Just Women’s Sports presents the top 10 players in WNBA playoff history in rebounds, assists, blocks and steals.

Candace Parker could make her case as the league’s greatest postseason player based on these leaderboards. She sits in the top five in all four of these categories – and in career playoff points. But the 37-year-old has not appeared (yet) in the 2023 postseason for the Las Vegas Aces as she deals with a foot injury.

Tamika Catchings, who starred for the Indiana Fever from 2002-2016, also appears in every category. While she doesn’t rank in the top five in all of them, she does have the most steals in WNBA playoff history with 152.

Connecticut Sun forward DeWanna Bonner ranks in the top 10 in rebounds, blocks and steals, and she moved up the leaderboards in the 2023 playoffs.

Sylvia Fowles will forever be regarded as one of the top players in Minnesota Lynx history. The team made it official Sunday, retiring her No. 34 jersey as part of a celebration of her illustrious career.

The No. 2 pick in the 2008 Draft, Fowles played 15 WNBA seasons: seven with the Chicago Sky and eight with the Minnesota Lynx. She retired in 2022 as the league’s all-time leader in rebounds (3,356) and double-doubles (193). She helped lead the Lynx to the 2015 and 2017 WNBA titles and was named Finals MVP on both occasions.

“What we didn’t know was that we were getting one of the greatest humans of all time. We needed her, and we sure don’t have 2015 and we don’t have 2017 without her,” Lindsay Whalen said of the Lynx trading for Fowles in 2015. “And with that, I think she became the greatest center of all time.”

Whalen played for the Lynx from 2010 until her retirement in 2018 and is a member of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

“I may have done a little dance… I don’t know of a more dominant player who was as sweet as pie,” former Lynx forward Maya Moore said of the trade while referring to Fowles by her nickname, “Sweet Syl.”

“It was a joy playing with you, and the legacy that you leave is a very high one that’s already rubbing off on these players,” Moore continued. “Well done. You should be proud of yourself. Love you.”

Fowles also played a key role for USA Basketball, helping the team to four Olympic gold medals (2008, 2012, 2016, 2021).

Cheryl Reeve coached Fowles with the Lynx and with USA Basketball. The Lynx head coach and general manager knew some of what the team would be getting when trading for Fowles, but not the whole story, she said Sunday.

“I knew the player we were getting,” Reeve said. “I had no idea of the person that Sylvia was. … We do not become a dynasty without Sylvia Fowles’ contributions in 2015 and 2017.”

Fowles became one of two WNBA legends to have her jersey retired Sunday, along with Seattle Storm great Sue Bird.

“It was like this was where I wanted to be. My life changed once I got here. I hit my peak,” Fowles said. “This organization was everything I needed it to be from top to bottom. And then I was coming in with these [teammates] who took nothing less than great. We fight, we fuss, but when we came between these four lines, we battled — and it was [a problem] for other teams.”

Angel Reese broke Sylvia Fowles’ LSU record for consecutive double-doubles in Monday’s win against Alabama with her 20th in 20 games this season.

Since she transferred from Maryland in the offseason, the sophomore forward has shined for the No. 4 Tigers (20-0), averaging 23.7 points and 15.5 rebounds per game heading into Monday’s contest. Those marks rank fifth and second in Division I women’s basketball this season.

After Reese surpassed Fowles’ previous record of 19, the WNBA legend mimed passing the crown to Reese in a video posted to social media by the LSU women’s basketball team. Fowles starred for the Tigers from 2004-08, and the two-time WNBA champion just retired after a 15-year career in the league.

“Crown off to you,” Fowles said. “Congratulations on all your success. Continue to be loud, bold, proud, true to yourself. Congratulations, Ms. Double-Double Queen.”

While Reese received a technical foul in LSU’s previous win against Arkansas, she seems intent to follow Fowles’ advice to stay true to herself. The technical came after Reese made an impressive block, then stood over the Razorbacks player and directed a comment toward her.

“Let’s normalize women showing passion for the game instead of it being ‘embarrassing,’” Reese said after that game, in which she finished with 30 points and 19 rebounds.

In LSU’s 89-51 win Monday against Alabama, Reese scored 14 points and matched that with 14 rebounds.

“When you’re 20-0, you break a record of one of the greatest all-time players ever, not just at LSU, in Sylvia Fowles, but in the country and in the history of women’s basketball, she’s in wonderful company,” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said.

Her double-double streak stands as the second-longest in SEC history, behind just the streak of 27 in a row from South Carolina’s Aliyah Boston last season.

Reese met Fowles for the first time on Jan. 15, during a ceremony to unveil a statue for another LSU legend in Seimone Augustus outside the school’s basketball arena.

