You may know Candace Parker as a star of the women's professional basketball team, the Los Angeles Sparks. But she's also a wife, mother, and advocate for girls - teaming up with Playtex Sport to encourage young women to "Be Unstoppable." Here's how she embodies that unstoppable attitude both on and off the court. Oh, and she dishes on what it's like to dunk.
Shine: You won back-to-back NCAA championships in 2007 and 2008 with the Tennessee Lady Vols, a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and WNBA Rookie of the Year and league MVP in 2008 (making you the only player in the history of the WNBA to capture the league's MVP as a rookie). Of all that, what would you consider your biggest professional accomplishment?
Candace Parker: It would have to be representing my country and playing in the Olympics. It was just surreal to be there representing the United States. When the national anthem played, all of these memories went through my mind of me being a kid and watching the Olympics with my parents and telling them that I wanted to be there. I was just so inspired by the players that played before me.
Shine: How have you seen professional sports grow since you were that little girl watching the Olympics?Candace sings the national anthem after receiving a gold medal in the Beijing Olympics. …
CP: I grew up watching Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson and had women as my role models and I feel like I am the first generation [to have that]. Title IX was not enacted when my mom was in college. They didn't even have a women's basketball team when she was in school. And now I look at how the generation has changed and how I am raising my daughter to grow up and see women athletes as role models.
Shine: You had your daughter, Lailaa Nicole, in 2009 with your husband Sheldon Williams (NBA player with the New York Knicks). How has your role as a mother and wife changed you?
CP: My role as a mother and a wife has changed me a great deal. As an athlete I am better because of my new role. I realize how important it is for me to help shape the girls who are sixteen and seventeen years old because they are going to be my daughter's role models. My parents often say: "Do as I say, not as I do," but I don't necessarily agree with that. Since I have become a mother and a wife, it has been more of "I am going to show you through my actions what I mean." I want to be living proof of things.
Shine: What advice would you give your daughter and other young women about being unstoppable?
CP: You know I think it is really hard growing up as a little girl. I was always fortunate because I had parents that told me to hold my shoulders back, I was always super-tall and had super-big feet and was always gangly and skinny. But I had parents who told me to hold my shoulders back and told me to be proud of my feet because one day they would be worth something. That is what I want to pass on to her - be happy with who you are. Be confident in yourself and don't let anyone stop you. I think team sports does this for kids because they allow you to be around other kids and share the same things.
Candace and her daughter. Getty Images.Shine: You missed part of the 2009 season while being out on maternity leave. What is your best advice for working moms?
CP: I had a tremendous pregnancy and I was on the go the entire time. I obviously wasn't playing basketball, but my advice would be to continue to be active during your pregnancy because it increases the health of your baby. Now, I need help from my family. My daughter goes everywhere with me. I haven't spent a night away from her yet. Fortunately enough I have a great support system. I have my mom, my cousin helps me a lot, I have friends and family in L.A. and my husband is super supportive. Lailaa has been to over 15 different countries already in two years. We were heading to Italy last week and I have a picture of her…she had her headphones on, her iPad in her lap and she's sitting in a seat by herself with her hands behind her head chilled back. She is very well-traveled. I just make it work. I didn't ever want to sacrifice being an athlete and I didn't want to sacrifice being a mom, so I just put them together and whatever I got was what I had to deal with, but I would be lying if I said it was easy.
Shine: So you can dunk. What's that like?
CP: It's cool. It was more of a goal for me to dunk before my brothers did. My brother started dunking at sixteen and I set a goal to dunk at fifteen. When I reached that goal is was sweeter because I did it before them. I think that anything that will bring attention to the women's game is a positive. You will see more and more women who are able to jump higher and dunk and hang on the rim (Parker was the first high school women's player and only fifth woman at any level to dunk in a sanctioned game and the first woman to dunk twice in one game in college.)
Shine: I hear you were a Bulls fan growing up. Who are you rooting for these days?
CP: I grew up in the Chicago suburbs (Naperville, Illinois) so, I am a Bulls fan. My brother (Anthony Parker) plays for the Cavs and my husband plays for the Knicks, so I check them out every now and then.
Shine: Is Michael Jordan the best ever?
CP: Michael Jordan is the best ever by far.
Shine: If he is King, who is Queen?
CP: Yet to be determined. I think it is based on your overall career. At the end looking back, that's when you can say: "She's the best ever."
This is certainly one career that we look forward to looking back on.
Check out Candace's moves in the "Unstoppable Moves" video series. Every time a clip of unstoppable moves is uploaded, $5 will be donated to the Women's Sports Foundation.