Keeping Score: Does Candace Parker deserve the hype?

The line between being a sports fan and being in love with a team or player is so thin that it barely exists most days — which is why I never know how good former Tennessee Lady Vols basketball players are, really. I’ve obsessively followed the Lady Vols since I was a wee lass, I’ve played on the floor of Thompson-Boling arena, I’ve ridden shotgun in Pat Summitt‘s SUV, twice.

So, I guess what I need is some perspective about Candace Parker.

Take a look at the last six months of Parker’s life, won’t you? She won an NCAA championship at Tennessee, along with the Naismith Trophy and the AP Player of the Year Award. She won two ESPYs. She went first in the WNBA draft. She won WNBA Rookie of the Year unanimously, and she won WNBA MVP. Oh, and she also helped bring home a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics.

Her jersey was the most popular in the NBA store all year, and once her jersey was available, sales rose 50 percent over last season.

Parker led all rookies this season in scoring (18.5 points per game), rebounding (9.5 rpg), blocks (2.3 bpg) and minutes (33.6 mpg).

Of course, it hasn’t been all smiles and medals: Parker was the instigator of a bench-clearing brawl in July when the Sparks played the Shock. She actually threw a punch at Plenette Pierson, and was suspended for the next game.

Many people say that Parker is the best woman to ever grace the court. Others say she is an overrated bully who should have been tossed for the season after her fight with Pierson. I am not fit to pass judgment on this one; my devotion to Pat Summitt clouds my ability to think reasonably. (See? Same as being in love!)

So, give it to me straight: Does Candace Parker deserve the hype? Why or why not?

Actually, on second thought, don’t give it to me straight. Never straight. Give it to me gay, with all your forceful opinions and unnecessary competitiveness. Lesbians really do make the very best sports fans.

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