WNBA star Candace Parker is not new to firsts. She was the first woman to dunk in an NCAA Women’s basketball game, the first woman to dunk twice in a WNBA, and the first overall pick in the 2008 WNBA draft. She was named Rookie of the Year and celebrated for having one of the all-time best rookie years. She has once again made history by becoming the first WNBA player to be on the cover of NBA 2K. As a two-time league MVP, six-time All- Star, WNBA Champion and Two-Time Olympic gold medalist, Parker, 35, is one of the most recognized WBNA players of our generation.
Not only is she well accomplished on the courts, but she also has numerous endorsement deals and is the mother of 12-year-old Laila with ex-husband former NBA player Sheldon Williams. Parker being the first WBNA Player to be on the cover of such a popular game, it is showing the major impact that women are making in sports. Parker’s cover is even more special as it marks the 25th Anniversary of the WNBA.
Take-Two Interactive Software, creator of NBA 2K that boasts nearly 2.3 million gamers daily recently added WNBA players to its game just three years ago has been working with Parker to get more of an understanding of the WNBA. This coming off the heels of the WNBA signing a collective bargaining agreement to triple the salary of the top players to almost $130,000. With top NBA players making in the millions there is still a long way to go for women athletes. With more and more visibility being given to female athletes such as Parker, she hopes that it can be used to expand the reach of the WNBA and empower and motivate young female athletes.
Allyson Felix has become the most celebrated American athlete for her winning her 11th medal in track-and-field, surpassing Carl Lewis. Felix, 35, is retiring as an Olympian. Felix who debuted as an Olympian in Athens 2004 where she won a silver medal in the 200. Felix has become a huge advocate of female athletes in gender equality using the fuel of skeptics questioning her ability to compete for a medal after giving birth in 2018. One of the biggest hurdles that Felix faced was with her former sponsor Nike. Felix told her story to the New York Times back in 2019 where she decided in 2018 that she wanted to start a family, during her contract negotiations with Nike, she found out that athletes who have children, risk pay cuts during pregnancy and after the birth of the child. After being with Nike for a decade, they offered 70% less that she had previously been given. Nike wouldn’t budge on their stance and Felix refused to give in. Feeling pressure to get back in “performance” shape, Felix returned to training as soon as possible after having to undergo an emergency C-section 32 weeks into her pregnancy due to pre-eclampsia that threatened her life and that of her daughter. Nike has since changed their maternity policy. On Saturday, Felix won her 11th medal wearing Athleta.
In a world where athletes are told to shut up a dribble or run, nobody cares about your politics or beliefs, these queens are paving the way for the next generation of female athletes. They are showing the world that you can be a celebrated athlete, mom, and game changer. Although Felix has stated this is her last Olympics, we know by far this is not the last we will see from her. With Parker’s marketing background and the vision she has for the WNBA expansion, this is just the tip of the iceberg.