the Associated Press defensive player of the year.

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Sykes earned 24 points from league coaches in the All-Defensive team voting, all coming on eight second-place votes. The fourth-year guard averaged a career-high 1.5 steals per game, which ranked 15th in the league, despite averaging just 24.4 minutes played per game. Her length and athleticism also made her a surprising rim protector as she drew attention for her unexpected blocked shots, including a rejection on Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner, who is a foot taller than the 5-foot-9 Sykes.

“For the first time, second never felt so good!” Sykes said in a statement. “I set a goal for myself this season: make a defensive team or win defensive player of the year and I did just that. Second team doesn’t mean the first to lose, it means I have more to prove.”

Sykes joins Storm forward Breanna Stewart, Minnesota’s Napheesa Collier, Washington’s Ariel Atkins and Las Vegas center A’ja Wilson on the second team. Wilson also won the league’s MVP award this year.

Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike won the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award on Tuesday for the second season in a row. Ogwumike, president of the players association, received 21 votes from a panel of 46 sportswriters and broadcasters after she led the league’s return-to-play efforts, oversaw the players’ calls for social justice and averaged 13.3 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Sparks.

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“The 2020 WNBA season is dedicated to Breonna Taylor and combatting systemic racism, sexism and other social injustices,” Ogwumike said in a statement. “It’s an honor to receive the Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award, which I believe this year represents all the hard work from the players on and off the court to use our collective platform to enact change.”


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