Candace Parker was honored with her first career WNBA Defensive Player of the Year trophy this morning after leading the Los Angeles Sparks to the league’s third-ranked defense despite the depleted Sparks losing several key players from 2019.
𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝟮𝟬𝟮𝟬 𝗗𝗲𝗳𝗲𝗻𝘀𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝗣𝗹𝗮𝘆𝗲𝗿 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗬𝗲𝗮𝗿
— Los Angeles Sparks (@LASparks) September 24, 2020
Parker earned 16 of 47 possible media votes in a year that there was no clear front-runner. Alysha Clark of the Seattle Storm, the pesky perimeter anchor of the league’s best defense, finished in second place with 11 votes, while Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas finished third with 10 votes. No one else received more than four votes.
In her first year in the league back in 2008, Parker earned both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards, an unprecedented achievement in basketball. She nabbed her second MVP trophy in 2013. But in a call with reporters on Thursday morning, Parker said the DPOY means more than any of those. Like so much of her career, Parker also attributed her success to the lessons she learned from the late, great Pat Summitt at Tennessee.
“This is going to go above MVPs and Rookie of the Year,” Parker said. “The first coach that really challenged me that I could be Defensive Player of the Year was Pat Summitt, and I can hear her line, ‘Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, rebounding wins championships.’”
Parker finished with by far the highest total rebounding rate of her career, and used that to limit opponents to one possession during a condensed WNBA season and allowed the Sparks to control tempo. That, in addition to her posting typically high steal and block numbers and turning Los Angeles into a great defense whenever she stepped on the floor, made her the league’s selection for DPOY even a decade-plus into her career.