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Candace Parker: Family Focused, Community Driven

Candace Parker shares with Boardroom how commitment is at the center of all she does — on the court, with her family, and in the community.

Fitness has always been central to Candace Parker’s life, dating back to the days she’d join her father Larry and older brothers Marcus and Anthony in their workouts. Over her 16-year pro career, the Las Vegas Aces forward has endured eight knee surgeries, a shoulder surgery, and returned to top form after childbirth.

You don’t continue playing through all of that unless you have a serious love of basketball and commitment to your body.

Parker’s partnership with Muscle Milk is an extension of that commitment — one that also reaches the community around her. The partnership has spawned the cause-based initiative, The Lifting Project, which aims to make fitness more accessible to underserved communities. With the project now in its second year, Muscle Milk, Parker, and the National Fitness Campaign have agreed to build a brand-new public outdoor court for a community in either Los Angeles, Orlando, or Atlanta. 

On the court, Parker and the Aces are off to a 12-1 start. Off of it, Parker and her family have adapted to life in Vegas comfortably with her wife even pushing to make it their new home base.

Parker spoke with Boardroom on all things fitness, Vegas, and basketball.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Christopher Cason: What does it mean to you to have a partnership with Muscle Milk and to be a part of the Lifting Project? 

Candace Parker: I think it’s really important and I’m really excited to be able to team up with Muscle Milk. Obviously, I think lifting is a huge part of every athlete’s regimen — just in terms of how we stay healthy on the court and off the court. I think that’s going to be a part of my life because of the foundation that has been set. I think it’s one of those questions like, ‘why can’t more communities have access to lifting and access to fitness?’ To be able to team up and provide that ability to a community — whether it be Los Angeles, Orlando or Atlanta — is great.

I think it’s super important to have this be a part of who I am. I want this to be a partnership and I think Muscle Milk feels the same way. I was laughing with them before because my daughter is now called Muscle Milk Lailaa at school because she was in the commercial. I think that’s important to kind of set the example as a parent in being a part of something you believe in and being about something to help others.

CC: It must be hard to tell a teenager anything after being in a national commercial. 

CP: Oh, listen, yes! She’s 14 but I am still her mother [laughs]. During the NBA Playoffs and different big events, she does enjoy when she sees her commercial on. I think it’s also amazing how time flies because we shot that just over a year and a half ago and now, she looks completely different. She’s all grown up. It’s just fun for us to be able to look back and reflect. To be able to do that with your kid and her to do it with her mom — it was special to both of us. 

CC: How has your own approach to training evolved over your career?

CP: I think you don’t know what you don’t know when you’re young. I wish I would have had access to the information available now when I was coming into the league and when I was entering year three and four, and now, I realize the importance. I really dedicate a lot of time and energy to making sure that in the offseason — regardless of if I’m going back and forth to Atlanta for the NCAA Tournament — that I’m really taking care of my body and making sure I’m getting my lift in. Whether it’s cardio, pilates, or yoga, I think it’s not only setting the stage to be better athletically in my sport now in Year 16 but it’s going to be something that is a part of my daily routine even afterward. It kind of sets the tone in showing your kids how to live a healthy lifestyle and how important that is both mentally and physically to continue to incorporate fitness into your life. 

CC: With joining such a talented and well-coached team in the Aces, would you say you’ve figured out what you need to bring or is it still fluid? 

CP: I came here to win and so I want to do what’s necessary to do that. From game to game, the responsibilities might change. We are a little over a fourth of the way through the season and I don’t think I physically have scratched the surface of what I’m capable of bringing to this team and nor should I be. Becky [Hammon] wants to play the long game. She wants me healthy and well in October and I think that’s kind of been a gift and a curse because patience hasn’t always been my strong suit. There are times when I want to push it physically to be able to do more but that’s not what we’re playing for right now and that’s been something that has been the hardest to adjust to. Secondly, when you’re playing with the players that I am, you always have to constantly be ready for that moment. Everyone on this team is important and on this team for a reason and from game to game, roles change, and situations change. So, I know that I’m working to make sure I’m ready for when that happens. 