“She’s really proud of me. She’s happy for me,” Reese said at the time. “Being able to be up there with Sylvia Fowles is amazing.”

Top Shot is dropping two limited edition WNBA packs to honor the careers of Sylvia Fowles and Sue Bird.

Fowles’ will feature in the Metallic Gold Limited Editions set, which will include 25 moments from her career — including a bucket from her final home game with the Minnesota Lynx. Her pack will drop Tuesday, with a total of 8,750 packs available for sale.

“It’s incredible that WNBA Top Shot is helping bring our league and players to the forefront in a new space,” Fowles said in a statement. “It’s an honor to partner with WNBA Top Shot to immortalize my career in this space.

“Representation matters and I hope this breaks barriers for girls interested in sports while inspiring the next generation of women athletes and fans.”

Bird’s collection is titled the Game Recognize Game pack. The first-of-its-kind drop will feature nine contemporary and historical plays that are curated and narrated by the Seattle Storm legend.

“Throughout my career in the W, advocating for and empowering women in sports has been my mission,” Bird said in a statement. “I’m thrilled to partner with WNBA’s Top Shot to help increase the representation of women’s sports in the collectibles space. This is monumental for our game and this new generation of players.”

A percentage of the revenue from each player’s packs, up to $50,000, will be donated to the National Women’s Law Center, which supports gender justice in issues that affect the lives of women and girls.

For the first time since 2010, the Minnesota Lynx end the season outside the playoffs.

The Lynx had an opportunity to clinch a spot after surging late in the season, but they were unable to close it out in their season finale against the Connecticut Sun in what was ultimately Sylvia Fowles’ final game in the WNBA.

As Minnesota heads into the offseason, the team faces the unenviable task of replacing a generational talent. How will they move forward without Fowles?

Minnesota Lynx: Year in Review

What went right?

Despite starting a grisly 3-13, the Lynx rebounded in the latter half of the season, clawing their way into contention for a playoff spot. There were flashes of what the Lynx could be – including a 102-71 win over league-leading Las Vegas – but never the full package.

Sylvia Fowles was once again a bright spot for the Lynx, contributing 14.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per game while adding 1.2 assists and 1.0 blocks per game in the season dubbed “Syl’s Final Ride.” Aerial Powers and Kayla McBride were right there beside her, averaging 14.4 points and 13.3 points per game respectively.

And it’s not like the Lynx didn’t lack fight. In the team’s finale against the Sun, Lindsay Allen scored a career-high 26 points on 6-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. While missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010 in Sylvia Fowles’ final season is certainly a blow, they scrapped all the way to the end.

What went wrong?

While the Lynx ended the season with a shot at the playoffs, the slow start nearly doomed them. At 14-22, the Lynx finished just a game ahead of the Sparks (13-23). The only other team they beat out was Indiana, and the Fever went on an 18-game losing streak to end the season.

Outside of Fowles, the team’s defense was lackluster all season, which head coach Cheryl Reeve singled out as a reason why they fell short of a postseason bid.

“We are exactly where we were supposed to be,” Reeve said. “We weren’t good enough to be in the playoffs.”

Aerial Powers and Kayla McBride, who were signed to the team in an attempt to gain a scoring edge, averaged 38% and 40% from the field.

And while Napheesa Collier made it clear she intended to play with Fowles one last time – and worked her way back 74 days after giving birth – the fact that she was back in the starting lineup and averaging 22.8 minutes per game to end the season showed the team’s desperation as much as her grit.

Looking forward

With Fowles setting off into retirement, eyes will turn to Collier as the next franchise leader.

And while it is nearly impossible to replace a player of Fowles’ caliber, the Lynx have a shot at the No. 1 overall pick in the draft lottery, which will give them the best possible chance to bring in a new face of the franchise.

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Everything in life comes to an end, eventually.

Perhaps no one knows that better than a mortician.

And a mortician also knows that we can’t always control when or how that ending occurs.

Sylvia Fowles, WNBA legend and funeral director, chose when her career ended. She decided that this was her perfect moment to exit the game, something she’s never wavered on. But how it ended — that was imperfect.

Her final contest included misses that caused her to scream in frustration, early fouls that sent her to the bench, and a comeback that came up short and eliminated the Lynx from playoff contention.

But an anticlimactic end doesn’t take away from the beauty of her career.

Fowles and Napheesa Collier, who returned to the court 2 1/2 months after giving birth to play with her teammate one last time. (Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In a perfect world, someone as impactful as Fowles has been to the WNBA would go out with a playoff run, maybe even a title. The Lynx, however, had their worst season since 2010, going 14-22 and bringing the franchise’s league-leading 11-game playoff streak to an end.

