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Parker’s Versatility Shines With Pair Of First-Ever Performances

Candace Parker has quite a history of making WNBA history.

It began on May 17, 2008, in Phoenix, when she tallied 34 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and a block to lead the Los Angeles Sparks to a win over the defending champion Mercury in her WNBA debut.

It was then – and remains to this day – the greatest rookie debut in league history.

That performance showcased the unique skill set and versatility that would make Parker a matchup nightmare for the next decade.

She scored on the block with drop steps and hook shots; she scored from mid-range with spot ups and pull ups; she would isolate on the perimeter and beat her defender off the dribble with layups and floaters; she knocked down both of her 3-point attempts; she grabbed rebounds and turned them into one-woman fast breaks as she went coast to coast for layups or jumpers or found teammates for open looks; and she got steals on defense and turned them into transition opportunities.

It was a precursor for what the WNBA would see from Parker over the next 10 years. The handle, vision and passing ability of a point guard, the range of a shooting guard, the defensive versatility of a wing, the post moves of a power forward, the rebounding and rim protection of a center. She can simply do it all on the basketball court in a way that few others have in WNBA history.

Of course, that was Game No. 1 of a historic season for Parker as she became the first – and only – WNBA player to win Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season. It is a feat that had only happened twice in NBA history – Wes Unseld in 1969 and Wilt Chamberlain in 1960. That same season, she also recorded the first – and only – 5×5 game in league history as she totaled five or more in five different statistical categories (16 points, 16 rebounds, six blocks, five assists and five steals).

In the 10 years that have passed since her remarkable rookie season, Parker has continued to put her name in the record books alongside the all-time greats of the game. Whether it is being one of six players to record a triple-double in the WNBA, being one of three players to dunk outside of the All-Star Game and the first to do so in consecutive games, or being one of 13 players to record a 20-point, 20-rebound game, Parker has put together some of the best stat lines the WNBA has ever seen.

She is also just one of five players in league history to win multiple MVPs – and the only active player on the list that also includes Sheryl Swoopes (3), Lauren Jackson (3), Cynthia Cooper (2) and former teammate Lisa Leslie (2).

In 2016, Parker crossed three more firsts off a career bucket list as she played in her first WNBA Finals, won her first WNBA championship, and was named Finals MVP after leading L.A. to a thrilling five-game series win over Minnesota.

Now, it’s 2018 – her 11th season in the league – and she’s still finding ways to add firsts to her resume as she put together a pair of historic all-around performances over the past week.

It began Tuesday in Seattle when Parker fell one rebound shy of a triple-double as she tallied 21 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks in the Sparks’ 77-75 overtime win over the Storm. Similar to her debut game described above, Parker did a little bit of everything for the Sparks to lead them past the league-leading Storm.

Parker scored 21 points and created another 22 with her assists as she was responsible for 43 of L.A.’s 77 points (55.8%). She matched Ogwumike for the team-high mark on the boards and led the way with four of L.A.’s 10 steals as the Sparks forced the Storm into 21 turnovers (seven more than their season average).

When all was said and done, Parker had put together a stat line that had never been done in the 22-year history of the WNBA. Never had a player had at least 21 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks in a single game. While plenty have had 21-point games or 10-assist games or four-steal games, none had done it together in a single game. Until Candace.

Three days later, Parker was a guest on ESPN’s The Jump and was asked about her performance as host Rachel Nichols recounted the numbers she put up. Parker admitted that she used to laugh when hearing some of the “first player to do this” stats that would make the rounds on ESPN and Twitter during the NBA season.

While Parker and the panel had a laugh about being the “first player to score 20 points after only sleeping two hours, and eating a burger, on a Tuesday, when its raining” it shouldn’t take away from the fact that Parker had just put together one of the most complete all-around performances that the league had ever witnessed.

And two days later she did it again!

This time it was in Las Vegas as Parker fell one assist shy of a triple-double in the Sparks’ 99-78 win over the Aces. In less than 31 minutes, Parker scored 34 points while adding 11 rebounds, nine assists, five threes and two blocks. She shot 12-of-21 from the field, 5-of-8 from beyond the arc and a perfect 5-of-5 from the free throw line as L.A. outscored Vegas by a game-high 29 points while Parker was on the court.

Between the points she scored (34) and the points she created with her game-high nine assists (21), Parker was responsible for 55 of L.A.’s 99 points (55.6%) as she again had her hand in over half of the Sparks’ total offense. And once again, she put together a stat line that had previously been unseen in WNBA history.

No matter how much sleep she had, what she ate before the game or whether it was raining or not (not likely in Las Vegas), the performance was historic as no other player had ever reached those marks in points, rebounds and assists in a single game over the first 4,584 games of the WNBA.

What never-before-seen stat line does Parker have up her sleeve next? Make sure to tune in when the Sparks host the Fever on Friday night on League Pass to find out.