- Advertisement -

Candace Parker retires as greatest Tennessee Lady Vol of all time

- Advertisement -

One of the greatest legends in women’s basketball history is hanging it up. Candace Parker, a two-time WNBA MVP, three-time WNBA champion (two playing), two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, one-time WNBA Finals MVP and one-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year is hanging it up.

Parker was the last transcendent star of the Tennessee Lady Vols, helping Pat Summitt capture her final two national championships in 2007 and 2008. She was the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player both times, and she was unanimous National Player of the Year in 2008.

In many ways, Candace Parker combines the resumes of two other legendary Lady Vols. She rivals Chamique Holdsclaw in on-court success with UT, but then she rivals Tamika Catchings in legendary WNBA success. When you take it all into account, it’s clear. She’s the greatest Lady Vol in history.

The only competition for Parker on Rocky Top is Holdsclaw, and that is a fair argument. Holdsclaw led UT to three straight national championships, a 39-0 record in 1997-98, and was two-time unanimous National Player of the Year in 1998 and 1999. On the surface, it is hard to argue with Holdsclaw.

However, a breakdown of their play gives the slight edge to Parker. While Holdsclaw averaged 20.4 points per game for her career compared to Parker’s 19.3, that one extra point is offset by Parker being much more efficient as a scorer, as her .583 true shooting percentage was way better than Holdsclaw’s, whose was .547.

- Advertisement -

They both averaged the exact same number of rebounds and assists per game for their careers. Then there is defense. Holdsclaw did average 2.1 steals per game to Parker’s 1.9. However, Parker averaged 2.5 blocks per game to Holdsclaw’s 0.8. The significant gap in blocks gives Parker the slight edge in numbers.

What about supporting cast? Yes, in one national title season, Parker played with four other starters who went to the WNBA. However, they only logged 20 total seasons, and five of them came from Sidney Spencer, who wasn’t on the 2007-08 team. Parker carried that team like nobody ever carried a national title team.

Holdsclaw played with three future WNBA players her first title year, and they logged 14 years in the pros, one less than Parker’s cast did in 2008. On the other hand, there was no WNBA in 1996, after Holdsclaw’s first year, which cost Michelle Marciniak a season, so it’s a wash.

To be fair, in the 1996-97 season, Holdsclaw had just eight years of WNBA support on her national title run, which is more impressive than either of Parker’s. That NCAA Tournament run with a mediocre team is probably the best argument in favor of Holdsclaw, as it’s the most impressive individual performance anybody had.

A knock against her, though, is what came after. In 1997-98, she played with another future WNBA Hall of Famer in Tamika Catchings. Then you add Semeka Randall and Kellie Jolly (now Harper), and Holdsclaw was loaded with talent around her that year like never before. To be fair, she did deliver, going 39-0.

What works against her, though, and in favor of Parker, is the 1998-99 season. Again, she had Catchings as her teammate, and after absolutely dominating the 1997 tournament, she offset it by choking in the 1999 tournament, having a horrendous game as UT was upset by the Duke Blue Devils in the 1999 Elite Eight.

So which one outweighs which? Holdsclaw’s 1997 national title run is more impressive than Parker’s two national titles, but her 1999 choke with a legendary supporting cast that Parker never had is something Parker was never responsible for. The truth is the 1999 run was more inexcusable.

That’s because the 2008 Lady Vols were built solely around Candace Parker on offense and defense. Pat Summitt literally couldn’t turn to anybody else, and they often won games in hideous fashion because if Parker wasn’t hitting, she still had to carry them with her defensive play.

Finally, there’s the level of competition. Nobody would debate that Parker had a lot more competition as the game had evolved in the mid-2000s than Holdsclaw had during her time. There wasn’t even a WNBA when Holdsclaw first committed to UT, so the talent pool just wasn’t there.

None of this is to take away from Holdsclaw. She did stay all four years and won one more national title, so in terms of who should be more beloved, she has a case. Add in her public advocacy for mental health, which really derailed what could have been a Hall of Fame WNBA career on its own (although it was still solid), and she’s a true legend.

When it comes to play on the court, though, Candace Parker has to stand out as the greatest Tennessee Lady Vol ever. That 2008 national title run, which wasn’t just her getting hot in the NCAA Tournament but her carrying the team the whole season, is just impossible to ignore. Holdsclaw’s collapse with so much help in 1999 makes the case.

- Advertisement -

Latest YouTube Video

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *