Celebrating a Legend
Sylvia Fowles started a day that was supposed to be all about her by giving to others, in typical Sylvia Fowles fashion.
But when the lights came on, the Minnesota Lynx made damn sure that Sweet Syl got her well-deserved shine in front of a sold out Target Center crowd in Downtown Minneapolis.
Sylvia Fowles is starting in her last regular season game in Target Center pic.twitter.com/PUlWMaaaQa— espnW (@espnW) August 13, 2022
While you may not hear it clearly in the above video, Lynx fans absolutely erupted for Fowles’ final regular season pregame introduction. It was just the start of an incredible celebration that continued postgame.
When she checked out of the game and left the Target Center floor potentially for the final time, it was hard not to get emotional.
Again, the ESPN mics really do not do the crowd justice. It was incredibly loud in Target Center as she walked off the floor.
Immediately following the final buzzer, every Seattle player and coach embraced Fowles in the handshake line. Multiple Storm players broke down into tears during or after their respective moment with the all-time great. Tina Charles — who played with Fowles for years with USA Basketball — burst into tears once Fowles moved on to the next player, hunching over while wiping away a steady stream of tears, before Fowles gave her one last hug.
Those interactions speak volumes about the impact that not only Sylvia Fowles the player had on them, but more importantly the impact that Sylvia Fowles the person had on them.
“I think at the end of the day it’s how I treat people. I don’t think basketball really plays a factor in that. And the one thing that I stand firm on is making sure that people feel like they’re loved and they welcomed and they heard,” Fowles told Canis Hoopus postgame about what it meant to see those reactions from her peers. “I think I’ve been consistent with that throughout the league and so the basketball part is a plus but I think they respect me more on just me, who I am as a person.”
As for Fowles the player, she told ESPN’s Holly Rowe after the game that she wants her legacy to be dominance.
“It’s all I know. I’m never looking for an easy way out. I’m always putting myself first at the front of the line. And so whatever needs to be done that night, I think I’m the first one to step up and be willing to do that,” Fowles told Canis Hoopus when asked to expand on her legacy in Minnesota. “I think me taking those responsibilities kind of show throughout my career, and I’m very proud of that.”
Lynx Head Coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve could only give thanks for the opportunity to share in Fowles’ greatness.
“I told [Syl’s mother], I can’t imagine what that feels like. Your body of work on that young person and what she became, one of the greatest of all-time in our profession and just adored by so many. I can’t imagine what that feels like as a parent,” Reeve said in her postgame press conference. “But I have a great deal of pride in that I got to share in seven and a half seasons of her illustrious career. We poured a lot into each other. Syl gave us everything she had, through the tough times, the great times. You could just count on Syl.”
Despite how uncomfortable Friday night may have been for Fowles, Reeve was grateful Fowles gave the proceedings a go-ahead.
“She was always so willing. I’m just filled with pride that she allowed us the opportunity to give her the final ride, and this opportunity tonight to just show her. It was very overwhelming for Syl. I think she’s somebody that’s always you know, either kind of underserved, under-appreciated. Not by obviously our fans, but I think for her she’s just always like ‘I’m just doing my job,’” Reeve said. “I think when you get to the end and you look up and you look out [at the crowd] and you say, ‘Holy shit. Wow, I really did it right.’ I think it was very overwhelming for her.”
The four-time Olympic Gold Medalist as a member of Team USA was presented a framed jersey from USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley, who also gave Fowles (along with Napheesa Collier and Reeve) her ring for winning gold in Tokyo last summer.
USA Basketball presents Sylvia Fowles with framed jersey and team pics of her time playing for the national team pic.twitter.com/88tNTtxG6d— CJ Fogler AKA Perc70 #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) August 13, 2022
Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan also took part in the night’s festivities, presenting Fowles with an official proclamation that made Friday, August 12, 2022 Sylvia Fowles Day in Minnesota. But not before listing all of the WNBA all-time leading rebounder’s accomplishments throughout her Hall of Fame career.
Let's just see what Sylvia Fowles accomplished... pic.twitter.com/mkypkLFH1X— CJ Fogler AKA Perc70 #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) August 13, 2022
After moving remarks from Collier (who said she’d play in Minnesota forever if she could play with Syl), former teammate Lindsay Whalen (who called the Lynx a championship team before Fowles that became a dynasty with her), Lynx governor Glen Taylor, and Reeve, it was Syl’s turn.
As Sweet Syl took the podium to address her second home that loves her so dearly, a roaring chant took over Target Center. “WHOSE HOUSE? SYL’S HOUSE!” could be heard over and over for nearly a minute, moving to tears the greatest center to ever play the game of basketball.
“I never thought that I would be here in this moment with the impact that I made across this league to many people, players, fans, family,” Fowles said during her speech. “Thank you guys for embracing me with open arms. By no means has this been easy. I just want you guys to know that I love and appreciate you, Minnesota. This will always be home.”
