Globe-trotter Candace Parker returns home to play for Sky

FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2020, file photo, Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker (3) brings the ball up next to Washington Mystics guard Emma Meesseman during the second half of a WNBA basketball game in Bradenton, Fla. WNBA free agents can't officially sign until Monday, but Parker is leaving for the Chicago Sky after playing the first 13 years of her professional career with the Sparks, according to a person familiar with decision. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Wednesday, Jan. 27, because no official announcement is allowed until Feb. 1. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2020, file photo, Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker (3) brings the ball up next to Washington Mystics guard Emma Meesseman during the second half of a WNBA basketball game in Bradenton, Fla. WNBA free agents can't officially sign until Monday, but Parker is leaving for the Chicago Sky after playing the first 13 years of her professional career with the Sparks, according to a person familiar with decision. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Wednesday, Jan. 27, because no official announcement is allowed until Feb. 1. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

CHICAGO – Candace Parker talked about seeing her grandmother hold up the newspaper during their call, thrilled she is coming home to play for the Chicago Sky.

She mentioned the Bears and Bulls welcoming her in tweets, too. For a diehard fan of both teams growing up, that was pretty cool.

“I'm so excited to be home and I say that from the bottom of my heart,” Parker said during a Zoom conference Tuesday. “I didn't realize how amazing the Chicagoland area was with basketball in general until I went out in the world and I saw how truly special and how they really embrace their homegrown talent.”

Parker, a two-time WNBA MVP, agreed to sign with Chicago last week and leave the Los Angeles Sparks after spending her first 13 seasons with them. The move was announced on Monday.

The Sky made the playoffs in 2020 for the second time in as many years under coach and general manager James Wade. They already had a solid nucleus with guards Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley, as well as rising star Diamond DeShields. Now, they're adding a “generational talent” as well as a leader, Wade said.

“When she decided, she told me even before, ‘If I come, I’m coming to ball,'” he said. “Automatically you know that, OK, this is what the expectations are. We want to win. And she wanted to win. That's what it ultimately came down to. The fact that we felt we needed her to win was the most important thing. It was not just about the player she is, but even the person.”

Parker won MVP awards in 2008 and 2013 and Defensive Player of the Year honors last season. She is a five-time All-Star and the Sparks' all-time leader in scoring (5,684 points), blocks (545), and rebounds (2,902). She did all that after being drafted with the No. 1 overall pick in 2008, following a standout career at Tennessee under the late Hall of Famer Pat Summitt.

She has also played in Russia, China and Turkey.