'Amazing role models': Fans from the suburbs praise Sky for their WNBA title and more
Antioch residents Mary Jordan and her husband, Alan Hakey, weren't sure they would make the Chicago Sky's WNBA championship celebration Tuesday, wondering whether they'd feel side effects from COVID-19 booster shots in the morning.
Then the avid basketball fans decided taking the chance would be worth it.
"We've been following the Sky for years, and we've gone to the games," Jordan said while waiting for the team to makes its way down Michigan Avenue. "They deserve it. They worked hard all season."
The Sky beat the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday's Game 4 at Wintrust Arena, giving Chicago its first major championship since the Cubs won the World Series in 2016.
The celebration included the parade and a rally at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, during which Gov. J.B. Pritzker proclaimed the city "Sky-town" in honor of the team's first championship title.
Pritzker gave a special shoutout to two local players, forward Candace Parker of Naperville and guard Allie Quigley of Joliet.
"This entire incredible team, you make our city and our state so proud. Young athletes across the nation will look up to you and see themselves in you. Not just because of your raw talent," Pritzker said, "but because of your integrity on and off the court."
The Sky's commitment to social justice is part of why Samantha Quintero of Whiting, Indiana, loves the team so much.
"The WNBA has grown a lot, especially in the last couple of years,'" she said after cheering loudly for the Sky as they passed by on double-decker buses on Michigan Avenue. "And the Sky, they bring a lot of things off the court."
The rally included an appearance by Chicago native Chance the Rapper, who thanked the Sky "for making us winners again," and team principal owner Michael Alter, who said the players won "the right way" by making a difference in their community.
The team indeed sets a great example, Cailie Ryan of Evanston said.
She and her husband Jeff, along with their three children, Luke, 5, Jake, 3, and Quinn, 1, watched the rally with Luke's best friend Jet, 5, who is the son of Sky head coach James Wade.
"It seems like the Sky are like family and that they really care about each other," Ryan said. "They are amazing role models, especially for our boys. They care about each other and demonstrate amazing sportsmanship."
Signing Parker in February to a two-year deal was crucial to the team's success, coach Wade said.
"We said, 'Hey, what is it going to take for you to come home? Do I have to order you some Portillo's every day?'" he recalled. 'I was like, 'Look, I'll be your chauffeur, I'll do anything you need me to do.'"
Parker said she grew up watching Chicago Bulls championship rallies and parades on TV, dreaming of starring in one herself.
"Those Midwestern values are that grit, that grime, that blue collar," Parker said, "and I think the team demonstrated that this year."
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said that when she played basketball in high school and college, there were no athletic scholarships for women and no professional female sports teams.
"I'm seeing in my lifetime that tremendous advancement and opportunities for young women," she said. "And I am so proud of our team and so proud of the example they set for other young women."
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot praised the players for persevering and fighting hard for their title win.
"Those of you who have more recently jumped on the bandwagon," she also said to newer Sky fans, "that's all right. It's big enough. We've got you. Just make sure you sign up for season tickets next season."