Lynx star Sylvia Fowles makes last appearance in Chicago in loss to Sky
Fowles was drafted No. 2 overall by the Sky in 2008 and played for them for seven seasons before being dealt to the Lynx in 2015.
Lynx center Sylvia Fowles thought she would retire quietly after the 2021 season.
But when she came in for her exit interview with coach Cheryl Reeve at the end of last season, they talked about what she still had left in the tank. Reeve said she told Fowles to consider the permanence of retirement.
‘‘I thought I was going to retire in a subtle way and be like, ‘Thank you, fans, I appreciate you, but I’m done,’ ’’ said Fowles, who decided to come back for one more season. ‘‘After talking that over with my agent and Cheryl, they were like, ‘Absolutely not.’ ’’
On Sunday, Fowles made her final regular-season appearance in Chicago and finished with 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and three blocks. The Sky, however, beat the Lynx 88-85 on a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Courtney Vandersloot to extend their winning streak to three games.
When the Sky drafted Fowles with the second overall pick in the 2008 draft — Candace Parker went first to the Sparks — they were selecting a franchise player. Fowles was given the task of building a franchise from nothing.
There was no extra attention or credit given to a franchise player on a team fighting its way out of obscurity in a sports market with an established hierarchy. Fowles wasn’t looking for any, either.
‘‘[Chicago] was a place for me to grow, not just basketball-wise but personally,’’ Fowles said. ‘‘You learn a lot about yourself in an atmosphere where things aren’t going your way.’’
In her first three seasons, Fowles and the Sky were coached by Steven Key and compiled a 42-60 record.
Pokey Chatman, who had coached Fowles at LSU, took over in 2011. Fowles won her first Defensive Player of the Year award that season and earned another in 2013, when the Sky completed their first winning season at 24-10 and finished in first place in the Eastern Conference.
Fowles’ decision to sit out the first half of the 2015 season in pursuit of a trade was one of the most difficult she has made in her life, she said. Fowles said her desire for change was the reason for that decision.
‘‘I felt like I had a great run in Chicago,’’ Fowles said. ‘‘I needed a different direction, new coaches and playing with familiar faces, too.’’
She was traded to the Lynx in July 2015 and had her decision validated when the team won its third WNBA championship that fall, beating the Fever in five games. She was named Finals MVP.
Fowles is the WNBA’s all-time leading rebounder (3,845), a one-time league MVP (2017), a two-time Finals MVP (2015, 2017), a two-time champion, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, a four-time Defensive Player of the Year and an eight-time All-Star. She is the only player in WNBA history to record over 6,000 career points, at least 3,500 rebounds and 700 blocks.
Unfortunately for Fowles, she couldn’t reunite with Sky general manager/coach James Wade, who worked directly with her as an assistant on Reeve’s staff during the 2017 season. Wade entered health-and-safety protocols Sunday morning, the Sky said, and tapped assistant Emre Vatansever to coach in his absence. Wade said he wasn’t feeling any symptoms. The Sky will play one more regular-season game against the Lynx this year, next Wednesday at noon.
Before the game, the Sky gifted Fowles a recliner, her framed Sky jersey and a knitting kit after playing a two-minute video of her seven-season history with the franchise.
‘‘The players before me planted the seeds,’’ Fowles said. ‘‘We set the foundation, and hopefully the next generation will have this thing thriving. That’s what I’m looking forward to seeing.’’
NOTE: Sky star and reigning Finals MVP Kahleah Copper missed the game with a back injury.