For the last 14 seasons, Sylvia Fowles has taken the floor and established herself as one of the best players in WNBA history.
In 2022, Fowles will return for her 15th season in the league and her eighth year in a Lynx uniform, but this season will be extra special for the future Hall of Famer. As the Lynx and Fowles prepare for the start of the new year on May 6, they also prepare for the all-time great to take the court one final time.
In February, Fowles re-signed with the Lynx, and she also announced that this summer will be her last season before retiring. Throughout the finale, Minnesota and other teams in the league will honor Fowles for all she’s done on and off the court for the game.
“It’s such an honor to want to play for an organization like the Lynx,” Fowles said after re-signing with Minnesota. “It was a no-brainer to choose to come back this year and finish out [my career]. A lot of it had to do with the fans and get their appreciation of what I bring to this team.
“It hasn’t really sunk in that this is going to be my last year, but my preparation has pretty much been the same as it would be any other year. … Last game—I can’t tell you what that’s going to be like. I guess we are all going to have to wait and see.”
The Lynx will not only look to honor Fowles with ceremonies and celebrations but also aim to help her add another WNBA title to her decorated resume, with Fowles at the center of that goal. A year after finishing third in the league standings only to fall in the single-elimination second round of the WNBA Playoffs, Minnesota is going all in for Fowles in an attempt to send her off on top one final time.
“Syl is going to be the first to go out winning her last game,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said. “That’s going to be emotional in many, many ways. Filled with joy and happiness for climbing that mountain top.”
Retooling the Roster
In an attempt to put together a championship contender in 2022, Minnesota did all it could to retool the roster to put the Lynx in a spot to build upon a strong 2021 campaign.
Like other teams in the league, the Lynx will have to deal with a few key players either being absent or joining the team later than hoped this season. Notably, Kayla McBride will once again arrive right at the start of the season due to overseas commitments. Damiris Dantas is still fighting back from a foot injury, and she entered training camp still a few weeks away from getting back to full strength. Lastly, Napheesa Collier will miss most or all of the regular season due to her pregnancy.
Even with those players absent, Reeve and company have gone all in to rebuild the roster with Fowles in mind. The Lynx added five-time All-Star Angel McCoughtry in free agency and re-signed veteran point guard Layshia Clarendon. Minnesota also re-signed some key role players who will contribute often throughout the season.
“Someone asked me what the impact Syl’s signing has had on our [offseason]moves, and it’s everything. Everything that we’re doing is to position ourselves to compete for a championship in Syl’s last season,” Reeve said. “We are going to do everything possible for Syl because that’s what she deserves. Anything within our power and our means we are going to do so that it’s an incredibly special season. We hope it’s one that ends in our fifth championship.”
Along with a retooled roster, Minnesota had a majority of the team in training camp right away, unlike last season. Lynx players and coaches also feel they are more prepared and in shape ahead of the new year compared to this time a year ago, which should allow the team to hit the ground running and avoid repeating the early-season struggles they faced in 2021.
“When you come to camp and you’re surviving a drill rather than thriving in a drill, something’s wrong,” Reeve recently told the Star Tribune, speaking on what the state of the team was like at the beginning of last season. “I do believe [the team’s start]stood in the way of us finishing as a top-two team.”
Urgency To Win One for Fowles
Fowles already has a decorated and Hall of Fame–caliber resume, one that includes four Olympic gold medals, a WNBA MVP award, two WNBA titles, seven All-Star selections, and spots atop many all-time leaderboards in league history.
However, in 2022, a year that will mark many lasts for one of the best centers to ever step foot on the court, the Lynx want to add a few more accolades to that resume.
“Who does not want to win for Sylvia Fowles? … I also want [a championship]. I haven’t won one,” Clarendon said. “Just wanting to do that for your teammates and send them out on a really good note. I think there’s enough experience in the room to understand what it takes to get to that point. I think the hunger is really high.”
That objective to not only claim the fifth title in Lynx history but also send Fowles out on the highest possible note has created an increased sense of urgency this season, but Minnesota feels it is ready to take on this pressure and attain its goal.
“This is probably the first time since 2017,” Reeve said on the team having a sense of urgency to win a title this season. “It really feels like the first time since those teams. We have had some changing of the guard and some different names on the back of jerseys, but the expectations have always remained the same. It feels like this is the first season where everyone involved has an understanding of that. … This group feels like they have more of a tangible idea of what it takes.
“We feel like we have a team that has a shot to contend. We want to make sure we maximize all that, and with this group, it’s palpable.”
What Fowles has brought to Minnesota, both on the court and off, is more than anyone could have hoped for when the Lynx traded for her back in 2015. Fowles has given a lot to the Minnesota community, the fan base, and an organization which has a tradition and a continued expectation of excellence.
And during what will be Fowles’ final season this summer, the community, the fan base, and her team are going all in to do whatever they can to return the favor and give back to an all-time great.
“When you have a player like Syl who is 36, look at her. There’s still so much more [she could give],” Reeve said. “I want to see great players keep on playing. … Syl has more to give, and I just want her to be happy and at peace. … We told her [this offseason]we [would]do our very best, if [she]decided to play, to give [her]the best team possible to send her out the way we want to send her out.
“Syl deserves everything coming her way in this final season,” Reeve continued. “We want Syl to enjoy the heck out of it. … She’ll deserve all of it. She deserves every bit of that.”