Five numbers stand out when
discussing new Atlanta Dream forward Cheyenne
represents the number of games she started in her six-year tenure
with the Chicago Sky.
6.4, and 1.3: Her averages in
points, rebounds, and steals last season -- all
77, her current rating in NBA 2K21.
Bring up those first four
numbers, and Parker calmly discusses what they mean in relation to
the goals she has for herself in Atlanta. Bring up 77? The competitive fire ramps up, an
observation made funnier by the fact that she isn’t a
“It’s bull! I know that much,”
Parker told BasketballNews.com in an exclusive interview via Zoom.
“It’s definitely bull, but it’s to be expected because of the rep I
had in Chicago. It’s crazy. This league is political to begin with,
but the rating that I have, that’s the kind of stuff that fuels
Self-motivation is a
prerequisite for any athlete worth their salt. It’s especially
needed for someone who has grown as rapidly -- on and off the floor
-- as Parker has.
The game became hers at 4 years
old, following in the footsteps of her father and brothers. She
dominated in her youth. The only person that could stop her was,
“I actually didn’t play a lot in
high school because I wasn’t really focused,” Parker
said. “I was kind of a
problem child, I kept getting in trouble. I definitely wasn’t your
typical goodie-goodie. I had to go through some growing
Even in a
shorter-than-you’d-think high school career, Parker was a two-year
letterman winner at Southwest Guilford High School. Parker would
attend High Point University for three years, establishing herself
as a double-double machine and prolific shot swatter before
transferring to Middle Tennessee State. More growing pains would
arise, however, as Parker’s senior campaign was cut short due
to violations of the athletics
Parker was drafted fifth overall
by the Chicago Sky in the 2015 WNBA Draft. Her career got off to a
slow start, averaging just 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in a little
over 11 minutes per contest through her first three seasons. Parker
has completely flipped the script since then, establishing herself
as one of the most versatile frontcourt players in the
talked to Parker about her growth, her fit in Atlanta, her
off-court ambitions and more.
Who are some of the players you looked up to or modeled
your game after growing up?
Cheyenne Parker: Candace Parker was actually someone I looked up
to a lot. I really loved her game. I wanted to build my game off of
her game. I loved that she was 6-4 like me, and able to dribble and
shoot. She was the main player I looked up to, even when she was at
Tennessee. I always liked Tina Thompson, too, because of the
lipstick. I like the statement that it made.
What part of Candace’s game do you think is best
reflected in yours?
CP: I think
it’s the offensive versatility, being able to get a bucket wherever
I am on the floor. I think that’s where we’re most similar, being
able to get a bucket no matter where I am. It doesn’t matter if I’m
on the perimeter or if I’m on the block; I can still
Note: Nearly a quarter of
Cheyenne Parker’s offensive possessions ended via post-up last
season, per Synergy Sports. Roughly 19 percent of her possessions
came via spot-ups, where she ranked in the 83rd percentile. The
inside-out dynamic is real.
What made you choose Atlanta in free
CP: It was a
few reasons I chose Atlanta. Just on the business side, there’s a
lot more opportunity there for Black-owned businesses. That really
attracted me because of the things I’m interested in doing, in
terms of building my brand and becoming an influencer, a
philanthropist, just someone who can leave a positive impact on the
I also chose Atlanta on the
basketball side because I really loved the conversation I had with
the coach [Nicki Collen] and the general manager [Chris Sienko]
about what they were looking for. They’re looking for a dominant
post presence, and I think that’s something I can bring. And it’s
an opportunity for me, for the first time in my career, to be that
go-to dominant post presence without it being seen as a
For example, when I got drafted
to Chicago, it was a big stamp like: “Oh, Chicago Sky takes
huge risk on Cheyenne Parker.” I kinda had that over my head in
Chicago over my entire career. It was just always...unexpected that
I even lasted as long as I did with whatever assumptions people had
of me, whether I was going to get kicked off the team or
I’m just excited to have a new
start without that type of headline. Like, it’s not a risk. It’s
more like, “This is a great move.We’re excited to have Cheyenne Parker and we’re
looking forward to what she can bring.” That’s the kind of approach Atlanta
came with, so that’s what I’m most excited about on the basketball
side. Being able to fully spread my wings.
I’m interested to see what that dynamic in Atlanta is
going to be. They have so much perimeter talent like Chennedy
Carter, Tiffany Hayes, and Courtney Williams. What was the
discussion like with the front office -- how do they plan to
balance giving you the touches you deserve and letting their guards
dictate the action?
CP: The way it
was explained to me, Coach Collen is excited to even have the
option to pass the ball to the block. She said that wasn’t
something they really did in the past. This will definitely be new
for everybody, including the guards. It’s going to be something new
for them to even think to pass the ball inside.
Kinda like in Chicago, I had to
demand that respect - it wasn’t given. At all. I had to prove that
if you give me the ball, I’m going to score. Once I showed them I
could, it became second nature. My teammates saw that I could
establish position, they saw the numbers I put up and they had to
give me the ball.
So here, I think Coach will
emphasize, “Hey, you missed CP. She was wide open. You gotta give
her that one because that’s a layup.” I think those are wrinkles
that will come out once we start practicing together and working on
our plays. There will probably be times where Coach will pause
things and say, “Hey, you missed CP on that post-up.” And that’s
normal when you’ve never had to look inside.
We’ll definitely have wrinkles
to iron out, but after a while we’ll get adjusted. We have such a
great perimeter-based team and athletic team that once the ball
goes inside, they’ll definitely get it back. Defenses have to be
honest, but you can’t be too honest when you have a great post
player to defend. That’ll help create openings for our guards to
shoot or drive into.
Going off the floor, you said the business opportunities
in Atlanta were a major selling point for you. What are some of the
things you’re working on or plan to work on?
have my online
business where I sell
motivational quote gear, I sell my exclusive calendars, and I’m
getting ready to launch health supplements consisting of elderberry
capsules, soursop capsules, sea moss and bladderwrack and a few
As far as an actual business
opening, I definitely plan on partnering and opening a hookah
lounge in Atlanta sometime soon. It’s not something that I’m going
to rush into, but it’s definitely something I’ve been working on. I
was going to do it here [in Chicago], but it’ll be better in
Atlanta because of the rules. It’s going to be an easier process
and it’s going to be a better process with more capital.
You mentioned earlier that Candace Parker was someone
you looked up to and based some of your game off of. Have you had
younger players tell you that you’re someone they looked up, or
took bits of your game and put it into yours?
CP: In the
league? No, not like that. I’ve had players give me props -- even
Candace, funny enough, for the first time last year. She was just
like, “I love your game and how you get better every year.” When
she said that, I was tripping out. Like I said, I’ve looked up to
her my entire basketball career. So when she said that, I was like,
“Candace you don’t know what that means to me right now.” But it
was also motivating to me. The person I looked up to my entire
basketball career just gave me props? I gotta go hard now. I gotta
keep getting better.
I did have my rookies. Ruthy Hebard, I took Alaina
Coates under my wing when she was in Chicago. Even Kalani Brown in
Atlanta. Even though we hadn’t played on the same team yet, I’ve
talked to her about basketball because we played against each other
in China. I’ll have those moments where I’ll give my wisdom, but
that’s it forreal.