One last hug for Sweet Syl

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Syl’s Final Ride is a Lynx marketing campaign that celebrates Sylvia Fowles’s final season in the WNBA. It has not been easy for the Lynx. Fowles doesn’t like being the center of attention, even though she is 6-foot-6 inches. The Lynx had a tough season, but Sweet Syl, who is known league-wide by the nickname Sweet Syl, accepted the attention and the accolades with the same grace that she displayed throughout her 15 professional seasons.

Fowles received flowers from her former Lynx and LSU teammate Seimone Augus in Los Angeles, a hug and a recliner in Chicago from Sue Bird, her original WNBA team. Bird presented Fowles with the game ball after the All-Star Game in Chicago. Fowles, 36, did an impromptu dunk to appreciative fans.

Is she now content with this whole thing?

Fowles stated that it had not become comfortable during a Zoom call earlier in the week. She then stopped laughing and continued.

She said, “But, I would say that in the midst all of it, I do appreciate and value the love and support I have received in every city.” It’s a great feeling to know that you have true fans who support you every step of the way. It makes you feel good.

The Lynx are trying to get a 12th consecutive playoff spot to break their league record. The 14-20 Lynx must do a lot to reach the postseason. They won’t take any chances. Fowles will be honored at Target Center on Friday, after her last regular-season game. Before the game, Bird and Briann January, a Seattle retiree, will be honored by the Lynx.

The Lynx will fly to Connecticut on Sunday to close out the season. It will be difficult to beat Seattle or Connecticut, the two best teams in the league. The Lynx are an average 0-5 against them.

Fowles has refused to report to Chicago for seven years and had considered retiring before the Sky forced her to be traded to Minnesota. In midseason 2015 she joined the Lynx Core Four, Maya Moore, Augustus and Lindsay Whalen – to help them win the two remaining championships. Moore was the only one who was starting to age. Coach Cheryl Reeve rebuilt the Lynx around Fowles, who is a dynamic player at the low post.

Fowles had already won two Olympic gold medals, and two WNBA Defensive Player Of The Year Awards. Fowles added two more of each, two league finals MVPs (2015-17) and one overall MVP (2017-17). Fowles was named one of the WNBA’s 25 most important players. She leaves as the league’s leader in rebounds (3,983) and field goals percentage (.600). Fowles’ number 34 will join Augustus, Whalen and Brunson in the Target Center rafters next season.

Fowles is known for her basketball skills and ability to play through pain, which she doesn’t get enough credit. But Fowles is also a caring and genuine person. Do you know the friend who remembers your birthday and is always happy to see? The one who is first to help when there’s a family member with a serious illness? That’s Fowles.

She’s a hugger, too – not that bogus, don’t-get-too-close-to-me hug, but the real deal. Fowles’s gift-giving habits are a common theme among former teammates, coaches, and friends.

Gary A. Vasquez USA TODAY Sports
From left: Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus react to a foul against the Los Angeles Sparks in the first half of Game 4 at Staples Center’s WNBA Finals in 2017.

Fowles was able to do postgame interviews from her Target Center locker before the pandemic. Sometimes, once in a while, as the reporters moved on, I lingered, because I had a question I was not allowed to ask the group. Fowles pulled out a chair from the next drawer and invited me to sit down and enjoy his company. Fowles is a master at making everyone feel special.

Feel

special. It is a gift that will help her in her next career as an ombudsman. (Fowles must pass her national board exam before she accepts one of two job opportunities back in Florida. She says that she is not in a hurry to do so.

Fowles is a passionate cyclist; she was the headliner at a Minneapolis community bike ride last weekend. This is where “Last Ride” comes from. After last season, she knew it was time for her to end the season. She didn’t want basketball in shape. Mental injuries included a broken nose in 2017, a fractured left elbow in 2018 and 2020, a calf strain for 2020, and a sore shoulder in 2021.

She’s currently dealing with cartilage damage to her right knee. She hopes it will heal without needing surgery. Reeve stated that Fowles received anti-inflammatory medication in a timeout because her knee was so painful Wednesday night in Phoenix. Fowles persevered and teamed up with Aerial powers to score 17 points in the fourth quarter, which was crucial for the 86-77 win.

Reeve stated that every once in a while, she experiences a day like this. It’s quite significant. She said that it happens only once in 19 days. It was hard, though. She knows the finish line is near so she will keep going.”

Fowles is able to deal with the pain because of her commitment to her teammates and their commitment to Fowles. The Lynx may be the most losing team in WNBA history. Napheesa Colllier returned to the Lynx 10 weeks after she gave birth, so that she could complete the season with Fowles.

Fowles stated that she and Fowles fought for years about the matter because she didn’t want to return. It felt unsafe. She assured me that she was fine and was considering all options. “At the end of it all, I was able to appreciate her willingness to get back at me and be able just to play with my last year.”

Fowles was to be sent out by the Lynx with a championship. But, things fell apart quickly. Reeve was also the club’s general manger. He cut Layshia Clarendon, the starting point guard, and Angel McCoughtry, the major free agent acquisition, the first week of the new season due to injury concerns. McCoughtry was a five-time All-Star who had just undergone two knee surgeries. It was a risky move for Reeve. The Lynx were third through 13 in the Western Conference and quickly fell to last.

MinnPost photo by Mike Dvorak
Sylvia Fowles holds the 2015 championship trophy.

The Lynx went through 20 players due to more injuries and salary cap maneuvers. Dallas cut point guard Moriah Jeffery in training camp. She averaged 11.5 points and 5.2 assists. Kayla McBride and Jessica Shepard had their moments, as did Rachel Banham, Nikolina Milic, Rachel Banham, and Kayla McBride. The Lynx were ultimately hurt by turnovers, which averaged 14.6 per game, one of the highest in the league, and cost them time after time.

Fowles said that his main thing going into the season was to just play. He averaged 14.6 points per game and 9.7 rebounds. Both team records. I didn’t see myself as coming into this and ending the season on a positive note.

“My biggest concern was how could I help my teammates cope and how can we be good friends? I was not thinking about the championships or playing in the playoffs. It was more like “How can I be a great friend and share the knowledge I have gained over the years?”

Fowles is almost ready to leave. Fowles has not received the national recognition and endorsements that some of the other league stars have. She discussed it with Kurt Streeter, a New York Times columnist, earlier this week and on the Zoom call. Bird suggested Streeter race might be a factor. Fowles decided not to speculate.

She stated that she felt the WNBA still has a core team they market and didn’t know why. “We have a league with 144 players. Why not market everyone?

Friday night will be all Fowles. Tickets are still available if you haven’t seen Fowles in action. Bring your daughter. It will be very emotional. Fowles may even hug you, if you are lucky.

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