KNOXVILLE -- Thursday night, Candace Parker etched her name into another piece of Tennessee history. She was just the sixth Lady Vol to have her jersey retired. From an All-American to All-Star, Parker is one of the most decorated athletes in Tennessee history.
"Whenever I was in TBA working out, or shooting shots late, or working out with Dean Lockwood, I would look up in the rafters. And I wasn't picturing my jersey up there. I was just trying to put as many national championships in the rafters as possible."
She did. Two of them. Parker helped lead the Lady Vols to NCAA championships in 2007 and 2008. She was a three-time All-American during her years on Rocky Top, and won the Wooden Player of the Year and Naismith Player of the Year Award. In 2008, Parker was the top pick in the WBNA draft. Her first season she won WNBA's Rookie of the Year. She went on to win a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics and is the reigning WNBA's Most Valuable Player. Her legacy is etched in almost every trophy, but if you ask her family, her greatest accomplishment isn't measured by numbers.
"The person that she is. She's remained grateful, she's remained loyal," her mother Sara explained.
"My family, you know they always had a way of bring me back down to reality, and you know success if a journey. It's not a destination," Parker reiterated.
"My brother Anthony said, ' You know Candace, your name is going to be in the rafters forever', and I didn't really think of it that way. It's going to be emotional, and everyone's name is up there who's helped me to get to this point."
Parker said the best part of Thursday night is being able to share it all with her entire family, including her four-year-old daughter Lailaa. She's already a big Vol fan and perhaps Holly Warlick youngest recruit.
"Well her dad went to Duke so it started a young age that Tennessee's better than Duke, so much so that she received a cheerleading outfit from Coach K, and threw it on the floor and said "Boo Duke!'"