The season was rocky, but Fowles was stoic, putting up consistent numbers — she averaged 14.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per game — while maintaining a consistent attitude to match.

“Syl is awfully special,” coach Cheryl Reeve said following the season-ending 90-83 loss at Connecticut on Sunday. “I might have been really resentful through most of the season if I was Sylvia Fowles. I might have been really pissy. Syl has a hell of a lot more love in her body than most of us.”

The 15-year WNBA veteran poured that love into her teammates, coaches, fans, and even opposing players this season. She spent countless hours knitting personalized hats for her Lynx teammates, selecting plants for her coaches and putting together gift baskets for the trainers and staff.

Prior to her final game against the Sun, she stole moments out of warm-ups to give her goodbyes to opposing players.

Jonquel Jones approached Fowles, and the two engaged in conversation, full of smiles and laughs. When they embraced, one hug wasn’t good enough, and Jones pulled her back in for a second.

Then, Fowles made her way to Bria Hartley, who after injuring her ACL earlier this season was sporting crutches and a hefty brace. Fowles put her hands on the injured knee, rubbing it gently as if to invoke healing powers.

Fowles’ final game provided a glimpse of the person she’s been throughout her career, an identity Reeve knows well. Since Fowles joined the Lynx seven years ago, she and Reeve have won two WNBA championships together in 2015 and 2017.

When the coach subbed her star player out at the end of the game, the two embraced on the sidelines. It lasted for 10 seconds, heavy with emotion, as though they were both trying to capture eight seasons of memories in one hug.

“There will never be another Sylvia Fowles,” Reeve said, wiping tears from her eyes. “And it’s not just the 4,000-plus rebounds, which is awfully impressive. But it’s the way she did it. It’s the love she has for people, for the organization, and the love for me. Life is going to suck without her, big time. She’ll still be in my life, no doubt about it, but we won’t get to share in the battles, or the side eye that she gives me, or the suck the teeth that she gives me. I’m going to miss that.”

Fowles ended her career with a 10-point, 12-rebound double-double performance against the Sun. (Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It’s easy to get caught up in Fowles the person, but Sunday was also a reminder of the center’s unparalleled basketball legacy.

In her final game, she became the only player in WNBA history to record 4,000 regular-season rebounds. She also ended her career as the leading rebounder for both of the organizations she played for — the Lynx and the Sky. Fowles is a two-time WNBA champion, securing Finals MVP honors on both occasions, an eight-time All-Star, and the WNBA’s career leader in field goal percentage (59.7). At LSU, she became the program’s all-time leading rebounder (1,570), and also topped the record list for blocked shots (321) and free throws made (494).

And on Sunday, Fowles recorded her 193rd double-double, despite a disjointed game in which she sat on the bench for extended periods due to foul trouble.

While Fowles has become known for her gentle spirit and generosity, she expressed frustration following her final performance, showing the competitive fire that propelled her to greatness.

Despite leading the league in double-doubles this season and finishing her final game with 12 rebounds, 10 points, two steals and a block, Fowles still thought she should have done more. She still wanted to be better for her team.

“I was a little annoyed with myself because I had a s—ty three quarters,” she said. “I felt like I did my teammates a disservice.”

That single sentence is a cocktail of emotions. The love, the competitiveness, the sadness, the legacy all wrapped into one.

“I think that is something I will do later,” Fowles said of processing those feelings. “Most of my emotion right now is just to be grateful.”

And though Fowles has kept out of the spotlight for most of her career, the 36-year-old was glad she stepped into it this season.

“I appreciate the love that I got from the fans this year,” she said. “Put things into a different perspective for me. I never got that over my first 14 years of playing, so to see that all come together in my last year, I’m very grateful for that as well.”

But no matter how much love Sylvia Fowles received from the league and its fans, it still doesn’t compare to the amount of love she’s given over the years.

Like Reeve said, “Syl has a hell of a lot more love in her body than most of us.”

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

The Minnesota Lynx fell to the Connecticut Sun 90-83 on Sunday, eliminating the team from WNBA playoffs contention.

Minnesota’s loss made way for the Phoenix Mercury to clinch the team’s 10th consecutive playoff berth with one game in hand.

The Lynx’s defeat also marks the end of Sylvia Fowles’ career. The star center checked out of the game with seconds left on the clock, receiving an emotional embrace from coach Cheryl Reeve as she returned to the bench.

“I was telling her thank you,” said Fowles of the emotional farewell. “You never want to let a moment go when you appreciate somebody to let them know you love them. Cheryl has been everything that I needed to be successful and I’m grateful for that.”

Fowles notched ten points and 12 rebounds against Connecticut, capping off a prolific 15-year career in the WNBA that includes two league championships.

