Sky forward Cheyenne Parker always has looked up to her mother, Verna Bryant. She is her rock and best friend.
“She’s the one person I know that always has my back no matter what I do in life,” Parker said. “We’re very, very close.”
The feeling is mutual.
When times got tough — and boy, as a single mother did they get difficult — Bryant always had her four children to support her and motivate her to stay strong.
One day, Parker hoped to pay back her mother for all the hardships she endured in order to give her children the best life possible.
Fast-forward to this past March. Parker, who is preparing for her fifth season with the Sky, visited her mother in Asheboro, North Carolina, after she returned from playing overseas.
The two had a lot to catch up on, so Parker told Bryant that they were going to take a drive. Bryant insisted they take a stroll to get their steps in, but she eventually obliged and got into the car.
They drove for roughly seven minutes before Parker pulled off the main road. Behind a quarter-mile long driveway stood a beautiful home with a sold sign in the yard.
“Mom, this is your house,” Parker said.
Bryant couldn’t believe it.
“No, you’re kidding,” Bryant responded. Parker has been known to pull the wool over her mom’s eyes every now and then.
“Yes, I really bought you this house,” Parker said. “And it’s for you.”
Tears streamed down their faces, and they hugged one another. Bryant thanked her daughter and praised God.
“It was a beautiful surprise,” Bryant said. “I can’t find the words to describe the feeling of the blessing, the feeling of happiness that I had in me.”
Two decades ago, Bryant and her four children lived in a three-bedroom apartment in Queens, New York. She escaped a toxic relationship and worked various jobs trying to provide for her family.
Parker doesn’t sugarcoat her childhood.
“As a kid, it was hard,” Parker said. “And as a single mother, our living conditions, we struggled.”
The person Parker is today has a lot to do with what she’s been through. She’s a strong woman because of her mother.
Bryant usually disguised her daily stresses and financial struggles well, but Parker was a smart kid and knew when Bryant had a rough day.
“I could always tell when she had been crying, and sometimes she couldn’t control it,” Parker said. “She would break down and cry, and it would lead to my [siblings] and I crying, and we would all just cry together.”
Bryant didn’t want to shield her children from her troubles. There were times when they would sit in the living room and confide in one another.
“I didn’t want them to think life was a fairy tale, because it’s not,” Bryant said. “I didn’t hide anything from them. I kept it appropriate for their age, but I let them know that it’s OK. And that . . . we’re going to pull through because we’re a strong family [and] unity is power.”
Bryant moved her family to Georgia when Parker was heading into eighth grade.
The adjustment from New York to the south was quite a shock for Parker. She felt like she didn’t fit in.
So, Bryant and Parker would go on movie dates. Watching the movie wasn’t the fun part though, Parker said, but rather it was smuggling food into the theater in her mom’s purse. Parker would bring Twizzlers, while Bryant had chocolate.
“It meant the world to me,” Parker said. “It wasn’t a lot, but it was something.”
Said Bryant: “She just thought that was so much fun so I just kept on doing it. I had more fun than she did, I think. That was my outlet for the stresses of the week.”
Basketball always had been Parker’s escape. She looks back at her time playing AAU ball as some of the most fun moments of her life.
Bryant was the first person to call Parker after the Sky drafted her fifth overall in 2015.
“Mom, this is for you,” Parker told Bryant. “I told you I was going to do this for you, and this is just the beginning.”
Bryant replied: “No, you did this for us. And I thank you so much for showing me what you can really do. There’s so much more to come.”
The two cried tears of joy. It was a moment of ecstasy. Bryant and Parker both struggled to find the right words to describe it.
“It was insane,” Parker said. “It was very, very emotional, so surreal.”
Bryant choked up remembering the day.
“It was one of the greatest blessings because she achieved something that she didn’t think could happen,” Bryant said. “And I kept telling her, it was going to happen. I already visualized it in a vision. I said, ‘You don’t really understand just how talented you really are.’ ”
Bryant always has been and still is Parker’s biggest supporter.
When Parker isn’t playing basketball, she’s modeling or taking business classes.
Parker hustles in hopes to someday have “generational wealth.”
“It’s very important to me because I grew up in poverty, I struggled,” Parker said. “That’s something that I never ever want to have to do or ever have my family have to do, like with my future kids.
“I have a lot of ideas. I would love to own multiple businesses and also kind of have my hands in a little bit of everything as far as partnerships.”
Parker’s determination also has inspired Bryant, who recently got her GED.
Bryant is planning on going back to school to study psychology. She has dreams of being a counselor or life coach.
“I would be doing it for the reward of knowing that you helped somebody come through and to find themselves, and to help them find what they possess and what they can do,” Bryant said.
No matter what comes their way in their busy lives, the two always will have family.
“We’re all close,” Parker said. “Everything we went through made us tougher. We can endure anything that’s thrown at us, and we’re pretty good at finding a way to get through it together.”