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WNBA star Candace Parker retires after 16 seasons: ‘It’s time’

Parker, who became a three-time champion after her 2023 win with the Las Vegas Aces, made the surprising announcement in an emotional post.
Candace Parker #3 of the Las Vegas Aces dribbles the ball during the game against the Dallas Wings on July 5, 2023 at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
WNBA star Candace Parker announced her retirement after 16 years on April 28, 2024.David Becker / NBAE
/ Source: TODAY

WNBA legend and three-time champion Candace Parker has officially announced her retirement.

On April 28, the Las Vegas Aces forward, who recently won her third championship in 2023, revealed in an emotional Instagram post that she will step away from basketball after 16 seasons in the league.

The 38-year-old uploaded an adorable childhood photo of her carrying a basketball and quoted lyrics from Memphis Bleek’s “Dear Summer” in the caption.

“I’m retiring,” she wrote.

“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,” she added.

Parker suffered a left foot injury during the 2023 season and underwent surgery, ESPN reported at the time. She was not able to play in her team’s impressive playoff run that ended with a championship ring. Parker's last game was played on July 7.

Parker began her WNBA career with the Los Angeles Sparks before playing for the Chicago Sky for two seasons. In 2023, she signed with the Aces.

The Aces announced in February that Parker had re-signed with the team for the upcoming season, which starts May 14.

After her announcement Sunday, the team wished Parker "happy retirement" on X.

Parker had a remarkable run in the WNBA. According to ESPN, she won three championships, one finals MVP award and and two MVP awards.

Why is Candace Parker retiring?

In her Instagram post, the star athlete wrote, “I always wanted to walk off the court with no parade or tour, just privately with the ones I love. What now was to be my last game, I walked off the court with my daughter. I ended the journey just as I started it, with her.”

Parker said the offseason has been difficult because her foot has not been “cooperating.” She reflected on having 10 surgeries throughout her career and hearing harsh criticism when she returned. 

“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,” she said.

She shared that she has been a fan of basketball since she was 13 years old. She said the game taught her lessons on and off the court. Through the ups and downs, she wrote, she has always been true to herself. Now, she is left with a feeling of gratitude.

“I’m grateful for family, friends, teammates, coaches, doctors, trainers & fans who made this journey so special,” she said.

What's next for Candace Parker?

Parker said she is looking forward to the next chapter of her life and already knows where she will shift her focus.

“In the mean time, know IM A BUSINESS, man, not a businessman,” she wrote. “This is the beginning…I’m attacking business, private equity, ownership (I will own both a NBA & WNBA team), broadcasting, production, boardrooms, beach volleyball, dominoes (sorry babe it’s going to get more real) with the same intensity & focus I did basketball.”

Aside from her business goals, she said she also wants to prioritize her family.

Parker has been married to Anna Petrakova since 2019. The couple welcomed a son, Airr Larry Petrakov Parker, in February 2022. They announced in a joint Instagram post in December 2023 that they are currently expecting another child. Parker is also a mom to 14-year-old daughter Lailaa, whom she shares with ex-husband Shelden Williams.

At the end of her post, Parker included a message to current WNBA players: “ENJOY IT.”

“No matter how you prepare for it, you won’t be ready for the gap it leaves in your soul,” she advised. “Forgive me as I mourn a bit, but I’ll be back loving the game differently in a while.”

Reactions from the sports world

Multiple current and past WNBA and NBA stars and more athletes celebrated Parker’s legacy in the comments. 

Charles Barkley wrote, “Congratulations on a legendary career, @candaceparker!” 

“TRUE BALLER,” Reggie Miller commented. 

Jamal Crawford said, “Very few have ever pushed the game forward. You did that.. Iconic. A true 1 of 1,” and included a prayer-hand emoji. 

Los Angeles Sparks player Chiney Ogwumike simply left a saluting emoji.

Allyson Felix wrote, “Legendary. Game Changer. Inspiration. I’ve loved watching you since the beginning and can’t wait to watch you continue to thrive off the court.” 

Petrakova shared Parker’s post on her Instagram story and added a supportive message. 

Candace Parker's wife, Anna Petrakova, shared a supportive message after the WNBA star announced her retirement.
Candace Parker's wife, Anna Petrakova, shared a supportive message after the WNBA star announced her retirement.Anna Petrakova / Instagram

“(I’m) so proud of you. I know how much you love this game and i witnessed all the work you put in,” Petrakova said. “I know this is not easy but if anyone will make the most out of the rest of their life, (it’s) you. Love you so much.”

She also included three red hearts.