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Sky flex their depth in 2021 WNBA All-Star voting process

The Sky had the most players in the league among the top 36 vote-getters with seven — an indication they are one of the deepest teams in the WNBA.

Kahleah Cooper of the Chicago Sky drives to the basket against the Dallas Wings on June 30, 2021 at College Park Center in Arlington, TX.
NBAE/Getty Images

Candace Parker isn’t new to the hoopla that surrounds the WNBA All-Star Game. She knows how it all goes: The commissioner might contact you before your coach does. After you’re chosen, your teammates clap when you walk into the gym or onto the bus. Social media buzzes about the biggest snubs.

For Parker, who was named an All-Star for the sixth time Wednesday, the most valuable part of the experience is always the memories, specifically with her daughter, Lailaa, now 12.

“I’m excited to share this with my family — my daughter,” Parker said of the honor after the Sky’s 91-81 win over the Wings on Wednesday. “The first All-Star Game she went to, she was sitting on the bench with me.”

That was in 2013, when Parker dropped 23 points in her first All-Star Game, breaking Swin Cash’s previous scoring record of 22 and being named the game’s MVP.

Parker’s appearance this year will be even more special because she’s sharing it with two Sky teammates who also were selected: Courtney Vandersloot, now a three-time All-Star, and first-timer Kahleah Copper. The Sky had seven players among the top 36 vote-getters — the most in the WNBA. Allie Quigley, Diamond DeShields, Ruthy Hebard and Stefanie Dolson were the others. The Sky and Sun are tied for most All-Stars with three each.

Parker said she’s pleased people are finally seeing the value of Copper, who leads the Sky in scoring with 14.1 points per game. During free agency ahead of the 2020 season, Copper and Sky coach and general manager James Wade sat down for breakfast to discuss her future and how Wade and the Sky could help her. They agreed on her goals: evolving from a role player to a starter and leader — and making the All-Star team.

“A lot of people probably thought we were being farfetched, but here we are,” Wade said.

Dolson, who was named to Team USA’s 3x3 women’s basketball roster, will already be in Las Vegas preparing for the Olympics in Tokyo this month. She said the entire Sky team is planning to attend the All-Star Game, as it did in 2019 when Vandersloot, DeShields and Quigley were selected.

Dolson, too, shares deep pride in Copper’s accomplishment. The pair arrived in Chicago together in 2017 in a trade that sent Elena Delle Donne to Washington. Dolson said Copper earned the nod because she committed to improving all weak areas of her game.

“Both teams we’ve been on, she’s been that spark,” Dolson said.

Vandersloot’s league-leading assist average of 8.7, plus her 11.6 points and 2.1 steals per game, made her an obvious selection, along with her ability to dictate opponents’ defense. She’s the WNBA’s No. 4 all-time assists leader with 2,062 and on Wednesday tied Ticha Penicheiro for most career games with 10 or more assists (64).

The Sky have one of the most complete teams in the league this year, with seven players scoring in double figures against the Wings on Wednesday. On nights like that, all opponents can do is pick their poison.

“When we’re playing at our best, it’s hard to beat us,” Dolson said.

NOTE: James Wade was named WNBA coach of the month for June, having led the Sky to an 8-4 record that included a franchise-best seven-game win streak. The Sky also led the WNBA in points scored, field goals made, assists and steals.