In her 13th season, Candace Parker carried the Los Angeles Sparks to the No. 3 seed of the WNBA playoffs all while balancing her on-court and off-court responsibilities.
Parker, 34, averaged 14.7 points, a league-best 9.7 rebounds and 4.6 assists, served as an NBA analyst remotely and parented her 11-year-old daughter Lailaa, who was with her inside the WNBA bubble.
"My number one job was being a mom and then secondly finishing the season up, then being able to commentate while in the bubble was an experience in itself," Parker told USA TODAY Sports. "Having a number of things to do that has allowed 2020 to look up."
Inside the wubble
In an unprecedented summer dedicated to social justice and the #SayHerName campaign, the WNBA's 2019-2020 season began July 25 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
With her family by her side, Parker found comfort in the WNBA bubble, affectionately known as the wubble.
"I was really impressed with how the WNBA put together the wubble. At first, I was hesitant to go, but after being there I realized that they did an amazing job of keeping us safe while keeping us sane," said Parker.
For several years, Parker has played overseas during the offseason, which reminded her of her experience living inside the wubble.
"My family was with me so it was kind of the same as going overseas. We've gone overseas for 10 years we — as in me and my family. The bubble situation was similar to it. You're kind of isolated and you're away from what you know," she said. "Fortunately, for me being able to have my family — I don't think I could have made it without them. The WNBA was willing to allow kids to go so it all ended up working out."
Parker left the wubble after the Sparks were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Connecticut Sun, 73-59, on Sept. 17. The Seattle Storm would go on to win its fourth title in franchise history, sweeping the Las Vegas Aces in the Finals on Oct. 6.
Parker's return home was an adjustment.
"We had a routine, but now being out of the bubble it's weird because you're in the bubble for so long and you know everyone there is being tested every day," Parker said. "Now you get out and you realize that there is still a huge pandemic going on. You were sheltered from it within the bubble. But it's been cool just being at home and be able to adjust back to a semi-normal life."
Like many, Parker's semi-normal life has included adapting to COVID-19 pandemic-style schooling.
"I'm a virtual school teacher for my sixth-grade daughter, which has been quite the experience," said Parker.
Having multiple responsibilities is what has gotten Parker through 2020.
"Really, it's just the balance of having a number of things to fall back on, to kind of take your attention away from the year that it's been."
Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker (3) reacts after getting called for a foul during the second half of a WNBA playoff basketball game against the Connecticut Sun Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Bradenton, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) (Photo: The Associated Press)
Visibility is key
Parker will be a special guest at this year's Women's Sports Foundation (WSF) annual salute. Led by founder Billie Jean King, the WSF will bring together top athletes, coaches and sports influencers for a broadcasted event Wednesday to empower and inspire communities to join the movement towards equality in women's sports.
When discussing the future of women's sports, Parker says that visibility is key.
"The biggest thing I've taken away from this entire experience has been visibility," Parker said. "They talked about how the numbers were rising this year. A historical draft. And the same thing with finals. All of that was just visibility."
Viewership of the 2020 WNBA Finals was significantly higher than last , according to ESPN. The network's coverage of the deciding Game 3 was up 34% over last season's Game 3, and up 27% over Game 5 in 2019 when the Washington Mystics won the title.
This year's WNBA Finals averaged 440,000 viewers for the three-game series, which was up 15% over the 2019 Finals through Game 5 and up 14% over last year through Game 3.
"It really showed this year more than anything that when people make a commitment and in order to get a reward out of it you have to invest in it," said Parker. "And by investing that means visibility in dollars and putting women's sports on television. I think that's going to be the key to growth over the next 10 years."
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