Closing The Gap

Candace Parker on being NBA 2K's first WNBA cover star: It helps women 'not just in sport' but also 'in the boardroom'

Candace Parker #3 of the Chicago Sky smiles during the game against the Washington Mystics on May 15, 2021 at Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington, DC.
Ned Dishman | National Basketball Association | Getty Images

When the popular video game NBA 2K releases its new edition on Sept. 10, Chicago Sky superstar Candace Parker will make history as the first WNBA player to grace the cover.

Parker, who was selected as the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, will appear on the cover for the WNBA 25th anniversary special edition of the game.

"It's a step in the right direction," the 35-year-old told Bloomberg. "Being able to see women on the cover, visible in leadership positions, it helps not just in sport but also just in the boardroom, in business or everything."

The former WNBA MVP says she's "humbled to be the first female cover athlete" and she hopes that "there will be many more badass females to follow."

Parker joins a short list of female athletes who have graced the covers of other sports games including gymnast Shawn Johnson who was on a Gymnastics by Wii game in 2010 and former tennis player Jelena Dokic who was on the cover of a tennis game in the early 2000s, according to the Associated Press.

In addition to putting Parker on the cover, Take-Two Interactive, the company that owns NBA 2K, has agreed to work with the WNBA to give the league more exposure as it tries to attract more fans, financial backing and sponsors. Right now, due to a number of factors, including sponsorship and financing, the average yearly cash compensation for WNBA players is roughly $130,000. That's only a fraction of the average $8.32 million salary NBA players made in the 2019-2020 season.

"I think it's a benchmark of women's basketball for sure," Parker told the Associated Press about her NBA 2K opportunity. "I think most importantly it speaks to visibility and how important it is and how important the WNBA is...Now more than ever, fans want to follow the athlete. Through social media, through video games, it's adding and benefiting the WNBA."

On Wednesday's episode of "The Big Podcast with Shaq," Parker shared that being in a video game is a childhood dream of hers and while she's the first WNBA player to make it happen, she surely hopes that she won't be the last.

"I hope that there's many more young women and young girls that look and say 'We can do this,'" she says.

Joined by Parker on the covers of NBA 2K's new releases will be NBA star Luka Doncic, who will be the cover athlete for the game's regular edition, and Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who will be the cover athletes for the NBA's 75th anniversary edition.

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