Candace Parker Talks Jr. NBA World Championships


By Dorothy J Gentry

The Jr. NBA World Championships will showcase the skills and talents of both boys and girls when it begins next week and that was of paramount importance to WNBA star Candace Parker.

It’s huge from an athletic point of view for it to be about both boys and girls,” said Parker who serves as a Jr. NBA Global Ambassador. “That was the first thing when I became ambassador; (I wanted to know) what is the coverage like? Is it all girls on one site, all boys on another?

“I like that it’s all inclusive. It’s huge for us to take this step forward; for the kids as well. There is not a difference you can see. This is huge.”

The Jr. NBA World Championship is a first-of-its kind global youth basketball tournament for the top 13- and 14-year-old boys and girls teams from around the world, representing 35 countries. The competition, which features 32 teams, will take place Aug. 7-12 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando.

Parker is unable to attend the event due to her WNBA schedule but joining the participants will be 3-time NBA Champion and Jr. NBA World Championship Global Ambassador Dwyane Wade, 2018 NBA All-Star Andre Drummond, eight-time NBA All-Star Vince Carter, Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez, 2018 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Grant Hill and WNBA Legends Tamika Catchings, Swin Cash and Jennifer Azzi.

FOX Sports will air 16 games throughout the week, totaling 20 hours of programming across FS1 and FOX.

Parker, speaking on a conference call to media to promote the Championships, discussed the importance of the exposure and life skills the participants will receive and more.

The exposure the boys and girls teams are experiencing is something they should enjoy, Parker said as she recalled playing in France at age 14.

“The experience opened my eyes to another culture. It’s a fantastic idea to bring all these kids over here. A lot of them, it will be their first trip and they will meet people and have relationships that reach far beyond basketball. I hope their exposure to WNBA and the NBA will be great opportunity for everyone.”

When asked what advice she would give the boys and girls participating in Jr. NBA she said would advise them to “take it all in. These are moments you will remember for the rest of your life. You will remember sitting at lunch across from someone from another country and talking to them. Take it in and have a good time.”

During the weeklong event the teams will participate in off-the-court activities including life skills sessions designed to develop the total athlete. The team members will also will give back to the community by collectively building a new playground for community youth at a local park.  

Parker believes these and other off-the-court activities are just as important as on-the-court. “It’s really important because you are building a foundation; they are building a playground, working on themselves, taking different classes about what it takes to be an athlete and compete on a high level.It’s huge to build those foundations and habits early. You’ll be a person far longer than a player.”

In this age of the #MeToo Movement, open discussions on social media about women playing sports and all eyes on the WNBA as of late, Parker believes that the  young girls , in particular, need not just words but actions.

“They need to feel the support. I think the biggest thing or comment that resonated with me during all of this is we are not asking men  to back away from the table but scoot over a little bit,” she said. “I see dads coming to the games with their daughters … and my daughter, I hope, never has to hear ‘you play like a  girl or cry like a girl.’ It’s not acceptable. What you say, how you act is important and the next generation may not know a difference.

“I think care is the  biggest thing. The backbone of NBA Cares, even LeBron (James’) name of his school – I Promise - is showing these kids you do (care). Usually the biggest thing is you have to show them that. Put in the time and energy.  And a lot of that starts at an early age and this is the first step.”