Motherhood is the guiding light in Los Angeles Sparks Candace Parker’s life ‘I like to say my daughter chose me’

Los Angeles Sparks champion Candace Parker and her daughter Lailaa will have to share her special day That’s because this year, Mother’s Day falls on May 14—Lailaa’s 9th birthday.

And Parker has a big surprise planned.

“Lailaa doesn’t know. See she’s a zoo person,” Parker told The Undefeated. “She loves animals. We have two dogs. We had a pig. So we’re going to San Diego. We’re going to do a little private tour of the zoo to meet some kangaroos and do all that stuff. She doesn’t know yet.”

Parker was a 22-year-old newlywed when she announced her pregnancy just after being named the 2008 WNBA Rookie of the Year award. Like dozens of other WNBA moms including Leslie, Tina Thompson, Sheryl Swoopes, the 6-foot-9 forward/center’s career continues to flourish.

“I like to say my daughter chose me, Parker said. “I feel like I’m lucky from that aspect that she’s in such an important part of my career.”

Basketball has given the mother and daughter the opportunity to travel the world together. “We’ll be sitting at dinner and she’ll say things like, ‘Mom do you remember in Dubai when we?…’ or ‘Mom do you remember my friend in Russia?’ She has memories of traveling. She has memories of winning a championship. She has memories of being at the Olympics so those are all things I feel fortunate to have shared with her and I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t had her at such a young age.”

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“I have a really cool daughter and we love each other,” she said. “That’s my best friend. I know she’s growing up but I hope to continue to remain close with her because she’s a special kid.”

As for trying to find that elusive work/life balance? It’s been made a bit easier thanks to the Sparks’ organization.

“She’s able to go on all the trips, all the planes, all the buses, stay in my hotel rooms,” Parker said. “There has never been a problem.”

Parker credits Lailaa for one of her biggest life lessons. Even after a lifetime surrounded by friends and family, it was her daughter who changed and sharpened her outlook and awareness of the people and world around her.

“I didn’t realize becoming a mother would make me a better teammate, a better friend, a better basketball player, a better daughter. I’ve read somewhere and I think Obama said it — they’re like little heartbeats. They’re like your heart walking around outside your body. They’re running around, bumping into stuff and falling. You’re able to kind of live life again through them. It’s so special to be able to be a part of her life and to bring her along and to see how she grows and see how much she’s my personality twin it’s just amazing.”

The best piece of advice about motherhood Parker received is to “do as I do.”

“I think a lot of people come from the generation of do as I say and not as I do,” Parker said. “But everything I do my daughter is watching. And she listens to what I say but she really listens to what I do. There’s like ways for her to pull up stuff and see so I just want to make sure I’m doing what I’m telling her and what I’m showing her to do.”

There was one instance when Parker cried after a loss in a basketball game.

“We’d lost a big game and our season was over and a couple of months later she was playing soccer and she cried because she lost and I said, ‘We don’t cry when we lose,’ and she said. ‘But you did.’ It’s like every single day she’s watching what I’m doing.”

Parker’s blueprint of motherhood comes from her own mother, Natasha Parker.

“For my mom, I feel like I’m the most important thing – me and my brothers — just her support and her ability to always put us first. [Now] getting up with Lailaa in the morning before school and having a conversation, making sure that she’s taken care of and she knows that I care and that I’m able to talk to her and have that type of relationship,” are the lessons Lailee has learned from her own mom.

The first overall pick in the 2008 WNBA draft, Tennessee’s Parker led the Los Angeles Sparks to their third WNBA championship where she scored dominating 28 points a 12 rebounds in Game 5 against the Minnesota Lynx and took home the WNBA Finals MVP. No stranger to winning, Parker was the WNBA Most Valuable Player in 2008 and 2013, WNBA All-Star Game MVP (2013) and Olympic gold (2008, 2012).

Lailaa plays soccer. She also loves dance and participating in hip hop performances. For Parker, there are those gut wrenching times when work means missing those performance.

“The hardest part is now that she’s older is she has activities of her own, so it kills me to not be at everything,” Parker said. “With Facetime videos I’m able to see all her games, all her performances but it’s hard for me to not actually be present when she does everything.”

Laila also enjoys math science and the two create slime together on a regular basis.

“I think she’s going to, at some point, be a scientist,” Parker said. “She loves slime. She goes crazy over slime. We make slime. We color slime. We decorate slime.”

This Mother’s Day marks Parkers second year she’s honored other mothers through her #CPNomAMom campaign. Using social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, she asked for nominations by mothers for other mom’s they thought deserve to be pampered. The lucky mom this year will win an Adidas prize pack and LA Sparks tickets to a home or road game!

“I think it’s really cool to recognize moms,” Parker said. “And it’s not just your mom, either. It’s recognizing other moms because really it is kind of a thinkless job. You don’t get paid for it and I feel like it’s the most important job in the world. I think it’s just another way to thank moms.”