Candace Parker, the WNBA's rookie of the year and most valuable player in 2008, will have surgery on her dislocated left shoulder and will be out for the season, dealing a devastating blow to the struggling Sparks.
The surgery will be scheduled "in the next few weeks," a Sparks spokeswoman said Thursday night.
Parker, who is expected to be out for four to six months, had taken herself out of Sunday's game against the Minnesota Lynx, holding her arm and clearly in pain after pulling down a defensive rebound late in the second quarter.
"We can't replace Candace," Sparks co-owner Kathy Goodman told The Times on Thursday night. "Nobody can."
The WNBA feels the same pain. Parker, who was averaging 20.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, has been considered the face of the league. Her jersey has been the No. 1 seller for the last two years and images of her dunking have been part of the WNBA's marketing strategy.
The 24-year-old star out of the University of Tennessee has worn a brace on the shoulder her entire WNBA career, having initially injured it in the regional final of the 2008 NCAA tournament. After leading the Lady Vols over Stanford to give Coach Pat Summitt back-to-back championships, Parker was taken as the No. 1 draft pick by the Sparks and went right to work. She helped get the team to the playoffs that season, working alongside three-time league MVP Lisa Leslie.