Candace Parker says ‘I followed my heart’ to sign with the Chicago Sky — but she also came home to win a championship

It has been a little more than a week since Candace Parker made one of the biggest decisions of her career, leaving behind 13 seasons with the Los Angeles Sparks to sign with the Chicago Sky, and the reaction she received has helped her feel validated.

There was the FaceTime call from her grandmother, holding the newspaper the morning after the news broke, excited she would get to come see Parker play. The phone conversation with a childhood friend from Naperville who was playing with her children in the snow while Parker was in the LA sun, making plans to hang out like old times.

There was outreach from her new Sky teammates, letting her know how much they wanted her on board, and texts that poured in from old friends planning to buy season tickets to come watch her play like they did in high school.

The Sky officially introduced Parker on Wednesday during a virtual news conference that also served as a homecoming reception.

Parker reminisced about favorite restaurants, even revealing her massive Portillo’s order. Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her wife, Amy Eshleman, began the call to welcome Parker, whose career they have followed since her senior year at Naperville Central. Sky owners Michael Alter and John Rogers and coach/general manager James Wade talked about their excitement for Parker’s addition and what it means to the organization.

“I’m so excited to be here, and I say that from the bottom of my heart,” Parker said. “I didn’t realize how amazing the Chicagoland area was with basketball in general until I went out into the world and I saw how truly special and how they really embrace their homegrown talent.

“So when this opportunity came about to be able to come home and to play in front of my family and friends and to play for a fantastic organization like the Chicago Sky, it was a difficult decision, but ultimately, I’m very excited and proud to be able to to come home.”

Parker reiterated during the hourlong news conference that this felt like a perfect storm. She said she never seriously considered playing anywhere besides Los Angeles or Chicago, but the pull to return to the Chicago area was too strong to pass up.

“I followed my heart,” she said.

Parker signed a two-year deal for a total of $385,000, slightly less than the maximum salary, according to Her Hoops Stats.

The chance to play in front of friends and family was important, but Parker, 34, was clear that she joined the Sky in pursuit of a championship.

“Those that know me know I am a huge Chicago sports fan,” Parker said. “I’ve even brainwashed my daughter into being a Chicagoland fan. For me personally, playing here in itself holds so much value, but I would say also winning a championship back home would mean so much.

“This isn’t me just coming home to play. This isn’t me just going somewhere. Chicago has great players. They have a great organization and I played against them for a number of years. I like what they’re doing and I like how they play. And in terms of fits and pieces, I think I add a piece to that. And they add so much to me.”