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  • Writer's pictureDesiree Camacho

Salutations to Sweet Syl

Everyone has to get their start somewhere. WNBA legend, Sylvia Fowles, got hers at Louisiana State University in 2004 where she immediately became a star, playing in all 36 games of her freshman season.

Fowles led LSU to four straight Final Four appearances, set school records in double-doubles, rebounds, blocks, free throws attempted, and free throws made, and racked up countless awards including the 2008 SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards. These accomplishments in college led Fowles to be inducted into the LSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015 and have her jersey, #34, retired in 2017. Every team Fowles has played for has been positively impacted by her, on and off the court.

Having only been founded in 2006, the Chicago Sky needed a player to be the face of the franchise and lead them to success. Fowles was that face. She was drafted second overall in the 2008 WNBA draft by the Sky, and during her time there was named to the All-Star team three times and awarded Defensive Player of the Year twice.

In 2015, Fowles decided it was time for some change and requested to be traded. In July of that same year, she was traded to the Minnesota Lynx where she was more than excited to start playing with the team.

“Coming to Minnesota was a life changer, oh my Lord, just having the right coaches, the right organization behind you and pushing you every step of the way was much needed,” said Fowles while speaking to the media.

The same year Fowles headed to the Lynx, the team won the championship with Fowles putting up a double-double in the decisive fifth game and earning Finals MVP. Throughout her career, Fowles has become known for dominating the paint, crashing the boards, and blocking shots with ease. This has led her to be the league’s record holder in field goal percentage, double-doubles, and rebounds. She has also acquired four Defensive Player of the Year awards, two WNBA Championships, two Finals MVP awards, one League MVP award, eight All-Star nominations, and four Olympic gold medals.

Sylvia Fowles poses with her fourth gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics on August 7, 2021. Photo courtesy of @sylvia_fowles on Instagram.

“The ways in which she can dominate the game on the block, we really hadn’t seen that that much,” said Sue Bird in a video done with the WNBA. “Syl had a strength about her where I think she really raised the level of what it was to be a low block player. I know from playing against her, when you play against teams that Syl is on, your whole game plan is about trying to stop her on the block.”

The key to being as good as Fowles is consistency, according to teammate on the Lynx, Napheesa Collier.

“She’s so consistently good…it’s not like she has highs and lows,” said Collier.

This consistency can still be seen in year 15, with Fowles averaging a team-high 14.56 points and league-high 9.81 rebounds to go along with 1.22 blocks per game.

Sylvia Fowles dunks in the 2022 WNBA All-Star game at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Ill., July 10, 2022. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Lynx PR.

Despite a rocky early season from the Minnesota Lynx, these efforts from Fowles have helped lead the team to playoff contention. The Lynx, currently seventh in standings, has a tied record with three other teams, meaning final standings will come down to the last couple games. Though her fans and teammates alike wish to send Fowles out with a playoff run, that’s not what has been on the star's mind.

“My thing coming into this season was like, I just wanted to play," said Fowles. "I didn’t think about myself coming in here and sending myself out on a good note. My biggest thing was how can I teach my teammates how to deal with Cheryl, how can they cope, how can they be good teammates to each other? I think that was my biggest thing coming into this season, but personally, I wasn’t thinking about playing in the playoffs or making it to the championship, my thing is how can I be a great teammate and pass on the knowledge that I’ve learned over the last couple years throughout this league.”

It’s this mentality of thinking of and caring for all those around her that has earned Fowles nicknames like “Sweet Syl” and “Mama Syl.” Lynx forward Collier, who missed the majority of the season due to pregnancy, was set on making her return to the court this season just for the opportunity to play with Fowles one last time. The two argued over this decision, as Fowles was worried about Collier’s safety and didn’t want her to come back too soon. Even with the team fighting for a playoff spot in her final season, Collier’s well-being came first for Fowles, and that says everything you need to know about who she is.

“She just has the best, biggest heart, biggest smile, she just makes us all feel so loved," said teammate Rachel Banham in a video for the Minnesota Lynx. She’s just such a loving person.”

Arguably the greatest center in the history of the league, and with a resume few can match, it’s Fowles’s character and love that will be missed the most.

Sylvia Fowles smiles for a photo with teammate Napheesa Collier. Photo courtesy of @sylvia_fowles on Instagram.

Being that she is known for her sweet character, it often comes as a surprise when others find out what Fowles has planned for her life after basketball, but it all traces back to her care for others. Since 2015, she has been working toward a degree at the American Academy McAllister Institute to become a mortician and run her own funeral home. She spent every off day of her 2017 MVP season and much of the 2018 season working towards her embalming credits for the program, which requires students to complete at least 10 embalmings. This is a field that has fascinated Fowles since she was five years old and attended her grandmother's open-casket funeral. It’s important to her to provide comfort to grieving families and allow them to see their loved ones positively for the final time.

We could give her all the flowers in the world for what she has meant to the WNBA and it still wouldn't be enough.

A'ja Wilson bows down to Sylvia Fowles as she is presented with flowers at her final All-Star game at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Ill., July 10, 2022. Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas Aces.

Thank you, Syl.


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