Retiring W stars get unequal media love

Sylvia Fowles with fans
Photo by Nick Hamilton

Another View

She has less than 10 games left in her “Final Ride,” but Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles is playing like she may want to rescind her earlier retirement intentions.

The 6’-6” 14-year veteran is leading the Lynx in scoring and rebounding this season. Fowles tied the franchise record with a 20-rebound effort in Atlanta June 1. She has 77 career 20+ point/10+ rebound games, and earlier this season she climbed into the league’s all-time top 10 scorers, eclipsing the 6,000-career point mark in May, one of eight statistical categories Fowles is currently highly ranked in.  

Voted by the fans as a starter in her sixth straight All-Star appearance in Chicago earlier this month, ninth overall, Fowles scored seven points including a second-quarter breakaway flush, nine rebounds, six assists, and three steals in her team’s 134-112 victory July 10. 

“We have such good talent across our league, and for the fans to be able to still put me in, I think that says a lot about the work that I put in over the last couple of years, and I’m totally grateful for that,” she told the MSR the day before her WASG performance.

However, Seattle veteran guard Sue Bird, who also announced her retirement after this season and also played in the same game as Fowles, got the game ball afterwards and was fawned over by some media. 

What about Fowles, who played on the winning All-Star squad? Where was her game ball?  Where is her love?

“Sylvia is one of the greatest of all time,” said Beyond The W’s Akiem Bailum. He previously wrote that the Lynx center, a two-time WNBA champion and multiple Defensive Player of the Year honoree, seemingly isn’t getting her full recognition for her greatness and longevity, especially by PWM (primarily White media) such as Bird is getting.

“I definitely believe that the league needs to do a better job as far as making sure that they recognize her more,” Bailum told the MSR of Fowles—he was among the handful of Black reporters at the Chicago ASG. “I also believe it’s also on the media, because I do believe that there has been a lot of Sue Bird love.”

Said Bailum of Fowles and Bird, “They’re both all-time greats. They’re first-ballot Hall of Famers.”  

It shouldn’t be an either-or. More recognition flowers given to Fowles does not mean “taking them away from Sue,” Bailum noted. “That’s not the case.”

Meanwhile, “Sweet Syl” is still doing her thing, even if her farewell tour is somewhat overshadowed by Bird’s. Last week Fowles and several Lynx players volunteered to plant beets—Syl’s favorite vegetable—in Appetite For Change’s North Minneapolis community garden. Also, “Syl’s Sweet Spot,” a new garden bench, was installed and dedicated to Fowles’ legacy.

Banham ‘settling in’

Lakeville native Rachel Banham, in her third year as a Lynx, has been looking like her old scoring self, shooting and scoring without a conscience. The 5’-10” seven-year veteran guard has thus far this season tallied eight double-digit games, including a season-high 25 points July 12 vs. Phoenix, the most by a Lynx reserve since 2012.

The MSR recently talked to Banham and her fiancé, former Gopher Andre Hollins, on what has made the difference this season. “I’m a vet now,” she said. “I’ve been in the league for a few years. So there’s the experience, but also I put in a lot of work this offseason.”

Banham has “settled in,” added Hollins, who will begin his job as a senior financial analyst at General Mills this month. “It can take some time,” he surmised, especially for someone playing for her hometown team and dealing with unrealistic expectations at times.