Sylvia Fowles: Legend On and Off Court

In her final season, the future WNBA hall of famer has more than her defense to offer.

Lynx - Sylvia Fowles
Sylvia Fowles #34 of the Minnesota Lynx dribbles the ball during the game against the Dallas Wings on July 14, 2022 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Franchise players are hard to come by. Lynx President Carley Knox knows that talent when she sees it.

“There will never be another Sylvia Fowles,” Knox said prior to Wednesday’s contest against the Sky. “Sylvia is a once in a generation player — not just the player on the court, it’s the person off the court.”

At 36 years old and in her 15th season in the WNBA, the 2017 MVP and eight-time All-Star hasn’t lost her touch, but she has decided to call it a career. 

“You think about it for a while and the way my body’s been responding I knew it was probably time to start winding down,” Fowles said.

In a season full of lasts,July 6 saw Fowles play her last game against the Chicago Sky, the team that drafted her second overall out of Louisiana State University back in 2008. On top of that it was also her last time facing longtime competitor and friend Candace Parker, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Sparks one pick before Fowles. From AAU ball to the Final Four, and even a couple of WNBA finals, the pair have had some legendary battles. 

“It shows a lot of depth from that ’08 draft,” said Fowles. “It’s all love, and I’m always happy to see her do her thing.”

Ranked as the 10th best WNBA player of all time by ESPN, Fowles has racked up accolades over the years. In addition to being a two-time WNBA champion with four Olympic gold medals, she was awarded League MVP, two Finals MVPs, four Defensive Player of the Year awards and three WNBA First Team honors. She also earned the all-time WNBA rebound record. Entering the all-star break, Fowles is only 13 points away from passing Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie for ninth all-time leading scorer. (Editor’s note: Fowles finished her career as the ninth all-time WNBA career scorer.)

“I try not to think about it, but also it’s an accomplishment, so those things you work hard for,” said Fowles. 

The stats show Fowles’ greatness, but her presence in the locker room is just as valuable, teammates say.

“I don’t think Syl cares about the accolades or attention or anything — she cares about wins, she cares about us and she cares about this organization,” said teammate Kayla McBride. “She comes to work every day to get better, to be a good teammate, to be better than she was the day before — she’s unbelievable, super thankful to go out there and fight with her every day.” 

Fowles’ teammates have nothing but respect for her. The same can be said for head coach Cheryl Reeve, who is grateful to have her presence in the huddle and the locker room: “When you have a player like her who’s battle tested, it’s so good to her teammates.”

For Fowles it’s bigger than basketball. Past her playing days, she intends on remaining active in her community. One of her passions is bike riding. Earlier this season the Lynx held an event at Bryn Mawr Elementary School in Minneapolis to kick off their Syl’s Final Ride campaign. Fowles got the opportunity to share her passion for riding bikes with young students. She even gave bikes to kids, thanks to the charity Free Bikes 4 Kidz MN, which she works with frequently. 

The Lynx have a couple more events left in the campaign. Surely that won’t be the end for Fowles, though, as she has some plans of her own. 

“My biggest goal is to continue to teach, whether that is the youth or the older generation,” Fowles said.

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.