Candace Parker playing for the Las Vegas Aces. GETTY IMAGES

Basketball star and Olympic gold medalist Candace Parker announced her retirement after 16 WNBA seasons. The 38-year-old from Illinois posted her decision on Instagram Sunday, saying she knew it was time. 

“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.” Parker wrote in the heartfelt post. 

Parker leaves behind a stellar career as one of the most versatile (having played as guard, forward and centre) and decorated basketball players in the game. 

At the University of Tennessee she won back-to-back NCAA championships with the Tennessee Lady Vols; earning her a multitude of awards including Collegiate Female John R. Wooden Player of the Year, State Farm Player of the Year, and the NCAA Final Four MVP award in both 2007 and 2008.

In 2008, the 6-foot-4 represented Team USA at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, helping her team earn a gold medal. She would take home another gold at the 2012 London Olympics for USA Basketball.  

She started her pro career with the Los Angeles Sparks, after being selected as the first overall pick in the 2008 WNBA draft. Parker became the first player in the league’s history to be named Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season.

Parker is also the first to win three WNBA championships with three different teams; Los Angeles Sparks in 2016, Chicago Sky in 2021and Las Vegas Aces in 2023. 

Despite the Aces’ victory, Parker was sidelined for much of the season after undergoing surgery on her foot.

“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.” She writes. 

Parker confessed that no matter how you prepare for it, you won’t be ready for the gap it leaves in your soul, and tells today’s player to just “enjoy it”. The legendary player is also grateful for the career she’s had and for everyone who supported her in her journey. 

“I’m grateful that for 16 years I PLAYED A GAME for a living & DESPITE all the injuries, I hooped. I’m grateful for family, friends, teammates, coaches, doctors, trainers & fans who made this journey so special.”