As all good things come to an end—two such things took place a few days ago. Minnesota’s league-leading 11-straight playoff appearance streak was snapped, and Sylvia Fowles’ 15-year WNBA career as one of the best centers in league history came to an end at the same time last Sunday in Connecticut.
“I feel like it will be a void left when she leaves,” Lynx Broadcaster Lea B. Olsen told the MSR at halftime during last Friday’s home game. It was Fowles’ last time playing in front of the home fans. She was honored throughout the contest, capped by a post-game ceremony. “It’s time for the next chapter,” Olsen said.
“I think just the gratitude, the grace, the humbling, all those things that are heard [about her], it shows through everyone’s conversation about her,” Seattle Coach Noelle Quinn added.
Storm Assistant Coach Pokey Chatman coached Fowles both in college and in the pros. “I was fortunate enough to meet her when she was 14,” the veteran coach recalled. “This 14-year-old kid they talk about is that grown woman you see out there. I was fortunate and lucky to have her early on … She is a special human being.”
Olsen added, “We are so used to her greatness and how she represented herself … It’s been such a pleasure to see her up close.”
Both the veteran broadcaster and this reporter were present at Fowles’ introductory press conference after Minnesota acquired her in a 2015 midseason three-team trade from Chicago—
then an unheard-of forced deal by the Miami native—who told the Sky she’d sit out and possibly retire unless she was traded to the Lynx.
Here, Fowles added two more WNBA Defensive Player of the Year awards, two league finals MVPs, and one league MVP along with two championship chips in the 7 ½ seasons she wore a Lynx uniform.
During an August 8 Zoom media call, which included the MSR, Fowles disclosed how close she came to retirement if the trade hadn’t been made. “I was thinking about retiring, and I’m glad that I didn’t,” she said.
Drafted immediately after top pick Candace Parker at No. 2 and just ahead of Candice Wiggins, whom Minnesota selected at No. 3 in the 2008 WNBA Draft, Fowles leaves the league much decorated with her name forever etched among the elites
The 6’ 6” center finished her final summer as the league leader in field goal accuracy, rebounds, defensive rebounds, and double-doubles. She also ranks among the Lynx’s all-time top five in rebounds, offensive and defensive boards, points per game, total points, and steals.
Her legacy off the court is often understated: her community work includes providing bikes for kids, planting vegetable seeds in a Northside community garden to promote fresh food, and overall supporting young people.
“I like that it goes unnoticed,” Fowles told the MSR last week. “It’s the same way like I am on the court—I don’t want the limelight. I don’t want the publicity. I’m just as active in the community as I am on a basketball court.
“I’m a big advocate of cycling,” Fowles continued. “I’m a big advocate of kids and learning and food. These are things that I’m passionate about. I just make sure I’ve tried to get out in the community and pass those things along to everybody else.”
When asked, Fowles told reporters it’s too early for her to fully grasp what’s next for her as she embarks upon her post-athletic life. “I haven’t thought about what it’d be like without basketball,” she admitted.
“I got things planned that I want to do, and I want to travel to a couple of places. We shall see where it takes me. I just take it in stride.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.