KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Candace Parker didn't think much about having her jersey retired when she played at Tennessee, saying she was more concerned about putting national championship banners in the Thompson-Boling Arena rafters.
Now she has both.
Parker, who led Tennessee to national titles in 2007 and 2008, had her No. 3 jersey retired Thursday night before the fifth-ranked Lady Vols' game against No. 16 LSU.
"I'll tell you one thing, it feels great to be home," Parker said to thunderous applause after her jersey was unveiled.
Parker, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and the reigning WNBA most valuable player, joined Tennessee coach Holly Warlick, Lady Vols head coach emeritus Pat Summitt for the midcourt ceremony.
After Parker's career highlights played on the overhead scoreboard, the banner was unfurled. Parker, now a forward with the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks, also received a framed version of her No. 3 Tennessee jersey.
When Parker finished speaking, her 4½-year-old daughter, Lailaa, joined her at midcourt. Lailaa then clapped her hands, jumped up and down and raised her arms in triumph as they all posed for photographs.
"I will always bleed orange — always," Parker said.
Before the game, Parker said it was appropriate the ceremony came when the Lady Vols played LSU because it gave her an opportunity to reunite with Lady Tigers coach Nikki Caldwell, who worked as an assistant at Tennessee during Parker's college career.
"It's very fitting," Parker said. "Nikki Caldwell was a huge reason why I came to the University of Tennessee and why I became a Lady Vol. It was an honor to play under that coaching staff."
While speaking to the Big Orange Tip Off Club earlier in the day, Parker called signing with Tennessee "the best decision I ever made in my life." She told the story of how she was in the seventh grade when her father gave her a Tennessee hat. Written inside the hat was the message "I don't coach effort," a slogan attributed to Summitt.