By BETH HARRIS, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker won the WNBA MVP on Thursday, making her the fifth player in league history to receive the award twice.
Parker accepted the trophy from league president Laurel Richie before the Sparks took on the Phoenix Mercury in the opener of their Western Conference playoff series. She also earned $15,000.
"I was shocked. I was so focused and into playoff mode," Parker said about learning the news in a phone call from Richie. "I'm really humbled and wasn't expecting this because of the great competition."
Parker edged out Minnesota's Maya Moore and Chicago's Elena Delle Donne in one of the closest ballots in league history. Parker finished with 234 points, Moore had 218 and Delle Donne 189. It's the closest the top two players have been in the voting since Sheryl Swoopes edged Lauren Jackson by two points in 2005.
Parker and Moore each received 10 first-place votes from the 39-member national media panel.
"Candace is one of our most versatile players," Richie said. "She is a fierce, fierce competitor."
The 27-year-old forward averaged 17.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists in helping the Sparks (24-10) finish second in the West.
It's the second MVP award for Parker, who won it her rookie year in 2008. Parker also won the All-Star game MVP this past July. She was runner-up to Tina Charles last season for the award.
"I feel like I have a lot more wrinkles and a lot more experience," Parker said.
She recalled thinking five years ago that MVP honors and championships would come easy.
"It's not easy," she said. "Obstacles are thrown your way. It's how you handle it."
Parker, who is still looking for her first WNBA championship, joined Jackson, Swoopes, Lisa Leslie and Cynthia Cooper as players with multiple MVP awards.
"Individual awards can be disputed," Parker said. "You're not in elite company until you will your team to victory."
AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg in New York contributed to this report.