Sylvia Fowles was the last remaining piece of the greatest WNBA dynasty, the Minnesota Lynx. The team made the playoffs for 11 consecutive years, from 2011 to 2021, making the finals six times and earning four titles. Fowles’ tenure with the team included seven of those dynasty years, and she played a major role in the team’s success, winning league MVP in 2017.
At the end of the 2022 season, Fowles hung up her basketball shoes on one of the best careers in WNBA history. With her retirement marking the official end of the dynasty, the team has a ways to go before they can get back to their dominant ways of the past.
The Lynx are a young team this season, with players averaging just over three years of WNBA experience. After starting the year winless in its first five games, the team is slowly starting to put things together. Going into July’s all-star break, the Lynx have a 9-11 record and are barely clinging to a playoff spot. Rookies have played a key role this year, with 2023 second overall pick Diamond Miller starting all 12 games she has played and their 2023 second-round pick, Dorka Juhász, being thrust into the starting center role due to injury.
Fowles’ departure left a gaping hole in leadership in the locker room. Head coach Cheryl Reeve has called upon All-Star Napheesa Collier and veteran Kayla McBride to fill Fowles’ leadership role on and off the court. Carley Knox, team president of business operations, had high praise for Collier.
“We’re kind of creating a new generation of the Lynx, and Napheesa Collier, she is our superstar, our captain, our WNBA All-Star,” Knox said. “The best part is, she is the kindest person. She got to be mentored by Sylvia [Fowles] and see what it meant to be a great leader and good teammate.”
Knox also firmly believes that the team post-Fowles is starting to head in the right direction. “We have an unbelievable coaching staff … a young, scrappy team that plays with all their hearts,” she said. “I’m excited about our future between Napheesa, Diamond and Dorka.” We have some really great building pieces that are going to continue to progress and grow, and we’ll add to that in the future.”
On Wednesday, July 12, the Lynx suffered their worst loss in franchise history, losing by 40 at home to the Dallas Wings and struggling defensively. In her post-game press conference, Reeve spoke on what she believes the current team needs to do to get back to their title days.
“Those teams believed strongly in a few things. We really believed strongly in winning home games. This team is below .500 at Target Center,” Reeve said. “People talked about our offense a lot because we had really good players, and that’s what everybody was interested in. You win at a high level with defense. They didn’t want the other team to score and they were gonna be there for each other and help, which is what this team lacks.”
Reeve isn’t the only person who recognizes the team’s defensive struggles. A longtime teammate of Fowles, Rachel Banham thinks the team is struggling to replace Fowles’ presence in the paint on both ends of the floor. “Sylvia had that huge presence inside. You had a rim protector and an automatic scorer in the paint,” said Banham after the game. “We don’t have that anymore.”
The Lynx dynasty may be over, but they have the young talent and star power they need to become title contenders once again. Once their rookies become more developed and the team grows defensively, the Lynx should have the talent to be a perennial title contender once again.
This story was produced in partnership with the Minnesota Lynx and Star Tribune Junior Reporter program, which brought five ThreeSixty Journalism students attending the Sports Reporting Workshop students courtside on gameday.