It’s Candace Parker’s world; we’re just living in it

Maria M. Cornelius2MCsports

Candace Parker had a year for the record books in 2021. The year 2022 has started with a new baby, the debut documentary of her production company and her selection as one of the 100 most influential people by TIME magazine. And she’s still one of the best basketball players on the planet.


“Candace Parker is a force to be reckoned with,” Dwayne Wade wrote in Parker’s blurb on the TIME list. Wade, a three-time NBA champion, sports analyst and entrepreneur, also wrote: “So many young women watching Candace are seeing how she’s living out loud and achieving greatness. Her legend is only growing.”

To briefly recap 2021, Parker departed Los Angeles, where she had played in the WNBA since being drafted out of Tennessee in 2008, to play in her hometown for the Chicago Sky. She led the team to its first-ever WNBA title. She released signature shoes and apparel through adidas, became the first woman to be featured on the cover of the NBA2K basketball video game and returned to the University of Tennessee in November to serve as grand marshal of the homecoming parade. She ended the year by announcing her two-year marriage to Anya “Anna” Petrakova – the two met overseas playing in Russia – via Instagram.

Parker posted: “I got to marry my best friend in front of our close family and friends. My heart could have exploded. I cried like a baby … To know me or you is to know our love. This journey hasn’t been easy. I am proud of us and what we have built and who we have grown to become both individually and together.” She added even bigger news at the end of the post by announcing that the couple were expecting a baby, and “Lailaa is pumped to be a big sister!” Lailaa, who just turned 13, is Parker’s daughter with then-husband Shelden Williams.

The year 2022 brought Airr Larry “Goose” Petrakova Parker, who arrived Feb. 11, and already has made his first appearance at a Chicago Sky post-game press conference.

On Sunday, Parker, 36, became the oldest woman to record a triple double in a WNBA game with 16 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in an 82-73 win over Washington in a nationally televised game on ABC. It was the third triple double of her career, and she became one of just three WNBA players to do so. The other two players were the legendary Sheryl Swoopes and Parker’s current teammate in Chicago, Courtney Vandersloot.

The next day, TIME announced its 100 most influential people of 2022.

Candace Parker (TIME magazine)

Parker also has formed a production company called Baby Hair Productions – its name stems from the baby hairs that rest perfectly along her hairline, a long-running observation she has made on social media – and the first documentary, “Title IX: 37 Words That Changed America,” aired in April during college basketball’s Final Four. Parker served as executive producer, and her perspective on the societal and cultural impact of Title IX is weaved throughout the film, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark legislation that changed the lives of thousands of girls and women, especially in athletics.

“I was fortunate enough to grow up in a time where Title IX afforded me great opportunities and impacted my life,” Parker said.

Slipping back to 2021, Parker also released a TED Talk in November that has been viewed 1.7 million times titled: How to break down barriers and not accept limits.

“Barrier breaking is about not staying in your lane and not being something that the world expects you to be,” Parker said. “It’s about not accepting limitations.”

Lailaa is mentioned in the TED talk and in all in-depth interviews with Parker. It was Lailaa who wanted her mother to return to the WNBA and play another season after Parker contemplated retirement. The family makes their home in Los Angeles, so playing another season pulls Parker away from the West Coast. Parker already has established a broadcasting career as a studio analyst for NBA on TNT, NBA TV and the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship, so she will be plenty busy off the court.

“She was like, ‘Lai, what do you think? Do you think I should go? Or do you think I should stay and be with you?’” Petrakova said in an article published in May by ESPN. “And Lailaa was like, ‘No, Mommy, I want you to play. I want to come to games, and I want to come to Chicago. I think you should play.’”

Five games into the 2022 season, Parker tallied her triple double. It’s Candace Parker’s world. We’re just living in it.

SOFTBALL UPDATE: Tennessee lost to Oregon State on Sunday in the Knoxville Regional, so the Lady Vols’ season has ended. It was a tough outcome for a team trying to get to softball’s biggest stage at the Women’s College World Series (WCWS). It was a day of upsets as Alabama and Florida State, which was considered a lock to get to the WCWS and play for national title, also lost at home.

“This is one of the closest teams that I’ve ever been a part of,” an emotional coach Karen Weekly said. “I really wanted to see this group advance, because I just know how much we all want to spend another day together. … I have an office in the clubhouse that’s right in the main hallway, and the door is always open. As I’m sitting in there working, I just constantly hear laughter. You just hear joy. They just bring that every day. They are just a good group of young women who do things the right way.”

NEW TRACK & FIELD COACH: Duane Ross has been hired to oversee UT’s combined men’s and women’s track & field program in a move announced Tuesday. Ross, an NCAA Co-Coach of the Year in 2021, will replace Beth Alford-Sullivan, whose contract was not extended after eight years. Ross’ resumé is stellar and at the moment he is still busy at North Carolina A&T, which is competing in the NCAA outdoor championships. The Aggies men’s team finished third in the country outdoors in 2021 and second indoors in 2022. The women’s team finished fourth outdoors in 2021. That level of success across both programs made Ross an easy choice to take the reins at Tennessee.

Duane Ross (UT Athletics)

“When researching the best track & field coaches in the world today, it doesn’t take long to find the name Duane Ross,” UT Director of Athletics Danny White said. “He’s built a profile that allows him to be incredibly selective in choosing his next move. … Tennessee track & field has been all about greatness for most of its history – both men’s and women’s. Duane knows what that takes and is poised to restore our program to consistent, elite-level achievement.”

Ross will serve as director of the track program, and UT now will have a Black head coach at the helm of a sport. Diana Cantú, who White hired a year ago to lead women’s golf, is a native of Mexico. Women’s tennis coach Alison Ojeda, who has been at UT for six seasons, is a native of San Antonio, Texas, and was inducted into the National Hispanic Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. Both Cantú and Ojeda also are former Lady Vols in their respective sports.

Maria M. Cornelius, a writer/editor at Moxley Carmichael since 2013, began writing about the Lady Vols in 1998. In 2016, she published her first book, “The Final Season: The Perseverance of Pat Summitt,” through The University of Tennessee Press. She can be reached at mmcornelius23@gmail.com.

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