CC: How has it been adjusting to Vegas away from the floor for you and the fam? 

CP: It’s crazy because when I first heard that the Aces were moving here, I was thinking ‘where is their fan base? Their fan base will come in on weekends and then they leave.’ I didn’t realize that there was a whole suburb. It’s really Suburbia out here. It’s really cool and family-orientated out here. I found our spots for our kids. I’m a huge foodie and so we’re exploring the food out here. It hasn’t gotten too hot out here so check back with me in about a month and see what I’m saying [laughs]. So far, so good and we love it. My wife has been in my ear because there’s no state tax here and she is all for it. Home base is still LA for right now and I’m hanging onto that. I’m an LA girl, so we’ll see if I win the battle on that. 

CC: Since starting your media career, it seems you’ve only continued to get better. How would you describe how much you’ve learned and grown with Turner?

CP: It has been one of the craziest ways in finding love if that makes sense. I knew I always loved the game. It’s always on the television and I’m a basketball junky. When I first started off, it was like hey, you’re just going to come on [Kevin Garnett’s] show [Area 21] and just talk with him. It ended up kind of being a thing and I guess you never know when you’re having your dress rehearsal. I never knew that I really wanted to do it, for one. Two, I never knew that they were trying me out. Three, I never knew that I would love it this much. To be able to say you’re calling the NBA All-Star Game — which is an event that I would pay for as a fan to go to — calling the NCAA Tournament, Final Four games — as a fan of basketball, I’m blown away. The people at Turner are fans. Charles Barkley is working, yes, but he’s a fan of the game and being at those events. It’s definitely something I want to continue to do after I’m done playing. 

CC: When you’re working around guys who obviously love the game as much as you do, does it truly make the work that much easier or is there still this pressure to match some of the dynamics they have?

CP: I think the only intangible thing in any work that you’re doing is knowing that you’re going to be prepared and work hard at it. But do you love it? I think when you have that extra intangible, it makes you better at your job and better at what you do. I think it’s the very reason most of us played basketball. Playing basketball is a different love but with commentating, you find sort of a different group of people that played that still love to talk about it — people like Jamal Crawford. To this day, we still send Instagram posts back and forth about Michael Jordan or some crazy stat and it has nothing to do with work. We just genuinely enjoy it. I think it shows, at least when I watch, and I know it shows the level of love for basketball when you can have those conversations away from work. 

CC: As you continue to progress in that field, what are some of your goals?

CP: My goals are obviously to continue to have basketball be a central part of what I do because it is my love. But my goal is to kind of branch out and be versatile in television. I don’t want to just talk about basketball. I’m a big history buff and love everything history. My dream is to have sort of a travel show and be able to give a different light to that. I just enjoy tuning in and watching Will Smith talk about the Earth. I know he’s not an expert about it but I enjoy the perspective. I think there are other ways to cross over in things you wouldn’t ordinarily see athletes in. So, my goal is to have this travel/history show and be able to cross over. You look at the blueprint Michael Strahan has set. He started off in sports, ended up switching over to daytime television and now is saying good morning to millions of people. I want to be on that Michael Strahan kind of trajectory. 

CC: Athlete, analyst, mom, and wife. How do you find the balance in giving your all to each of those roles?

CP: My family is at the forefront of everything that I do. Being a wife and a mother is the center of my entire universe. They’re at the front of every decision that I make. The reason I’m here in Vegas is because they were at the forefront of that. You have to decide what’s super important to you and that can change in the moment. Some months, work has to be front and center. Not saying I take a step back because my family is always the most important to me and it’s having the balance in a day.

I’m heavy on my calendar. After I wake up and have my coffee, I figure out what the day needs and the biggest thing for me is I always have to carve out a day where I can ask myself what I want to do. Sometimes, we get so caught up in others and I plan my time with the calendar. I’m a big blackout person. This is the blackout day in my calendar that I have to have to be able to go and pick up my kid from school or go get my nails done, walk the dogs, or whatever it is to get back to center. I think after COVID, everyone kind of lost that boundary of Saturday and Sunday and there are no limits now. My biggest thing is being able to have those boundaries. 

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