Sylvia Fowles is finishing the first month of her 15th and final WNBA season. When the 6-6 Minnesota Lynx veteran center announced during the offseason that this summer would be her last campaign, the presumptive Hall-of-Famer made it perfectly clear multiple times that she did not want a fuss over her impending retirement.
“I guess it really hasn’t sunk in that this can be my last year,” said Fowles during the team’s media day before the season earlier this month. “I think it’s more so of a challenge for me to see exactly what I can do at this age. Not saying that I’m old, but I do like a challenge.”
Aggressive on the court, Sweet Syl is one of the nicest players off it. This is duly noted by teammates, opponents and coaches as well.
Her resume can’t be overlooked: four-time league defensive player of the year; WNBA’s all-time leading rebounder since last July; two-time Finals MVP; multi-time all-league team member; tops all-time in double-doubles and field goal shooting percentage; WNBA champion and Olympic gold medalist.
But as impressive as this is, Fowles admitted that she could still be better in one overlooked area: “I think that one thing that I lacked was me being vocal. Being vocal was always a challenge for me. So, I’m challenging myself to make sure I speak up as much as possible,” she said.
“Her character, the fact that she cares about everybody, and her talent is second to none,” Chicago Coach-GM James Wade said of Fowles strengths a couple of weeks ago after his Sky defeated the host Lynx. He coached Fowles for a couple of seasons as a Lynx assistant.
“She’s just amazing,” he continued. “I’m always gonna wish her wellness. I’m always going to be in her corner and be a big fan of hers.”
Washington’s Mike Thibault has known Fowles for a long time, either as an opposing coach or from coaching her in USA Basketball competition. “She’s just one of those unbelievably great pros and how she treats people, teammates or coaches, opponents,” said the veteran coach. “She comes with this lunch bucket mentality every day. You don’t get shortchanged… What you see is what you get.”
A classic center who plays with their back to the basket and uses the paint as their personal real estate is rare these days in both women’s and men’s hoops. These days you see 4’s and 5’s wander farther and farther away from the key and play more facing the basket than with their back to it.
Fowles “made her bread and butter down there” in the low post, noted Thibault. “But we might have one [like her] in a year from now coming out of South Carolina,” he added of Aliyah Boston, this year’s college player of the year who is expected to be a top pick in next year’s WNBA Draft.
Whether or not Fowles has a countdown clock internally or externally, “I can’t tell you what that’s gonna be like,” she said of her final game whenever Minnesota plays its last game of the 2022 season.
Former college and pro teammate Seimone Augustus, the cities’ first Black female pro superstar and franchise player, will see her uniform number retired by the Lynx on Sunday. Fowles’ number undoubtedly will join hers soon in the arena rafters.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.