A Conversation with Candace Parker

Earlier this month, Los Angeles Sparks superstar Candace Parker announced that she and her husband, Shelden Williams of the Sacramento Kings, are expecting their first child in the spring of 2009.

On Friday while staying with family in Chicago, the reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year spoke publicly for the first time since announcing the pregnancy.

WNBA.comís Brian Martin spoke with Parker to discuss her pregnancy, the balancing act of being a professional athlete and a mother, her road back to the basketball court once the baby is born and having a child in the Obama era of America.

WNBA.com: First of all, how are you feeling? How is everything progressing with the pregnancy?

Parker: Everything is going well. Iím still active and Iím feeling great. Iíve had it very easy from what I hear (laughs). Iím feeling great and everything is going smoothly.

WNBA.com: In the statement released a few weeks ago, you said that you would continue to work out in preparation to play in 2009. What have you been able to do? What is your workout regimen like?

Parker: Fortunately, I have a doctor that is play it by ear. He knew coming in that I was an athlete and that I was going to want to do things and continue to be active. I think where the problem is where people arenít active and then try to be active when theyíre pregnant. My body has responded very well to the pregnancy and Iíve been able to continue to do the elliptical. I do the elliptical two to three times a week for 30 minutes. I do light lifting. I canít do anything heavy, so I do (laughs) like aerobic-style lifting. As well as I still shoot on the gun. Iím still touching a basketball, feeling a basketball. I donít know how long I can continue to jump for, but as long as my doctor allows me, thatís as long as Iíll do it.

WNBA.com: Are you following doctorís orders the whole way or are you going to try to push the limits?

Parker: I am. Iím going to follow doctorís orders. First and foremost I definitely want my baby to be healthy, so Iím going to do that, despite my stubbornness (laughs).

WNBA.com: What is that like for you? This has to change all of your priorities. How difficult is that to go through, where last year and probably your whole life it was all about basketball and now it's not. How difficult is that transition?

Parker: I think it's going to be a transition that is going to be made on its own. Obviously where I am right now, I never thought I would be. Iíve always eaten whatever I wanted to eat and kept it moving, but now thereís another life that is benefitting from what Iím eating so Iíve changed the way Iím eating. I think it's going to be when the baby is born, thatís how itís going to be. I still think itís important for me to concentrate on my career and things like that, but I have another responsibility and Iím going to need help. But itís about that and Iím really excited about that opportunity, about being a great role model and things like that.

"Being as competitive and as stubborn as I am, I will be back as soon as I possibly can."

WNBA.com: You mentioned eating whatever you want before, have there been any crazy food cravings since the pregnancy?

Parker: Iím a huge Cold Stone (Creamery) eater. That is my guilty pleasure I should say. My husband and I only do like two or three desserts per week. We try to stay within ourselves. One of them is definitely Cold Stone and the other one (laughs) I like yellow cake with white icing store-bought cake.

WNBA.com: Is this a new one or have you always had this one?

Parker: No. Itís always been; ever since I was in college. (laughs) I used to send Shel to the store to get store-bought cake and they used to ask Ďokay whose birthday is it?í and he would say Ďno, she just wants the cake.í But Iím at cold stone like at least once a week. They know my order by now. I walk in and they just say the normal? And I say yep.

WNBA.com: You mentioned needing help, how difficult is it having Shelden on the road with the Kings during the pregnancy?

Parker: Heís been very supportive and heís helped me out a lot. I have a lot of family and friends, whenever heís on a long road trip, one of my friends came in and stayed with me and I have one of my best friends coming in next week. So I have a lot of people that are there for me and my family as well, by no means am I going through this by myself. Everybody is very excited and willing to help.

Having a Child in the Era of Obama

WNBA.com: I wanted to get your thoughts on the events of the past week and the inauguration of President Obama. What was your reaction to that? What are your thoughts about having a child in a time where there is an African-American president in this country? When you speak to adults and they say they didnít think it would happen in their lifetime and now youíre about to have a child that will know nothing different than that.

