(L-R) Kelsey Plum, Sylvia Fowles, Candace Parker, A'ja Wilson and Sabrina Ionescu of Team Wilson during the 2022 WNBA All-Star Game on July 10, 2022 in Chicago.
Following a standout career at LSU, playing alongside Seimone Augustus, Fowles began her WNBA career with the Chicago Sky in 2008. After seven years there, she requested a trade to the Lynx in 2015. A core group including Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen had already won two WNBA championships. Fowles was arguably the key to the Lynx winning two more, in 2015 and ’17.
Playing as part of an elite group has never been an issue for Fowles.
Having made her Olympic debut in 2008, Fowles won her fourth consecutive gold medal last year in Tokyo. In doing so she became one of six basketball players to win at least four Olympic gold medals, and she has played with the other five. That list includes Bird and Dianna Taurasi — who have played on all four teams with Fowles — along with Tamika Catchings (2008, 2012 and 2016), Teresa Edwards (2008) and Lisa Leslie (2008).
Fowles’ teammates on the Lynx are a little different these days, as she’s the last remaining player from the 2017 title-winning team. The strong bonds between Fowles and her teammates continue. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, who also became the U.S. women’s coach in 2021, noted recently that Fowles is beloved among WNBA players.
Take Napheesa Collier.
The Lynx forward and fellow 2020 Olympic gold medalist had missed the bulk of the WNBA season after giving birth to her daughter, Mila, on May 25. Determined to make it back this season to play at least one more game with Fowles, despite Fowles’ discouragement, Collier indeed returned to the lineup this past Sunday, a little over 10 weeks after giving birth.
“It says a lot that she was willing to risk a lot, especially just coming after three months,” Fowles said.
Collier has played in three games thus far, helping the Lynx to a 2-1 record and putting them in a position for a postseason berth. After her first game back — an 81-71 win over the Atlanta Dream — Collier described the privilege she feels playing with Fowles.
“It’s always so nice to play with Syl,” Collier said. “She’s a huge presence, hall of famer, so anytime she’s on the floor good things happen. And it’s so cool to see greatness happening, especially for her last season.
“It feels like every single game I’m just seeing something new, a new record that she’s breaking, so I’m just really happy to be a witness to that.”
The influx of younger players has changed Fowles’ role on the team over the past few seasons. Fowles has transitioned into the leader, which she said has been difficult at times with all the turnover.
“To have these new people come in and these new people leaving and trying to figure out … how can you talk to them or when can you fuss at them has been the most difficult part for me,” Fowles said.
Fowles said the main thing she tries to do as a teammate is to put herself “in other people’s shoes because they see things in another perspective.” This helps her understand her teammates better on and off the court.
Even with this being her last season, Fowles didn’t set a goal of ending her career with a third championship. She said this season was more about her just playing and focusing on making her teammates better.
“Personally I wasn’t thinking about playing in the playoffs or making the championship,” she said. “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?”