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Candace Parker, 3-time WNBA and 2-time Olympic champion, says 'it's time' to retire

Candace Parker #3 of the Las Vegas Aces is pictured at Michelob Ultra Arena on July 1, 2023 in Las Vegas. Parker announced her retirement on Sunday.
Ethan Miller
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Getty Images
Candace Parker #3 of the Las Vegas Aces is pictured at Michelob Ultra Arena on July 1, 2023 in Las Vegas. Parker announced her retirement on Sunday.

Candace Parker — a three-time WNBA champion, two-time league MVP and two-time Olympic gold medalist — has announced she's retiring from basketball after 16 seasons.

In a poston Instagram, Parker said, "I promised I'd never cheat the game & that I'd leave it in a better place than I came into it. The competitor in me always wants 1 more, but it's time. My HEART & body knew, but I needed to give my mind time to accept it."

The 38-year-old had a foot injury that sidelined her last season. She'd hoped to return to the Las Vegas Aces this upcoming year to try to win another title.

"This offseason hasn't been fun on a foot that isn't cooperating. It's no fun playing in pain (10 surgeries in my career) it's no fun knowing what you could do, if only...it's no fun hearing 'she isn't the same' when I know why, it's no fun accepting the fact you need surgery AGAIN."

Parker played her first 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks — and, in 2008, was the first in WNBA history to be named Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season. She was named MVP again in 2013. She won titles with the Sparks, Chicago Sky and the Las Vegas Aces. She's the only player in league history to win championships with three teams.

Parker won two NCAA titles while playing for famed collegiate coach Pat Summitt at the University of Tennessee. As a freshman in 2006, Parker became the first woman to slam dunk in an NCAA tournament game.

She helped Team USA win Olympic gold medals at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and at the London Games in 2012.

"Your place in sports history is cemented," said sports journalist Jemele Hill. "While I'm going to miss seeing you on the court, what you've done for the game is a big reason the game is as healthy as it is."

Moments after Parker made the announcement, the Las Vegas Aces posted a tribute video for the WNBA star.

Parker says she'll continue to work in broadcasting and one day hopes to own both an NBA and WNBA team.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.