Parker: I think two things come to mind. First, I remember talking to my grandmother and she was in tears. She never thought that there would ever be an African-American president during her lifetime. Then my initial thought as soon as he was elected, after speaking with my grandmother, was that my child Ė like you said Ė will know nothing different and thatís how theyíll be raised, that you can do anything, you can achieve anything.

And I think that now instead of role models being everything other than politicians, I think now that more people are stepping forward and realizing that itís possible to be president, and I think that thatís great for our nation. Iím happy and Iíve very proud of Barack Obama and very excited in the years to come. Now we have motivation to win a championship so I can see him again. I had the pleasure of meeting him in high school before any of this and he was very striking then with the presence that he had. I can only imagine now. (laughs) So Iím excited to win a championship and get to the white house and meet President Barack Obama.

WNBA.com: So you can play a little one-on-one with him at his court at the White House?

Parker: Yeah. I hear the scouting report is to take away his left hand so weíll see. (laughs)

WNBA.com: Candace, just donít dunk on the president.

WNBA.com: Did you seek out advice from other players in the WNBA that have had children?

Parker: Iíve gotten advice from different players. With Lisa being on my team Iíve seen it with my own two eyes and how you need help, but you are able to do it. You look at her daughter and sheís smart as can be and happy as can be. So I donít think you have to put your career on the back burner to raise children by any means. You donít have to put your career aside and just concentrate on the kids. I think there can be a balance.

As well as Tina Thompson, her child has been everywhere. Heís been more places than most adults. If you look at the places heís been and the experiences that heís had and if you look at the things that he eats and things like that and how mature he is. Heís truly benefited from her career. And I think I look at it like that, that my kids are going to benefit from my career. They are going to learn more things; they are going to be more well rounded. Iím excited. I didnít get a chance to know my dad when he played basketball or remember that, so I think itís going to be fun to have my kid kind of grow up and remember me when I was young and kind of question whether they want to play me one-on-one when they get older. (laughs)

WNBA.com: What are your personal goals for this season? Is it just a matter of getting back and being able to contribute or do you feel that you need to come back and still be able to dominate?

Parker: In my head I'm very stubborn. When I was in high school, I suffered a knee injury in July of 2003 and I told myself I was going to come back for Christmas of 2003 in my senior year; that was five months. The doctor was like Ďthereís no way, thereís no way.í Then somehow, they were like Ďyour knee is strong enough, weíll let you play.í So Iím very, very stubborn. So in my head, in a perfect world, Iím playing this season and obviously who doesnít want to come back and be the same that they were the year previous or better in my eyes. Thatís a goal of mine. I really feel like with my body and what Iím doing now, to continue to not gain too much excess weight, but just a healthy weight. I feel like Iím prepared to come back this season. When? I donít know. It depends on how smoothly things go with the birth and everything like that. Iím excited and I feel like Iím going to come back this year.

WNBA.com: Did you feel you needed an extra challenge? Was winning Rookie of the Year and MVP last season not enough? Now you have to follow it up with returning from having a baby.

Parker: (laughs) Thatís so funny. My brother Marcus, he actually said that. I told him about the news and he was like you just canít start a season, just starting a season. You always have to have something that goes on (laughs). Your knee, or your shoulder, or youíre coming back for your fifth year, now itís the baby (laughs).

Thatís how I work. I love setting goals and I love having obstacles and I love having people doubt me and say that things arenít going to work out and stuff like that.

WNBA.com: Do you have an idea of what is the earliest you could possibly come back?

Parker: Iím due in the spring. I really donít know. Like I said Iím stubborn, in my head, in a perfect world, it would be June. But weíll see; I donít know exactly what will go on. It depends on everything. Just being as competitive and as stubborn as I am, I will be back as soon as I possibly can.

WNBA.com: What are you looking forward to most about becoming a mother?

Parker: Iím looking forward to just the fun of it all, of shaping somebody and them being a part of you, the joking and teasing with them. Iíve had experience being an aunt and I can only imagine being a mother. Just teaching them things and giving them every opportunity in the world to succeed. And being there to hear their dreams and hope that they come true. Iím very excited about it. I look forward to it.