Candace Parker still remembers her first time playing on the basketball court at Spring-Field Park in Naperville.
She was only 5, wearing her hair in braids and wanting to play with her big brothers, Anthony and Marcus.
"This park has meant so much to our family," Parker said. "We spent countless hours here at this park playing, spending time together, playing the game of basketball we all shared and we all loved."
On Thursday, Naperville Park District renamed the site the Candace Parker Basketball Court in honor of the hometown girl turned WNBA star.
Several hundred fans turned out to greet Parker, a forward for the Los Angeles Sparks, whose resume includes WNBA MVP and Rookie of the Year awards, an Olympic gold medal, two NCAA titles with the University of Tennessee and two state championships with Naperville Central High School.
Parker arrived at Spring-Field Park pushing 2-month-old daughter Lailaa in a stroller with husband Shelden Williams, a 6-foot-9-inch 250-pound NBA player carrying the baby's diaper bag and other essentials.
"Welcome home Candace! We love you," cheered a small group gathered near the trolley the basketball star had been riding in.
"I love you too," Parker said. "It's great to be home."
Arriving at the court, Parker and Williams stopped first at the in-ground plaque that welcomes visitors to the court. Both paused to take photos of the plaque with their digital cameras.
"That is so awesome," Parker said to Williams. "I love it."
During a dedication ceremony in her honor, Mayor George Pradel praised Parker for her focus on teamwork instead of herself during her days as a Naperville Central Redhawk.
The vertically challenged mayor said he considered getting the 6-foot-4-inch Parker a medal, but feared he wouldn't be able to reach high enough to put it around her neck. Instead, he opted for a key to the city.
"She's already got the key to our hearts but I want to give her the key to the city because we want her to come back," he said.
Parker said she has teased her husband about returning to Naperville to raise Lailaa.
And the town is ready if she ever does want to return.
Family friend and former park commissioner Charlie Brown gave her a baby outfit Thursday with Naperville Central's logo on the front and Lailaa and 32 on the back.
"Candace Parker is a better young woman than she is a basketball player and that means a lot to me," Brown said.
Central girls basketball assistant coach Al Harris gave Parker a Redhawks practice jersey for Lailaa and a baby outfit that read "Future #1 Draft Pick."
Harris himself was decked out in red pants, a white shirt and two red ties with the names of the players on the two state championship teams. He said he would love for Parker to move back to Naperville one day so Lailaa can play on the court named after her mother.
Brown and Harris weren't the only ones doing a little recruiting. Harris read a note from University of Tennessee Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt who expressed her pride and congratulations to her former player.
"You're a difference maker, an impact player, our go-to player and a true winner. You're most deserving of this special recognition," Summitt's letter read. "We miss you and love you and please don't forget that we have a scholarship ready and waiting for Lailaa."
Parker said no matter where she travels she runs into people from Naperville and appreciates their support.
"I definitely feel the love from Naperville and they can't even begin to understand how much love I have for the city and for the people of Naperville here," she said. "It's a very special day."
She also thanked her family and several of her former Central teammates who were in the audience Thursday - her co-captains on the 2003-04 Naperville Central championship team Tiffany Hudson and Rachel Crissy along with Lauren Grochowski.
"Sharing those championships, we've stayed close through the years and this is a big deal for our friend and teammate," Hudson said. "It's just really cool to be able to support her and see her get this."
Daily Herald Staff Writer Justin Kmitch contributed to this report.