Last year was a year of firsts for Parker. In 2008, after leading Tennessee to the NCAA Championship, she was selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft by the Los Angeles Sparks. Despite a shoulder injury suffered late in the college season, she rewarded L.A.'s confidence by averaging nearly a double-double in her rookie season (18.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg); she also led the WNBA in rebounds. She also earned both the 2008 WNBA Rookie of the Year award and the Most Valuable Player award, marking the first time in the WNBA’s 12 seasons that a rookie has won MVP. (Yolanda Griffith had previously taken MVP and Newcomer of the Year honors in the her first WNBA season, but was not a true rookie, having come to the WNBA from a pro career in Europe and the ABL.)
Parker was also a major draw to the game not only in Los Angeles, but league-wide, becoming the second woman in the league to dunk in a game (replicating teammate Lisa Leslie's feat twice early in the season) and boasting the most widely sold jersey in the WNBA. Parker also captured Olympic Gold at the Summer Games in Beijing. Only the WNBA title eluded her, as the Sparks stumbled, falling to the San Antonio Silver Stars in the Western Conference finals.
After wedding fiance Shelden Williams in the off-season, Parker now has another special first to look forward to as she heads into the 2009 season. “Shelden and I are very excited to be expanding our family,” said Parker through her spokesperson, Mary Ford of Goodwin Sports Management. “We feel blessed and look forward to becoming parents.”
The Sparks would have had to be worried about the possible loss of their young star. In 2007, Los Angeles sank to the basement of the league with Leslie out for the season after giving birth in July.
But Ford announced that Parker will continue to work out in preparation to participate in the 2009 WNBA season and released the following statement from Penny Toler, Los Angeles Sparks General Manager: “We are happy to welcome a new addition into the Sparks family and on behalf of the entire organization we congratulate both Candace and Shelden."
Parker won back-to-back NCAA championships with the Lady Vols in 2007 and 2008. She led the team in scoring (20.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.8 rpg) her final season at Tennessee. Parker was named the 2007 and 2008 Collegiate Female John R. Wooden Player of the Year, State Farm Player of the Year, Basketball Writers Association National Player of the Year and Kodak All-American. She earned the NCAA Final Four MVP award in 2007 and 2008.