The Los Angeles Sparks defeated the Minnesota Links 77-76 in Game Five to win the 2016 WNBA Finals.
This was the Sparks’ first title since Lisa Leslie led them to the promised land in 2002.
The Sparks, led by all star forward Candace Parker, defeated the Lynx who had won three of the last five WNBA titles. In the series, Parker was named Finals MVP after averaging 17.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.2 steals, and 2 blocks per game. She did it all for the Sparks and played her way to that elusive first title in her great career.
Parker entered the WNBA as the first overall pick in the 2008 draft coming out of the University of Tennessee. Since she entered the league, she has showcased the same all around game that helped her team win the championship, averaging 17.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game. She is a three time all-star selection, a six team All-WNBA team selection, the first ever women’s basketball player to win the MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season (2008), and now she is a champion.
Parker had become a household name in basketball circles even before she entered the WNBA. At Tennessee, where legendary Coach Pat Summitt is at the helm, Parker led the Lady Volunteers to back-to-back National Championships in 2007 and 2008, also winning National Player of the Year in both seasons. She became the fastest Tennessee player to reach 1,000 points and became the first women to ever successfully dunk in an NCAA Tournament game and dunk twice in any game.
The accolades are great, but it was her relationship with Summitt that had her bringing her career full circle after the Sparks won the championship.
After the game, not only was Parker emotional about winning the championship, but it also gave her a chance to remember and truly honor her college coach in a special way.
Via Alysha Tsuji/USA Today: After winning the WNBA championship, Parker said while fighting back tears, “This is for Pat. This is for Pat.”
“I could hear her voice telling me to keep going, and she was definitely present tonight.”
Although Parker played a huge role, her Sparks teammates stepped up in a huge way as well in big moments. This was none more evident in the deciding Game Five when League MVP Nneka Ogumike scored the championship winning basket with two seconds remaining off an offensive rebound opportunity. You could also look at a huge moment in Game One of the Series when Guard Alaina Beard hit the game winning buzzer beater to give the Sparks an important 1-0 series lead.
All series, her teammates were able to deliver, even in games like Game Two when Parker only had six points on 3-12 shooting and Game Four when she only had 14 points on 4-14 shooting.
Parker’s overall maturation as a player helped her in this series because she had now become more self-less as a player, realizing that she didn’t have to do everything for the team in order for them to be successful. This allowed Ogumike to be the league’s MVP during the regular season and allowed her to have the biggest moment, making the championship-winning shot. Her teammates rallied around Parker this entire season and because of it, they were made better and are now on top.
Congrats to the Los Angeles Sparks.
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