Candace Parker is heading home to play for the Chicago Sky, per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, marking the first big splash in what’s expected to be a big free agency period for the WNBA.
Parker, a former WNBA MVP, is leaving the Los Angeles Sparks after 13 seasons with the team. She’s the reigning Defensive Player of the Year but the Sparks had a disappointing exit in the 2020 playoffs.
The franchise also comes into the season with salary cap concerns and couldn’t keep all of their top talent, though they reportedly agreed to a multi-year deal with another former MVP, Nneka Ogwumike.
Players can begin signing with new teams on Monday.
Parker heads to Sky for family, friends
Parker, 34, is reportedly on her way home so she can play in front of friends and family in the last part of her career. She grew up in Naperville, Illinois, before a dazzling collegiate career at Tennessee. She won two NCAA titles with the Lady Vols.
She was the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2008 draft and is the only player in league history to win MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season. She added her first Defensive Player of the Year award this past and said she would place it above the other honors since it was a long time coming.
The 6-foot-4 forward was also named MVP in 2013. She helped lead the Sparks to the 2016 championship, earning Finals MVP honors, but has been unable to win another.
The Sparks fell out of the playoffs in the first round during a single-elimination game against the Connecticut Sun. The Sun swept the Sparks in the 2019 semifinals as well.
What it means for the Sky
The Sky are on the cusp of a title run. They were brilliant in the first half of the 2020 bubble season, but lost six of the final eight to finish 12-10. It was still good enough to lead the Eastern Conference.
Parker will join guards Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley. Vandersloot finished fourth in MVP voting and set the WNBA record for assists in a game with 18 against the Indiana Fever. Her vision is unmatched. She was also the first player to average 10.0 assists per game in league history. It broke her previous record of 9.1 per game set in 2019.
Adding Parker’s offense and defense could put the Sky over the hill. Chicago’s only trip to the WNBA Finals was in 2014 when Elena Delle Donne was with the team.
Sparks, Ogwumike agree to deal
The Sparks were able to keep another former MVP, six-time all-star Nneka Ogwumike. The sides came to an agreement on a multi-year deal, per Rachel Galligan of Winsidr. Ogwumike is also the president of the WNBA Players Association.
Sources: WNBA star Nneka Ogwumike has agreed in principal to a multi-year deal to return to the L.A. Sparks. Ogwumike, one of the top free agents this offseason, made her decision after taking meetings with at least two other teams. @Winsidr
— Rachel Galligan (@RachGall) January 27, 2021
The Sparks gave Ogwumike the core player designation. It prevented her from becoming an unrestricted free agent while giving her a supermax offer for one year. She reportedly did not take that one-year offer and instead negotiated a longer deal.
Ogwumike, Parker and Chelsea Gray were all in line for a supermax contract, which rose under the second year of the collective bargaining agreement signed ahead of the 2020 season.
More from Yahoo Sports: