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Sylvia Fowles

Having Conquered the Sport, Sylvia Fowles is Ready to Walk Away on Her Own Terms

  • Author:
    Jim McCurdy, Red Line Editorial
  • Date:
    Aug 12, 2022


Sylvia Fowles says the thought crossed her mind seven years ago.


What if, back in 2015, she had retired instead of requesting a trade?


Had she called it quits, her career would be void of WNBA championships in 2015 and 2017 and a Most Valuable Player award in 2017. She wouldn’t have won her third and fourth Defensive Player of the Year Awards, nor become the WNBA’s all-time leader in rebounds.


In 2021, she also became only the sixth player in Olympic basketball history to win at least four gold medals.


Though Fowles was already one of basketball’s most dominant players, these past seven years have solidified her case as one of the best to ever play.


She will appear in her final regular-season WNBA home game Friday when her Minnesota Lynx host Sue Bird’s Seattle Storm at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2.


This time, she’s definitely leaving, and she’s at peace with that decision.


“I’m leaving on my terms,” the Miami native said. “I think if it was the other way around, if I had to be pushed out the door a little bit, it probably would be hard. But I’m very content with the decision that I’ve made, and I’m happy to look at what life brings after basketball.”


Fowles, 36, bows out as one of the most esteemed players in the sport’s history. A 6-foot-6 center, she first made her mark at Louisiana State University, leading the Tigers to four Final Fours.


Her Olympic debut was shortly thereafter.


As a 21-year-old in 2008, Fowles helped the USA win gold in Beijing. She added three more golds in London, Rio and Tokyo throughout the years.


Fowles also won a World Cup and compiled an 87-6 record playing for the U.S.


The No. 2 pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft, Fowles played her first seven seasons with the Chicago Sky before closing it out with eight more in Minnesota.


Over her 15-year WNBA career, she’s averaged 15.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and shot 60 percent. Even this season, in the twilight of her playing career, she’s averaging 14.6 points, 9.7 boards, while shooting 64 percent.


Despite it being her last season and the Lynx still in the throes of a late playoff push, she presses on – playing each game like it's her first.


Yet, she’s constantly reminded that the end of her playing career is near. From city to city, teams in the WNBA have showered her with adulation and parting gifts, expressing gratitude for how she impacted the game. Still, she’s always been one more comfortable letting her thundering blocks do the talking, and though the gestures have given her a sense of fulfillment, Fowles admits she’s been uncomfortable with some of the attention that’s come with her farewell season.


One gift that stuck with Fowles is the reclining chair she got while in Chicago. It was a gift that captured the essence of her final season in the WNBA.


“No, it hasn’t gotten comfortable,” she said with a smile. “It’s gotten worse. But through the mix of it all, I do say, I appreciate the love and the support that I’ve been getting in every city. It’s definitely fulfilling that you have true fans behind you that have been there since Day 1 that acknowledge the things that you’ve done. That makes you feel good.”


That attention will no doubt continue Friday. In addition to the recognition from the Lynx, USA Basketball plans to present her with a championship ring from the 2020 Olympics. Fowles and Bird will also receive framed USAB jerseys in honor of their contributions to the national team.


The attention Fowles has gotten throughout this season has highlighted what her teammates have known for years.


called her “a great player that’s as special as a person.”,Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, who is also the coach of the USA Basketball Women’s National Team


“It’s why you look back at your times together. You’ll never forget it,” Reeve added. “Just the way she’s done it, the way she’s carried herself, the way she’s led, the way she’s sacrificed for this franchise, the way she’s been loyal, committed, and would do anything for her teammates, anything for coaches, anybody that’s around. Syl is just an incredibly kind, generous person. We’re super proud of the way she gives to our community. We know that Syl will be done playing soon, but Syl’s not leaving us, so to speak.”


Selflessness has embodied Fowles. In the community, she’s given her time and efforts not expecting a thank you or attention. It was simply out of the goodness of her own heart.


That’s why she gives back, for what it means to those she advocates for, and how her actions can change their lives.


“I don’t want the limelight,” she said. “I don’t want the publicity because I do it from the heart. I’m just as active in the community as I am on the court for the Lynx. I’m a big advocate of kids and learning and food. Those things that I’m passionate about, I just try to make sure I get out in the community and pass those things along to everybody else.”


Fowles may have a career in mortuary science after basketball, with job offers on the table in Florida. Her timetable for that possible transition is uncertain, as she still needs to pass her mortuary license board exams.


While solemn in thought, Fowles’ reasoning for wanting to work in mortuary science draws on, again, her care for other people. She wants to meet with the families where they are and provide a service for others.


“Just interacting with the families,” Fowles said of why she would want to work in mortuary science. “I think it’s always a good thing to have family members see their loved one in a good way.”


Basketball has brought a lot of good to Fowles. Her achievements on the world stage with the Olympics and World Cup, along with her achievements in the WNBA and with her overseas pro teams, all raised her profile, despite being someone who doesn’t seek out attention.


The game has also helped ground her into the individual she’s become.


“Basketball gave me the opportunity to travel, to make money doing something that I love doing,” she said. “It’s also given me a sense of who I am as well. It’s not easy being an elite athlete, and having to deal with different people, and get different things thrown at you. So it makes you grow up real fast and realize who you are.


“Biggest sacrifice was probably leaving family and having to play year-round for 11 years and missing out on everything that I considered home. But sacrifices paid off. I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t make those sacrifices.”


Now, it’s time to move on.


“When I’m done, no, I want no part of basketball,” she said candidly. “I say that because you sacrifice so many things for so long, dealing with basketball. I just want to have time to be somewhat normal. And normal is not dealing with basketball unless my kids so happen to play one day.


“I’ve got things planned that I want to do. I want to travel to a couple of places, but we shall see where life takes me.”



Jim McCurdy is a freelance contributor to on behalf ofRed Line Editorial, Inc.


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