Honoring a Legend: Minnesota Lynx Celebrate All-Time Great Sylvia Fowles

During this past offseason, Sylvia Fowles contemplated whether she wanted to return for one final year or hang up her shoes after already putting together a legendary career.

Ultimately, Fowles decided she would return for one final season. One of the biggest reasons for that was to try and help the Minnesota Lynx make a run at a fifth WNBA title in franchise history. Perhaps an even bigger reason, though, was to allow Lynx and WNBA fans to honor an all-time great one final time.

“A lot of it had to do with the fans and getting their appreciation of what I bring to this team,” Fowles said earlier this season on why she returned. “It was a no-brainer to choose to come back this year and finish out [my career].”

WNBA teams and their fan bases honored and celebrated Fowles throughout the 2022 season as she took the court nationwide for her final ride. On Aug. 12, when the Lynx took on the Seattle Storm at Target Center for Minnesota’s final regular season home game, it was Lynx fans’ turn to do the same. All of the celebrations, ceremonies, and gifts given to Fowles were well deserved and a wonderful way to honor the legend.

 

“I never thought I’d be here in this moment with the impact I’ve made across this league. … This was never a goal of mine,” Fowles said when addressing the audience on Aug. 12. “Thank you guys for embracing me with open arms. By no means has this been easy. Just know that I love and appreciate you. Minnesota, this will forever be home.”

 

Great on the Court

Anyone who has followed the WNBA or women’s basketball in general knows the greatness that Fowles has displayed over her 15 seasons in the league. Fowles made herself known in college at LSU and then in the WNBA with the Chicago Sky for her first seven seasons. She was later traded to Minnesota in 2015, where she spent eight seasons.

As a member of the Lynx, Fowles has built onto her legendary career, helping the organization to two of its four WNBA titles while continuing to climb up several all-time and franchise leaderboards to go along with numerous personal accolades. Just a few of her accomplishments include being a four-time Olympic gold medalist, two-time WNBA champion, four-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, 2017 WNBA MVP, two-time Finals MVP, eight-time All-Star, and the WNBA’s all-time leading rebounder. 

“When she joined the team [in 2015], we became a dynasty,” former Lynx guard and University of Minnesota women’s basketball coach Lindsay Whalen said. “Without her, we don’t win in 2015 for sure. … We don’t make it back to the Finals in 2016, and we certainly don’t win in 2017. Thank you, Syl, for coming to us at a really special time in all of our lives.” 

We have been able to witness the dominance of Fowles for 15 seasons in the WNBA, and she will go down as one of the greatest centers and overall players to ever lace them up in league history. But her impact and excellence go beyond her play.  

“She’s a future Hall of Famer, Naismith Hall of Famer,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said following the final regular season home game on Aug. 12. “Syl wanted to be on top; that was an immense motivation for Syl. … She has touched so many of our lives. Her sacrifices mean so much to us. Syl, you gave us everything you have, and you should be so proud of that.”

 

Even Greater off the Court

If you ask any of Fowles’ Lynx teammates to describe her, they use descriptors such as “dedicated,” “loving,” “passionate,” “caring,” and “strong.”  Those words illustrate who Fowles is not only on the court but also off it. 

 

As legendary as Fowles has become while playing the sport that made her a household name, it’s equally as impressive that she is considered to be even better off the court and in the community. 

“You know and I know that Syl deserves all of this appreciation,” said Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, who declared Aug. 12 Sylvia Fowles Day in the state of Minnesota. “The example you have set for all of us on the court as an athlete—but [also]off the court as a citizen, as an activist—is powerful. I am grateful and so is the state of Minnesota.”

 

Anyone who has been around Fowles knows the type of person she is. Fowles approaches everyone she meets with kindness and respect. Fowles treats everyone like family, and her teammates and other players in the league have described her as a mother figure, leading to one of her many nicknames: “Mama Syl.”

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“If I could describe Sylvia in one word, I would say loving. She is someone who is so loving and so caring,” A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces said in a video displayed during Fowles’ post-game ceremony on Aug. 12. “She took me under her wing, and I wasn’t even her teammate. She has given so much to this game, and she has done so much for me that I can’t even put into words.”

 

Fowles is very involved in the Twin Cities community and plans to remain engaged even after her playing career is over. The latest example of her involvement occurred during her final season, partnering with numerous local nonprofits and organizations in the area to give back to a community she calls home.

Whether it be in the community, with teammates, or with opponents, Fowles makes those around her feel cared about with her warmth and support. 

“After we would compete, she would come up to me and give me one of those Syl hugs. If you’ve ever been hugged by Syl, you know exactly what I’m talking about with the Syl hug. It’s an embrace; it’s tight,” former Lynx great and current assistant coach Rebekkah Brunson said. “Then I was excited about the opportunity to find out what was behind the Syl hugs and who she was. Not for a moment was I disappointed. She was exactly what that hug said—I care about you; I support you; I want to see you succeed; I’m there for you no matter what it is. She’s been that hug for this community too. Thank you for that.

“Basketball is wonderful, but the person that you are, the person that you are consistently, is what makes you an amazing, amazing person.”

Fowles is a player and a person who doesn’t like attention. She doesn’t like when the spotlight is solely on her like it has been since May, making this final season somewhat of an awkward one for the Lynx legend. 

But teams throughout the WNBA, including her own team in Minnesota, wanted to celebrate Fowles for her contributions both on and off the court. And Fowles deserves her flowers. She is one of the all-time greatest players and overall human beings the game of basketball has ever seen.

“I would play with Syl for the rest of my career. I wish you would play 10 more years. I would stay here for you,” Napheesa Collier said following Fowles’ final regular season home game. “You deserve this retirement; it is well deserved. You are truly one of one. You are a living legend. The way you represent yourself, this community, this team, your country is with dignity, grace, and class. 

“You are truly one of one, and I love you. Thank you so much, Syl.”

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