Sylvia Fowles’ Legacy

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At 36 years, the Minnesota Lynx star center Sylvia Fowles will be retiring at the end of this season. After her 15th season and a more than successful career, Fowles has earned some time of rest for her battle-proven body.

Sylvia Fowles’ Legacy

Fowles has an exciting, post-basketball future to look forward to, but her retirement is a sad occasion for fans and other players alike. With Fowles’ retirement, the league will be losing one of the greatest centers of all time. As she leaves the WNBA, her style of play will follow suit soon enough. Pure centers like Fowles are not common in today’s game anymore. Forwards who can play positions three through five and stretch the floor are taking over.

The End of an Era

The WNBA is facing the end of an era. Fowles’ retirement will not only cause her unique style of dominating the paint to slowly fade away, but it also signifies the beginning of a generational change. Other stars who entered the league in the early 2000s will soon follow suit and hang up their own basketball shoes. Younger players will have to take over their spots and solidify their own legacy in the WNBA. Sylvia Fowles has already done her part.

Fowles will be missed by the entire league and its fans, but she will not be forgotten. She achieved too much for that to ever happen. Fowles won at every level possible, be it college basketball, the Olympics, international championships, or in the WNBA.

Her resume includes almost every award and honor possible. In 2015 and in 2017, she won two titles with the Lynx and was voted Finals MVP in both years. In the second year, Fowles was also the league MVP. During her 15 seasons in the league, she has been an All-Star eight times and made the All-WNBA First Team three times. Fowles won the Defensive Player of the Year award four times and made the All-WNBA Defensive Team seven times. In the Olympics, Fowles won four gold medals for the United States. Her alma mater, Louisiana State University, retired her number 34 jersey in recognition of her collegiate achievements.

Achievements in the WNBA

In 2008, Fowles entered the league as the second overall pick. She landed in Chicago, where she was not too happy and was then traded to the Lynx. In Minnesota, Fowles found her basketball home and started to flourish. In an injury-ridden last season, Fowles still recorded impressive numbers. Currently, she is averaging 14.6 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks. Despite those numbers, Minnesota is not having the season it hoped for and probably will not send Fowles off with one last playoff run.

Nevertheless, she was still an All-Star co-captain and even showed off with one last dunk as an All-Star. Fowles’ co-captain A’ja Willson showed her love with flowers and a basketball signed by all of this year’s All-Stars. Not just Fowles’ fellow All-Stars, but the entire league has a mutual respect and appreciation for her. Fowles earned this respect without a doubt.

She is the league’s all-time leading rebounder and ranks first in both shooting percentage and effective shooting percentage. Fowles ranks fourth overall in blocks and ninth overall in points. In 2019, she set the WNBA’s record for most career double-doubles and just continued to add to it since then. After years of playing physical basketball, Fowles was plagued by knee injuries this season. This did not slow her down, however, and she still ranks first in rebounding average and field goal percentage.

Media Coverage

Fowles is, without any doubt, a first-ballot Hall of Famer. And yet, she somewhat flew under the radar for most of her career. Fowles does not enjoy being in the spotlight and receiving all the media attention anyway, but the lack of media coverage throughout her career also shines a light on a bigger issue in the WNBA. Throughout all her years of stardom and all of her accomplishments, Fowles has never been on a national magazine cover. She has also never been the focus of an ad campaign. As she is retiring, she is receiving more attention than ever, but her farewell tour still appears minor in comparison to that of retiring Seattle star Sue Bird. Bird is one of the most well-known faces of the WNBA. Other than Fowles, she has been on magazine covers and has been featured in ads.

Even at the end of this year’s All-Star game, cameras were mostly focused on Bird, even though Fowles is just as great of a player. This is often justified with the fact that Bird is a more public figure and enjoys interviews. Fowles, on the other hand, is more introverted and does not like being the center of attention. Black players receiving significantly less media attention than white players is a common problem in the WNBA world, though.

In an interview with The New York Times, Fowles asked, “Why do I have to work twice as hard just to get noticed?” She is not the only player who has spoken out about this. The general consensus throughout a league in which about 80 percent of the players are black is that the WNBA needs to learn how to promote all players equally.

Fowles’ Legacy Goes Beyond the Basketball Court

Much more important to Fowles than media attention is the respect of other players, and she certainly has that. Fowles is one of the most beloved teammates in the entire league. Napheesa Collier even came back just three months after giving birth to play with her again.

As a seasoned veteran, Fowles became a teacher to young teammates. She has also always been an inspiration to many girls who grew up during Fowles’ career and learned to love the game just as much.

Sylvia Fowles’ legacy goes beyond the basketball court. She does a lot of community work, which often goes unnoticed by the press, just like Fowles prefers it. In 2017, for example, Fowles donated a part of her MVP bonus to an organization that helps give children of color and low-income youth access to bikes. Fowles loves cycling and is very involved in that community.

As much as Fowles loves Minnesota, she is planning to move back to Miami after retirement. There she hopes to finish her degree in mortuary science and work in a funeral home. This might seem like an interesting choice for a WNBA star, but it is the emotional component that appeals to Fowles. She wants to give grieving people the comfort of knowing that everything was managed right, as mentioned in The New York Times.

This wish shows her warm, inspiring character that allowed her to make a lasting impact in the league far beyond her pure talent on the court. Sylvia Fowles is one of the greatest ever to play the game of basketball and will be greatly missed after this season.