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In the ever-changing landscape of the basketball footwear industry, there is not an abundance of athletes that have stuck out the entirety of their careers with one brand. Players in both the NBA and the WNBA often enter their league wearing one brand, and then make at least one switch before their playing career is done. For Candace Parker and Adidas, that is far from the case.

Ever since her high school days playing at Naperville Central, Parker has represented the Three Stripes. And now, in the 13th year of her illustrious WNBA career, she is set to release the ACE Collection. Featured in the collection will be three colorways of her Exhibit ACE PE, a full performance apparel line, and an Ultra Boost that will all launch on Sept. 23 at Dick’s Sporting Goods and other retailers around the nation.

Parker’s playing career began in her hometown city of Chicago for high school, then took her to Tennessee where she played her college ball under the iconic Pat Summit. In 2008 she was drafted number one overall by the Los Angeles Sparks, winning MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season and became a WNBA Champion. It wasn’t until the 2021 season that Parker finally returned home to the city of Chicago, signing as a free agent with the Chicago Sky. Not only did Parker unveil her signature collection in the city that raised her, but Chicago’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot, officially declared September 16 as Candace Parker Day.

Female representation and empowerment are major themes of the collection as it serves as a commitment toward women’s sports, showing aspiring female hoopers that it’s possible to have their own signature collections. Each sneaker comes ripe with personal touches from throughout Parker’s career, including nods to Pat Summit by way of Parker’s tattoo on the shoe’s insole, her childhood nickname “Can Do” on the heel, and more. 

Ahead of the release of the ACE collection, we caught up with Candace Parker in her home city of Chicago. The conversation has been edited for clarity.

Candace Parker Adidas Exhibit ACE PE
Image via Adidas

Can you start with the inspiration behind the whole collection and what it means to see your name on a product that is going to be released at retail?

It means a lot you know, ACE means so much to me just in terms of my journey with Adidas. And I think the collection has really come to life, the stories behind Tennessee you know, Pat [Summit] is honored on here, my daughter’s represented on here, my nickname from, from when I was a kid is on here. I think there are just little pieces of me and my story and my journey that are tied into this that make it so special.

You mentioned taking this journey with Adidas. You have been with them since your days at Tennessee, and even further back to High School. Can you talk about what it means to have been with them the entire way?

It means a lot, it means so much. Loyalty is a big part of it and how I think within this relationship we’ve made each other better. Adidas obviously stuck with me having my daughter, becoming a mom and going overseas and injuries. Never having wavered and they’re supportive, so I’m really happy to be able to create this ACE collection with them.

You mentioned growing with the brand together, but how have you seen Adidas grow over the years? 

First of all, committing to a women’s shoe straight out the gate from college, that’s a huge commitment and something that I was very honored to be a part of now 10 years later. Dick’s Sporting Goods and Adidas coming together for this collection, I think it just speaks about where we are and where women are in sports.

How much more special is it to be able to unveil this collection in the city of Chicago, your hometown?

It means so much, it’s a full-circle moment. I left when I was 18 and I’m coming back at 35. It’s super special to be able to come back and show my daughter where I grew up, the courts I played on, and the gyms that I played in. This is where I grew up and it’s super special. 

So the Mayor of Chicago surprised you by officially declaring today Candace Parker Day, how much of an honor is that? 

It means a lot, honestly, it’s one of those things where it’s like I grew up in the city of Chicago, as just a young girl trying to be like her brothers. I think this is for everyone, it’s for my teammates, my coaches, my friends, my family, those that have supported me from the get-go. This is for them.

The focus of this ACE collection really seems to be empowering women and being a role model for young girls in sports and otherwise. Can you speak about how important that is?

I think visibility is super important and seeing women in leadership positions and representing them. I think this is a step in the right direction. And I think it’s important that we continue to empower women and young girls.

Candace Parker Adidas Exhibit ACE PE
Image via Adidas

Outside of this collection. What other steps have you seen Adidas take to empower other female athletes and female creators?

I think it is a commitment towards women’s sports. It’s a commitment towards a number of things, you know? But I’d like to continue this relationship and continue to grow because that’s important to me. I love ACE, but I want there to be another. I want this to open up two or three or four doors. So I hope that that’s what it does.

How is it going to feel to see fans wearing product with your name on it?

Man, I don’t even know. I remember the first time in LA when I was driving past the beach and somebody had my shoes and my jersey on shooting on the courts and there’s nothing like it. Especially when you see somebody outside of the arena with your stuff on. So I think that that’ll definitely be amazing. I might stop and ask them for a picture.

You’ve obviously been with Adidas the whole way, so what are some of your favorite sneakers that you have made memories in throughout your career?

The Pro Models are probably my go-to. Those were the first ones and then I think the Crazy Lights. Those are super memorable and are connected to specific times in my career. Obviously my signature shoe, the ACE Commander was a big one just in terms of the involvement. Those are probably my biggest sneaker moments.

You’ve been going back and bringing out Kobes a lot lately. Can you speak to the type of impact that he had on your career and how excited you are that Adidas is bringing those sneakers back? 

I just remember afro Kobe with those signature moves in Adidas, that’s what I call him. but it’s special because I think you see when, how much detail and love he put into the game. He’s part of the reason why I wear it and represent Adidas because of how much love he had for the game, how much he inspired another generation. And his kids, I want them to know their dad has left a huge mark that will never be erased.

There’s a good chance that now your sneakers are going to be sold in the same store as the Kobes that are coming back. How much does that mean to you?

It means so much, I think it’s super special. He’s part of the reason why I wore Adidas from the get-go. Because of Kobe and because of his shoes.