CHICAGO -- Candace Parker understood what was at stake. She was in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals twice, and had chances to win a title at home. She was 0-2 in both of those games.
Here she was, again with the Chicago Sky. Another game 4. Another title almost within her reach. The Sky was nine points behind entering the fourth quarter. Will this moment pass?
Parker has seen her fair share of heartbreaks, despite all the glitter in Parker's life. The Los Angeles Sparks has made two gut-punch playoff exits in the past two seasons. Getting benched in the 2019 WNBA semifinals.
After 13 seasons in LA, she decided to move to Chicago this year and take on the responsibility of returning home to the Windy City to prove herself and join a new team.
All that was before made Sunday's event even more meaningful.
Parker stated, "You know, it is funny, when you're sitting at home and there's a final-second shot, I instantly almost vomit in mine," My daughter knows that I feel more for the person on the losing side of this. Their pain breaks my heart. Because I have been there."
Parker was there on Sunday. Parker won her second WNBA championship, leading the Sky to their first ever franchise championship with an 80-74 victory over the Phoenix Mercury. Parker is perhaps the most connected to winning, with her WNBA titles, two NCAA titles, and pair of Olympic medals. She said that failure was part of the journey to greatness.
Candace Parker of Chicago was the only player to win MVP and Rookie of Year in the same season (2008). She won her second WNBA title Sunday. Parker won the championship in Los Angeles in 2016. Kena Krutsinger/NBAE via Getty Images
"I could have four to five WNBA titles by now. Parker had 16 points, 13 boards, five assists, and four steals on Sunday. It's helped me to appreciate the importance of possessions. While we think of the last shot, every possession is equally important.
"I think it has helped me to become less results-driven and just concentrate on what I'm supposed to do. It's possible to accomplish everything you need and still not achieve your goal. Are you going to quit working?
Parker is a well-known and successful cross-over player in women's sport. Just finished her 14th WNBA Season and will soon be doing NBA analysis and college basketball analysis. This is the second act in her career, which she began while the first was still being done.
"She's one of the most talented players I've ever seen on the court," Diana Taurasi, Phoenix's representative, said during the Finals. "Like, by far. She is a master at certain court tasks, which surpasses all others.
"And then she has done what she can do over the past four to five years, being an elite player on the court and doing things off-court that we all can aspire too. This is a remarkable feat. She is giving us a voice through all the work she does, which is not an easy task. Every day she fights for what we love. I envy her for this; I don't have the will to do it. She does it for us all."
Candace Parker made a 3:08 final shot to tie the score. She also had five rebounds, an assist and five rebounds. She ended with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images
Parker was the WNBA's MVP in 2008 and Rookie of The Year in 2008. It looked like she might add a WNBA title on top of the NCAA championship and Olympic medal she won that year. Parker was just 1.3 seconds away from a berth at the WNBA Finals.
Sophia Young, San Antonio, hit a 14-foot shot at the buzzer that saved the Stars' season. The Stars won Game 3 of the Western Conference finals and ended the Sparks' season.
In 2009, the Sparks lost to Phoenix and 2012 to Minnesota in conference finals. In the conference semifinals, they fell four times in six years between 2010 and 2015. Parker doesn't believe it was all history. Parker is a meticulous recaller, even the 2016 WNBA Finals in Los Angeles, Game 5, which gave Parker her first title. She also remembers the 2017 Finals, which didn't go her way.
Parker said that Pat Summitt taught her many lessons, but she is not as well-known for the lesson of balancing the hard times with the good. It has been vital.
Parker stated, "I am able be here and can take the heartbreak because she coached me." "I can take people not liking my. They may love me now but it wasn't always that way. That's okay with me. "Handle failure as well as success," Coach said to me. That's also one of my mantras.
Parker stated that nothing has changed in her passion for basketball and the high standards she sets for herself and others to achieve perfection.
"I never let that slip." Parker smiled and said that my delivery has improved as I have matured. "I love basketball. But there are far more important things. But basketball should be a platform. I am grateful for the opportunities basketball has given me."
Sunday's Finals saw Candace Parker and Alyssa Tom join Alyssa Thomas to be the only WNBA players to have at least 15 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in more than one game. att Marton-USA TODAY Sports
One of those opportunities was to return to Chicago. She grew up in suburban Naperville and was a high school phenom. In some ways, it was a close circle when she won a championship there.
Next April she will be 36 years old. She hasn't spoken about retirement but she knows that she is closer to the end than she was at the beginning of her playing career. She said that she has focused more on the process than the results. However, she is aware of the perspective of athletes.
Parker stated that "we live in a result-driven society, which is wonderful." Six rings are possible when you have Michael Jordan, who everyone in Chicagoland dreams to be like. It's sometimes the toughest ones that keep going, I feel.
Parker spoke out about her Game 4 loss to Chicago teammates before Sunday's game.
"But, I think that yesterday I looked at my self and was like, "Why?" She said. "You cannot be passively accepting what the other team does. There is growth in heartbreak.
"I was like, "If that's the case, I'm going down swinging." Our group will be going down swinging. "We still need to keep our cool."
That was what the Sky did Sunday. The Sky climbed back in quarter four, and the sell-out Wintrust Arena crowd grew louder with every Sky basket. Parker's 3-pointer tied it at 72-72 with 1 minute and 57 seconds left. The roar was overwhelming.
Game 4 was not lost. With 5.9 seconds remaining, she grabbed the last defensive rebound and quickly ran down the court to her family.
Moving to Chicago meant that Lailaa was separated from her daughter, who had stayed in Los Angeles most of the summer. However, Lailaa told her mom she would go to Chicago.
"We've been through this together. "You know?" Parker was 23 when she had her daughter. She sacrificed her mother so that I could live my dream. She's always there for me in the big moments.
Parker stated that Lailaa was also there for the difficult moments. The failures. Parker must push herself to exercise in the offseason, when she doesn't feel like it. Lailaa helps motivate her.
So do past losses.
Parker stated that these are the games he plays with himself in the offseason. "I hate the Peloton. That's my cardio. It's like, "OK, I'm gonna get up on this, and it will somehow give me energy or the vibe to shoot the right shots when the season comes."
"But, at the end, it's like this: 'Do it as best you can and you live with it.'
The Sunday results were almost like a bill coming due, but it was paid in full. Parker can live with that.