LOS ANGELES - For the second time in three seasons, a former Tennessee standout has been named the WNBA's Most Valuable Player. Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks was recognized at the Staples Center Thursday night by the league as 2013 MVP prior to her team's opening game of the Western Conference playoffs vs. the Phoenix Mercury.
The WNBA MVP award is the third won by a former Lady Vol, with Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever capturing it in 2011 and Parker claiming the honor previously in 2008. Parker also was named MVP of the WNBA All-Star Game earlier this season.
The 6-foot-4 forward/center is averaging 17.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists per contest this season, as L.A. finished second in the Western Conference with a 24-10 record.
She ranked fourth in the league in blocks (1.84 bpg), sixth in scoring (17.9 ppg), seventh in rebounding (8.7 rpg) and double-doubles (eight), and 12th in assists (career-high 3.8 apg). She paced the Sparks in scoring, rebounding and blocks, while ranking second on the team in assists and steals (1.29 spg). Parker scored at least 20 points 13 times, including a season-best 30 points in a 94-78 win over Tulsa on July 11.
Parker is the fifth player in league history to win multiple MVP trophies. The others are Lauren Jackson, Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes and Cynthia Cooper. In honor of being named the WNBA Most Valuable Player, Parker will receive $15,000 and a specially-designed trophy.
Parker got the nod over Maya Moore of Minnesota and Elena Delle Donne of Chicago to win one of the closest ballots in league history. Parker received 234 points, Moore had 218 and Delle Donne 189. It's the narrowest margin among the top two vote-getters since Sheryl Swoopes edged Lauren Jackson by two points in 2005.
Parker and Moore each received 10 first place votes from the 39-member national media panel.
At Tennessee from 2004-08, Parker led the Lady Vols to NCAA National Championships in 2007 and 2008 and to an overall record of 101-10 during her time in Knoxville. Named national player of the year by a slew of organizations in 2007 and 2008, Parker was the No. 1 pick of the WNBA's Sparks in 2008 and has gone on to claim Olympic gold medals with the USA squad in 2008 and 2012.
A graduate of Naperville (Ill.) Central High School, Parker will have her jersey raised to the rafters of Thompson-Boling Arena prior to Tennessee's game vs. LSU on Jan. 2, 2014. She will become the sixth Lady Vol and seventh woman overall to be honored in that fashion, joining players Holly Warlick, Bridgette Gordon, Daedra Charles, Chamique Holdsclaw and Tamika Catchings as well as legendary UT coach Pat Summitt.