Candace Parker was a force to be reckoned with last night. With 25 points, nine rebounds and three assists in the second half alone, she helped the Sparks overcome a 22-point deficit against the Wings to push their record to a dominant 14-1 on the season. Parker finished the game with 31 points and 13 rebounds, the latter being a season-high for the two-time WNBA MVP.
If it looked like Parker was more motivated than usual, it’s because she was. Having attended the University of Tennessee between 2005 and 2008, she was coached by Pat Summitt, who passed away on Tuesday at age 64 due to Alzheimer’s Disease. To honor her former coach, Parker posted a handwritten recruitment letter from Summitt on Twitter earlier in the day, wrote “Rebound” on her shoes before the game and said that she’s playing for Summitt “from here on out” following the Sparks’ victory.
“I see coach’s glare and I hear her voice screaming at me to rebound,” Parker said. “Especially on the offensive end, you know, I see her little head going back and forth telling me to rebound. It’s very ironic that I had my season-high in rebounding tonight.”
Candace Parker’s postgame interview with Holly Rowe about Pat Summitt pic.twitter.com/1bWZWjD5ag
— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) June 29, 2016
Others paid tribute to Summitt throughout the day. Becky Hammon, who made history two years ago by becoming the first full-time female assistant coach in the NBA, said Summitt was a “true pioneer in every sense of the word.” She was joined by many of Summitt’s former players, such as Cierra Burdick and Jody Adams, who took to social media to share their fond memories of the legendary coach.
Pat Summitt was a true pioneer in every sense of the word. One of the Greatest of All Time to ever stand on a sideline. Thank you for teaching so many girls and young women the only real limits are the ones we put on ourselves!! #rip #patsummit #legend #tennessee #ladyvols #ncaaw #wnba #girlpower #girlgotgame
Blessed to be coached and mentored by a trail blazer! She changed the world 1 by 1. #greatness#Legend#161 pic.twitter.com/KXktr8vBiK
— Jody Adams (@coachjodyadams) June 27, 2016
Well coach, you did it your way. You touched thousands of people across this world. You changed the game and paved the way for women’s sports. You brought women from all different backgrounds together to create an unbreakable family. You taught us how to be great on the court, but even more importantly, off of it. You showed us what true love was and I am forever grateful for that. Thank you, coach. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of your program, your tradition, your legacy. I love you. Rest easy up there, Big Time. Heaven just got a lot more passionate and competitive.
Of course, Summitt’s influence stretched far beyond the basketball court. Many celebrities and professional athletes — Johnny Knoxville, Reggie Bush, Peyton Manning and Robin Roberts to name a few — also credited her for being an incredible coach and a class act.