The Sky welcomed one of the Chicago area’s greatest basketball players back home. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, her wife Amy and Sky owners Michael Alter and John Rogers gave brief introductions. Coach and GM James Wade and Candace took questions from media in a conversation that ranged from Candace’s favorite Chicago eateries to the Sky’s championship aspirations. All in all, the most resounding sentiment was that Candace was excited to be home.
Candace returning to Chicago to play is as big as it gets. She’s easily the most accomplished player in the city, since Michael Jordan, and her being a native of the town makes it an even more momentous occasion. Having grown up in a hoops-heavy city like Chicago, Candace didn’t realize that type of atmosphere was special until she ventured elsewhere. Having the opportunity to come back, have the chance to win a championship and potentially end her career here, means the world to her. This decision was not taken lightly, as Candace has made LA home for the last 13 years. She fully intends to still remain attached to that community. It also helps that she can dodge the brutal Chi-town winters there.
Reestablishing herself in her hometown wasn’t solely about basketball. Being able to do what she loves at the highest level in front of her family and friends was as good a reason as any to make this move. She weighed her decision for a couple of weeks, before finally deciding to take her talents to the Windy City. An excited FaceTime call from her grandmother shortly after the decision was announced was all the confirmation she needed that this was the right thing to do. Giving her daughter the opportunity to play in the same gyms and on the same playgrounds (one of which is named after her) Candace dominated growing up, means a lot to her. The only thing that comes remotely close to being near loved ones for Candace is having consistent access to Portillo’s.
Candace spoke very candidly about her time with the Sparks and her departure. She made it very clear that there were no ill feelings on either side and her decision to join the Sky had nothing to do with LA. She also stated emphatically that she finished what she started in Southern California. That much should be obvious as she built a Hall of Fame career through the first 13 years in the WNBA. A championship. Finals MVP, 2x regular season MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and 6 All WNBA first team selections, sounds like mission accomplished to me.
Candace is moving forward in this next chapter of her life with no regrets and a clear conscious. She reflects very fondly on her time in LA and although she acknowledges that she has more basketball in her rear view mirror than the windshield, she’s looking forward to building a legacy in Chicago with the time she has left.
Let’s be clear that this isn’t a ceremonial move. Candace feels the Sky are capable of competing for a championship and she says she has enough left in the tank to help them achieve that goal. While of course she is moving towards her twilight years, she is confident that with what she brings to the table, combined with the talent Chicago already has, they can complete that mission. The feeling was mutual with Coach Wade. He said that the organization was aggressive in their pursuit of Parker. They ended up signing the coveted star and thrust themselves into title contention.
Candace wanted to be sure she looked at this decision from all angles. She even reached out to some of her NBA “brothers” who’ve been through similar situations for advice. Dwyane Wade, who also built a legacy in another city before playing in his hometown, and Kevin Durant, who also made a pivotal career change, both gave her the same consultation. They told her to follow her heart. After growing up in Chicago, accomplishing everything imaginable from a basketball standpoint in LA and having the chance to bring things full circle, her heart only pointed her in one direction. And the arrows on that compass pointed towards the Midwest.
The entire city of Chicago and everyone in the Sky organization knows how huge this is. The presence of the mayor on the press conference and more than 100 members of the media joining virtually, substantiates that as well. Candace is one of the biggest stars the league has ever seen and she hopes the buzz this move has created will steer more people towards the W. After the huge success of the bubble and the increase in ratings last year, more people should definitely be tuning in.
We wish Candace nothing but the best in this new chapter in her life. And it goes without question that there will be lots of eyes on Chicago next season. They have been on the cusp the last few seasons under Coach Wade and you can guarantee that he’s looking to punch through the wall with this latest addition.