Veteran center is now a four-time gold medalist
Our ambitious 25-part series of articles reflects on the WNBA’s 25 years through the eyes of those who played a part, large or small, in its beginning and sustained growth throughout its quarter-century existence as a major league.
This week: One of the WNBA’s greatest centers ever
Sylvia Fowles, along with the rest of the WNBA is back in action after a month or so off due to the Tokyo Olympics, where she and her USA teammates competed and won gold last weekend. It was her fourth gold medal.
“Just to see yourself go through that switch of being the youngest, and turn into a veteran, and having the younger players under you come in and having to talk more, and all those good things—I can say it definitely has been a whirlwind,” said the 35-year-old.
Before the break, the 6’6,” 14-year veteran Minnesota Lynx center was playing at an MVP level. The Lynx hosts New York on Sunday.
Arguably, Fowles is one of the greatest centers in WNBA history. “Leaving my mark, I think is very important,” she said just before the season started in an MSR one-on-one interview.
“I put a lot of time into my craft. I just want to leave my mark, and I think I am on the right path in doing so. I still can’t seem to grasp inside the things that I’ve done.
“I just go out there and try to do it every night, and those things happen to fall in my favor,” she continued humbly. “If I can continue to play as long as I can, I think I can set a forward mark for someone else.”
Sweet Syl’s impressive accomplishments to date are certainly HOF worthy:
Two-time WNBA champion and Finals MVP (2015, 2017); 2017 league MVP; three-time Defensive Player of the Year (2011, 2013, 2016); three-time All WNBA first team and three-time second-team; seven-time all-Defensive; WNBA career leader in FG percentage and rebounds; four-time Olympic gold medalist; four Final Four appearances at LSU.
Fowles originally wanted to follow her mother’s footsteps and run track, but the Miami native turned to hoops after her brothers introduced her to the sport and started playing competitively in eighth grade.
But perhaps Fowles’ most notable accomplishment rarely talked about is when she forced a trade from Chicago, who drafted her second overall in 2008 to Minnesota, where she became the team’s first true Black center during the Lynx’s dynasty run since Taj McWilliams-Franklin.
After she helped the Sky reach the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history in 2014, that offseason she asked to be traded and would sit out the entire 2015 season if Chicago didn’t meet her request.
“Probably one of the hardest decisions to make in my life,” remembered Fowles.
Minnesota was tops on her list of teams she wanted to be traded to.
“Yes, because we had so many false hopes or false starts. I get a call from my agent that the trade would go through . . . After the third time, I was like this isn’t going to happen,” said Fowles of the experience. “People are being stubborn; nobody wanted to listen to what I had to say or what I feel. They just felt I was supposed to be there, and I have a right to say no.
“I didn’t think it would go through,” she continued. “But I also knew I wasn’t going to go back to Chicago. I was going to stand my ground … So, if I had to sit out, I would have to sit out. It would have been hard but sometimes you just have to do what you believe in, and that’s something that I really believed in.”
Fowles sat out the first half of the 2015 season before she was part of a three-team trade that brought her to Minnesota on July 27, 2015.
Looking back, “Of course, no regrets,” she concluded with a smile.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.