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In a league of her own: Meet B.C.’s WNBA grandma

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At 6 a.m. outside Kelowna, B.C.’s Parkinson Recreation Centre, a handful of seniors shuffle inside, most heading for a swimming class.


But not 84-year-old Shirley Simson. With her grandsons Parker and Hunter by her side, her destination is the basketball court — and a transformation.


“Sort of like Superman getting out of the telephone booth,” says Parker.


The two boys, in their 20’s, run a basketball accessory company called “Court Candy”, and granny is outfitted in their gear.


“What she’s dressed in is getting people’s attention. When you see grandma looking ‘drippy’,” notes Parker.


She’s proud to be pushing the boundaries of what people think a senior, recently coming off a knee replacement, can accomplish.


“At first I couldn’t even bounce the ball,” Simson says, after not playing the game for decades. Now she spends up to 90 minutes multiple times per week running through drills.


The TikTok and Instagram series dubbed “Grandma to WNBA”, created by Parker and Hunter on their “COURT CANDY” social media pages, has generated millions of views and international media coverage. Rocky-style training montages and Granny delivering trash talk sprinkled with Gen Z lingo has proven irresistible.


“I just can’t believe how this has taken off,” says the octogenarian, who notes in one video she can “heat up like a Hibachi.”


Simson believes part of the appeal is watching a senior willing to step outside her comfort zone.


“A lot of people grow old before their time. So to have somebody at 84… I think it’s seeing somebody go for it and try to do something that is not in their realm,” she says.


They’ve also gotten the attention of the WNBA. The dream scenario for Simson would be an invitation to sit courtside during a game.


“And to shake their hands and say congrats girls you’re doing a fantastic job and I’m so proud of you. They’ve come a long way,” she told CTV News emotionally.


Simson is also a big Raptors fan.


In the end, however, this story has less to do with basketball and more to do with one family’s bond.


“I had been looking after my husband a lot, and I was getting out of shape. He wasn’t doing much moving.”


Shirley’s husband David died last fall. That’s when one of her grandsons moved into her basement to keep her company, and when Parker says the boys got busy lifting granny’s spirits.


“Getting her back in the gym, back in the weight room, getting her training,” he said.


“They just treat me like gold. They’re so positive with me,” Simson said of her grandsons.


Thatis why the 84-year-old, who lives with pain and has suffered loss, also spends so much time smiling.


“Family and being with kids and doing things with kids, that’s important,” she says sentimentally inside her Kelowna home. “That to me is what makes life, is family.”

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