Candace Parker of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks is one of basketball’s brightest and most decorated stars. A former league MVP, we caught up with Parker early in 2016, as she was promoting the Capital One Cup for her alma mater, the University of Tennessee, while also preparing for this current WNBA season. The Cup itself is an award which recognizes the best men’s and women’s Division I athletic program in the country, giving a combined $400,000 in student-athlete scholarships. The Tennessee Lady Vols had two top-20 overall finishes in the award’s five-year history at the time that we spoke with Parker, so she was pulling hard for Tennessee and Capital One to mutually finish the season in winning fashion, as is the usual Lady Vols’ tradition.
Always one to support her school, Parker opined on former coaching legend Pat Summitt (not long before her college coach’s passing), how she and her NBA veteran brother, Anthony Parker, might fare in a game of H-O-R-S-E against fellow NBA siblings, Warriors guard Stephen Curry, and recent Dallas Mavericks signee Seth Curry. She even talked about her favorite adidas sneakers to wear (paying homage to her sportswear sponsor).
DIME: So, the Capital One Cup is all about helping universities, universities like Tennessee, from which you graduated. For other female athletes looking to complete their education, what would the $200,000 mean to them if they were able to win the Capital One Cup?
Candace Parker: It would really help a lot. Capital One does a good job of creating a lot of energy and bragging rights around who wins and making it competitive – I mean, it’s meant for all the sports, it’s not just, you know, a couple, and you can win points for winning national championships and things like that. It would’ve been a lot (of money) to me (when I was a college student), so I can only imagine what it would mean to athletes now.
How does it feel to be back in the college atmosphere since you’ve been promoting the Capital One Cup?
Well, I went back to Tennessee recently, and it just means a lot to be able to go back to what it was like playing in college, and obviously, being in college is some of the best years of your life, and to be able to compete for your university, and you know, there’s a lot that goes into college, I mean, you have those fans, and I kind of don’t think you understand that bond until you’re kind of removed from the college, and you kind of understand that, ‘I cheer for Tennessee so matter what (laughs), and I can be years and years removed, but Tennessee will always be who I root for and who I follow.
You’ve done a lot of great things over the course of your career in hoops, particularly between high school in Naperville (a Chicago suburb), Tennessee, and in Los Angeles with the WNBA’s Sparks. And you’ve won everywhere you’ve been, so what do you miss about college, and being a Lady Volunteer?