Fowles’ former teammate and current Lynx Assistant Coach Rebekkah Brunson during her address perfectly summed up how Syl treats others.
Brunson recalled that when she played against Fowles, Syl was as dominant and competitive as could be during the game, but would still give Brunson one of her patented hugs after the game.
As Brunson later came to learn as Fowles’ teammate, Syl’s disarming, compassionate hugs give you insight into Syl the person.
“She was exactly what that hug said. ‘I care about you. I support you. I want you to succeed. I’m there for you no matter what.’ She’s been that hug for this community, too.”
The Minnesota Lynx entered the day as the No. 7 seed in the standings, in control of their own destiny, and could’ve — for all intents and purposes — clinched a playoff spot on Friday night, Sylvia Fowles’ final regular season home game at Target Center.
Instead, Fowles’ teammates didn’t bring the requisite intensity on either end against arguably the hottest team in the league, the Seattle Storm, and lost control of the game by digging a 20-point hole before the first quarter was even half over.
Despite a second quarter flurry led by Fowles’ two-way dominance, as well as Napheesa Collier and Bridget Carleton’s defensive activity fueling some life on offense, Seattle brewed up another thunderous storm that was too much for Minnesota to overcome.
Head Coach Noelle Quinn’s squad went on to win 96-69 as a result of the 21 points they scored off of 14 Minnesota turnovers, their 15 second chance points, an impressive 12/27 (44.4%) outing from 3, and a stifling defensive performance in which they held the Lynx to 36.5% shooting.
Fowles was the Lynx’s lone bright spot. She scored 13 points to go along with 12 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in 26 minutes. With her ninth rebound of the night — number 2,159 of her Minnesota Lynx career — the Lynx legend passed current Minnesota assistant coach Rebekkah Brunson for most rebounds in franchise history.
When the ball tipped, FiveThirtyEight gave the Lynx a 62% chance of making the playoffs, the best among any of the four teams still competing for a playoff spot. Now, those odds have slipped to 14% — the worst of the four — and the Lynx are faced with the suddenly very real possibility that last night’s loss may have been Fowles’ last time in front of her home crowd.
Her teammates felt the weight of that reality postgame.
“I’m looking at my teammates’ faces and listening to them apologize to me. That’s kind of hurtful, you know?” Fowles said when asked about what hit her hardest emotionally after the final buzzer. “But I just want them to know that I’m proud of them. I don’t think it’s about the wins and losses. I think it’s about how you approach every game and how you treat each other. And I stand fully and firm on that.”
In between tears of frustration from a soul-crushing loss (in a game the Lynx so badly wanted to win for Fowles) and a tears of nostalgic joy from a wonderful postgame ceremony celebrating the legend’s career, Lynx players were understandably upset.
Those surely be difficult for the Lynx to put in the rearview mirror as they prepare to play one final regular season game, on the road Sunday at the No. 3 seed Connecticut Sun at 12 PM CT on ABC.
That game will determine whether or not we’ve seen the last of Sylvia Fowles at Target Center.
“We have to. And if we can’t, then I guess we’ll get blown out at Mohegan Sun,” Lynx Head Coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve told Canis Hoopus postgame about her team putting the emotions of tonight behind them. “We have to fight. I think the latter will happen. I think we’ll go out there and we’ll fight and we’ll see what we can do.”
In order to make the playoffs, Minnesota needs to win at Connecticut on Sunday and for losses from either the Phoenix Mercury (playing the No. 2 seed Chicago Sky in Phoenix) or the New York Liberty (playing a motivated No. 10 seed Atlanta Dream in Brooklyn).
Keep in mind that the Sun defeated the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday night, meaning that the Las Vegas Aces’ win over the Sky Thursday locked Connecticut into the No. 3 seed. This means that the Sun effectively have nothing to play for on Sunday. No matter what the outcome of the game is, they will play the No. 6 seed Dallas Wings in the first round of the WNBA Playoffs next week.
While I wouldn’t bank on it happening, Sun Head Coach Curt Miller choosing to rest some of his key players is certainly on the table.
There are four scenarios for the Lynx.
- Eliminated — wins by New York and Phoenix
- Eliminated — loss at Connecticut
- No. 7 seed — win at Connecticut and losses by both New York and Phoenix
- No. 8 seed — win at Connecticut, Phoenix loses, and New York wins
What is unfortunate for the Lynx is that the Sky and Mercury play the last game of the day, a 4 PM CT tip. If Las Vegas, who tip at 2 PM CT, defeat the Storm (who are locked into the No. 4 seed and have nothing to play for), Chicago would be locked into the No. 2 seed, may see the result before they tip off, and decide to rest key players vs Phoenix as a result.
Sky star Candace Parker has a lot of love for Sylvia Fowles, but going all out in a potentially meaningless game to try and Fowles, who began her career with the Sky, would certainly be one hell of a gesture.