Keeping Score: Candace Parker gets sized up


Candace Parker isn’t the first female athlete to grace the cover of ESPN the Magazine, but she’s certainly the first pregnant woman to do so. For a publication that almost exclusively targets 18- to 34-year-old guys, it seems kind of revolutionary — until you open up the magazine and find this lead paragraph:

Candace Parker is beautiful. Breathtaking, really, with flawless skin, endless legs and a C cup she is proud of but never flaunts. She is also the best at what she does, a record-setter, a rule-breaker, a redefiner. She is a woman who plays like a man, one of the boys, if the boys had C cups and flawless skin. She’s nice, too. Sweet, even. Kind to animals and children, she is the sort of woman who worries about others more than about herself, a saint in high-tops.

If we hop over the first adjective — “beautiful” — and skip right past “breathtaking,” “endless legs” and “flawless skin,” where do we land? Ah yes, “C cup.”

I’m guessing Parker offered up the information; it seems unlikely that the writer, Allison Glock, would just evaluate Parker’s chest and come to her own conclusions. And while it seems bizarre that Glock would even ask, it’s even more curious that Parker would answer. She was so nervous that the magazine was going to make fun of her that she was reluctant to let them photograph her pregnant for the cover. She only agreed when the photo editor promised her that she would look “radiant and athletic.”

Once you make it past her cup size, the theme of the article isn’t blind praise of Parker’s athletic ability. Rather, it is a look at Parker as a marketing machine. She’s got the best endorsements in the WNBA with McDonald’s, Adidas and Gatorade. And Donna Orender has made it plain that Parker is going to remain the face of the league. The frank question Glock is asking is: Can Candace Parker save the struggling WNBA?

And that’s why she gets the lead she gets.

She’s arguably the best player ever to grace the court. In 2008 alone, she brought home more hardware than Home Depot sells in a year: Naismith Trophy, AP Player of the Year, John R. Wooden Award, SEC Player of the Year, Kodak All-American, ESPN Female Athlete of the Year, WNBA Rookie of the Year, WNBA MVP. If she was a male athlete, she’d be on the cover of every sports magazine in the world, and I guarantee you no one would be talking size.

Because she’s a woman, however, her ability to make money as an athlete — her ability to shoulder an entire league, in fact — has less to do with the fact that she can dunk, and more to do with her sweetness with puppies, her endless legs, her flawless skin.

And while ESPN the Magazine wants you to know that Parker plays like a man, they don’t want you to forget that she is absolutely a woman. See, because unlike the dudes they usually put on the cover, Candace Parker has breasts — cup size C, which she’s proud of but never flaunts.

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