As big of a sports town as Chicago is, we’ve never really had the hometown kid lead a team to glory. Dick Butkus was about as close as we got, and that was 60 years ago. Isiah Thomas and Dwyane Wade ended up being rivals of Chicago, even though they’re from here. By the time Wade became a Bull, he was basically here to cash a check and sell some tickets and start Jimmy Butler on the road to becoming the insufferable dickhead he is now. The White Sox haven’t had a Southsider take them to a World Series.
We thought we had one of our own do the trick with Derrick Rose, but his best chance got snuffed out by LeBron James, and then Rose’s knees turned into regurgitated dog food. Then there was that whole rape case. Things went real sour real fast.
We thought we might get it with Chris Chelios as the Hawks’ captain. They kept falling short, and then we had the indignity of watching him go to Detroit for multiple Stanley Cups. We’re used to seeing our best have to leave to find the accolades and rewards you can’t get here, especially in the entertainment world. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get old.
So it was pretty awesome, as a born-and-raised Chicagoan, to see our own Candace Parker, who grew up in nearby Naperville, lead the Sky to the WNBA Finals last night in her first season at home with the Chicago Sky as they beat the Connecticut Sun 79-69 to win the semifinal series, 3-1. Maybe she’s not the best player on the team, as Courtney Vandersloot makes a serious case, but she was definitely the biggest piece.
But Parker’s return home has given the Sky a buzz in this town all season, one they haven’t had in a while, if ever. Once she got healthy, the Sky have been on an upward trajectory. It’s the dream we’ve all had as kids, rising to the top level and getting to play professionally at home and then bringing a championship home. There’s an easy argument that Parker is the best basketball player we’ve ever produced, and she might just be bringing a banner and a parade with her. She’s living it. In all honesty, we haven’t had a lot to smile about around here the past few years, and that goes well beyond sports, but a returning hero leading the hometown team to the last round? We can all get behind that.