Friday night’s meeting between the Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm wasn’t much of a game, but despite the Storm leading by double digits nearly the entire way en route to a 96-69 win, not a single person inside Target Center left early. The result was important, especially with the Lynx in a tight playoff race, but it didn’t mean anywhere near as much as the post-game celebration of Sylvia Fowles.
A league and franchise legend, Fowles announced back in February that this would be her final season in the WNBA, and Friday night was her final regular season home game in Minneapolis. Depending on what happens on the final day of the season, it may have been the last time she will ever take the court in the city.
Prior to the game, Fowles, in typical fashion, flipped the script and honored Storm guards Sue Bird and Briann January, who are also retiring. But as the night drew to a close, it was time for Fowles to take the spotlight. She received a standing ovation upon checking out late in the fourth quarter and shared embraces with coaches and players on both teams.
“I’m so appreciative,” Fowles said during an on-court interview after finishing with 13 points and 12 rebounds in a defeat. “Coming into this season I didn’t want none of this attention, but as the season went along I realized how much love and how much appreciation these fans have for me across this league, and I never want to take that for granted. So thank you guys for everything you’ve done throughout my career. It’s been an amazing ride and I appreciate y’all.”
During the actual ceremony, there were multiple tribute videos for Fowles celebrating her success in the WNBA and on the international level, which included two titles, an MVP, two Finals MVPs, four Defensive Player of the Year Awards and four Olympic gold medals. There were also speeches from Minnesota Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, Lynx owner Glen Taylor, current and former teammates, and Lynx head coach and GM Cheryl Reeve.
“I was so happy with the way you approached the game, the way you wanted to learn about the game, the way you wanted to continue to grow, even though you were great,” Rebekkah Brunson, Fowles’ former teammate and current Lynx assistant coach said. “Even though everything you embodied was greatness, you still wanted to watch the video, you still wanted to get better, you still wanted to support your teammates… Yeah, basketball is wonderful, but the person that you are, the person that you are consistently is what makes you an amazing, amazing person. So thank you for just allowing me to be in your orbit.”
Finally, Fowles took the microphone, and through tears addressed the crowd one final time.
“It’s been a joy,” Fowles said. “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, people. This was never a goal of mine… By no means has this been easy. I just want you guys to know that I love and appreciate you. Minnesota, this will forever be home. Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
In addition to gifts she received from USA Basketball and the Lynx organization, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey also proclaimed Friday as “Sylvia Fowles Day” in the state and city. Frey’s statement read, in part:
Whereas Fowles’ reputation among her coaches, teammates and rivals describes her as an icon in women’s basketball, one of the greatest to ever step foot on the court; and
Whereas Fowles’ legacy as a champion and role model to the Minneapolis community, especially its youth, will live even longer in our city than the championship banners she helped bring to Minnesota; and
Whereas Minneapolis is proud to have been the home for much of Fowles’ storied career and we are grateful for her contributions to our city.
Now, therefore, I, Jacob Frey, Mayor of the City of Minneapolis do proclaim today, August 12, 2022, as: Sylvia Fowles Day in the city of Minneapolis.
With the Lynx’s loss, they dropped to 14-21 on the season and now sit in ninth place — one game behind both the Phoenix Mercury (seventh) and New York Liberty (eighth). They have the tiebreaker over both of those clubs, as well as the 10th-place Atlanta Dream, however, which means they can still make the playoffs. They will need a win in their final game of the season on Sunday against the Connecticut Sun and a loss from either the Mercury or Liberty.