‘Sky-Town’ shows up to celebrate the Chicago Sky’s first WNBA title

Two days after the Chicago Sky claimed their first WNBA title with an 80-74 win over the Phoenix Mercury, fans packed the sidewalks along Michigan Avenue to show their support for the team that never gave up and the hometown kids, Candace Parker and Allie Quigley, that made Chicago proud.

This is not Parker’s first WNBA title, but it is the first one that she could share with her hometown. A native of Napersville, Illinois, Parker grew up watching the Chicago Bulls’ championship celebrations on television, imagining what it would be like to win a title in Chicago.

Joliet native and DePaul alum Quigley celebrated her first title in her 13-year career. She was not only able to share that moment with her wife and teammate Courtney Vandersloot, but also with her hometown fans.

Parker and Quigley, along with the rest of the Sky team, experienced just how much they mean to the people of Chicago as fans turned up in masses to celebrate the team at their parade and rally. 

The parade kicked off at Wintrust Arena and made their way down Michigan Avenue in giant coach buses, waving to cheering fans cheering as they rode by.

Candace Breedlove was one of the many Candance Parker fans lined up for the parade of champions. A fan since Parker’s college days at the University of Tennessee, Breedlove was ecstatic when Parker joined the Chicago Sky.

Breedlove not only shares a first name with the basketball star, but she was even dubbed “little Candace Parker” growing up because of her basketball skills.

“I’ve been a Candace Parker fan since I was a preteen,” Breedlove said. “I was just like, man, the fact that she came home and won the ring for Chicago, it was like my 13-year-old self was screaming. It was amazing, I was happy to see that.”

Carol Gunia, a Sky season ticket holder and DePaul alum, was cheering on fellow Blue Demon Allie Quigley at the parade.

“I followed the women’s basketball team [at DePaul] and that’s what got me into women’s basketball in general,” Gunia said.

Gunia has been following Quigley’s career since her start at DePaul, to her time in Europe and eventually her move to the Chicago Sky.
“I felt like she was finally getting the attention she’d always deserved,” Gunia said. “I hope they retire her number some year at DePaul.”

Kiersten Riedford/The DePaulia

The streets of Michigan Avenue may have been packed full of fans waiting for their moment to see the Sky parade past them, but many headed to Pritzker Pavilion early to stake out a spot where they could see the championship team celebrating and giving speeches on the stage. 

While waiting for the rally to begin, fans were able to share what the Sky win meant to them. 

“I’ve been going to games since it was at the Allstate Arena and before the Chicago Sky were as good as they were,” long-time Sky fan Mathews said about the packed playoff games at Wintrust. “So being able to see the progression of the team playing and the fans really coming together, seeing some famous people there, it was really cool because more people are actually interested.”

For Mike Carbery, senior director of Planned & Regional Giving at DePaul University, the connection with Quigley, who graduated from DePaul in 2008, makes the win special, along with the potential a Sky win has for the city and for women’s sports. 

“It’s really a beacon for what the future can look like – the excitement of the city, the fabulous support from the alumni and just all of the city was wonderful to watch,” Carbery said at the rally. “We are so proud and happy for Allie and Courtney and all of the team for their success, and what a great day to be in Chicago.”

The Sky players had not yet arrived from their parade, but the rally kicked off with Gov. J. B. Pritzker proclaiming the city as “Sky-Town” for the day before Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton stepped up to the microphone to address the players and thank them for all that they have done. 

“All across the country and indeed across the globe, you have not only been champions on the court, but you have been incredible leaders off the court and have given us the confidence to go after our goals, reach for our dreams, no matter who or what is standing in our way,” Lt. Gov. Stratton spoke of the team. 

Mayor Lori Lightfoot highlighted the success of Parker, Quigley, Vandersloot and Finals MVP Kahleah Copper, while also emphasizing the impact that the team and the players have on the city.

“As mayor, but really more as a fan, I could not be [prouder] of these women,” Lightfoot said. “Not only for what they’ve done on the court, [but] for what they do off the court.”

While the buzz in the crowd never faded when elected officials gave their speeches, it grew to a roar when the team arrived at the rally and were introduced on the stage, with a guest appearance from Chicago native Chance the Rapper.

Each player walked in with confidence while having fun and dancing to the music, as if a weight was lifted off their backs. And for the franchise and some of the players who had never won a title before, a weight had been lifted off their backs as they were able to come together and win as a team.

“I think this group is very special because we’re really a family here,” Copper said. “Our genuine connection is ridiculous.”

The team built up that strong connection as the season went on until it all came together at the end when it needed to. And now, they’re ready to do it all again next season. 

“Remember the seat you’re sitting in right now,” head coach James Wade said. “Because we’re going to make sure you’re sitting in the same one next year.”