Her sixth board of the game made Fowles the first WNBA player in history to tally 4,000 regular-season rebounds, shattering records in her final appearance with the Lynx.

“There will never be another Sylvia Fowles,” coach Reeve said after Sunday’s game. “It’s not just the 4,000 rebounds, which is awfully impressive. But it’s the way she did it.”

With Minnesota out of playoff contention for the first time since 2010, the Mercury and the New York Liberty clinch the final two postseason berths, joining the Las Vegas Aces, Chicago Sky, Seattle Storm, Connecticut Sun, Washington Mystics and Dallas Wings in the postseason field.

Emotions were overflowing inside the Target Center Friday night as the Minnesota Lynx bid farewell to Sylvia Fowles.

Minnesota’s matchup against the Seattle Storm marked Fowles’ final regular season home game ahead of her forthcoming retirement.

Fowles was honored before tip-off alongside Seattle’s Sue Bird and Briann January, who is also set to retire at the season’s end. The star center, who has spent the last eight years of her 15-year WNBA career in Minnesota, addressed the Target Center crowd.

“What hit me the hardest in the ceremony was the fans,” Fowles said after the game. “Just listening to them scream and give me my flowers, shall we say. It was nice.”

Tears flowed as Fowles checked out of the game for the last time, with players on both sides overcome by emotion. Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve could also be seen with tears in her eyes as Fowles returned to the bench with two minutes left on the game clock.

“Sue and Syl, that generation, they took the baton from those that started the WNBA, and they took this thing to another level,” Reeve said following the emotional night.

The celebratory atmosphere didn’t necessarily translate on the court, with the Lynx falling to the Storm 96-69 in the team’s penultimate regular season contest.

Minnesota will now look for a win against Connecticut on Sunday to clinch one of the two remaining playoff spots. The Lynx must win, and Phoenix or New York must lose Sunday to book a ticket to the postseason.

The WNBA regular season is nearing its end, and so are the careers of two of the game’s best players.

Sylvia Fowles and Sue Bird will meet for the final time in the regular season Friday, as Fowles’ Minnesota Lynx host Bird’s Seattle Storm. In the coming weeks, each will step onto a WNBA court for the final time as a player. Still, the impact each has had on the game will remain.

Los Angeles Sparks forward and WNBPA president Nneka Ogwumike underlined the power of both players, which extends well beyond their stat lines.

“The legacy that they’re leaving – it touches so many young players that I can’t wait to see how that evolves in someone else’s game,” Ogwumike told Just Women’s Sports. “They’ve done so much for the league, so much for the culture, so much for certain franchises that are now living in history.

“I’m happy we can give them their flowers while they’re still going hard and hooping.”

As a young player, Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum looked up to the duo, who she said not only influenced her game but also made her proud to be part of a league like the WNBA.

“You can’t speak enough to what both of them have done in different realms of the sport,” Plum said.

Speaking at the WNBA’s All-Star weekend, stars from across the league pointed to Bird and Fowles as trailblazers, role models and leaders.

Chicago Sky guard Candace Parker has played against Fowles since she was 14 years old and matched up against Bird for the first time in college in 2006, but also has gotten to play alongside both as part of gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic teams.

“For me personally, they’ve made me better as teammates but also made me better competing against them,” she said. “It’s amazing to be able to honor them.”

For Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones, Fowles is “the toughest matchup” that she’s ever played against in her career.

“So strong physically. So dominant. A great finisher around the rim,” she said of the Lynx center. “She’s definitely someone that I look up to, someone that I try to model and shape my game around. She was the prototype of what success for a long time in this league looks like.”

Jones views Bird as a “prototype” for point guards in the league. The Storm star has helped shape the game both for the WNBA and women’s sports as a whole, Jones said.

“I’m happy to say that she’s a member of the WNBA and I’m a member of the WNBA with her,” she added.

When Fowles and Bird each were asked about the other’s impact, both focused on the strengths of the person – not the player.

“Sue Bird is everything this game needed: her leadership, her sisterhood, her friendship and just the things she does for the community,” Fowles said. “I think any young player, young point guard should have a good foundation of role models to go off of and Sue Bird is definitely one of those people.”

For Bird, Fowles’ care for her teammates sets the Lynx center apart from the rest.

“Sylvia is the one player I think in our league, when you see how her teammates interact with her, how they take to her – I know they jokingly call her grandma and whatnot – she really just has a certain nature about her that is so warm, so welcoming and so inviting,” Bird said. “I think the way that she impacts her team, the way she’s able to bring groups together, I can’t even think of another player that does it the same way Syl does.

“Believe me, I could sit here and talk about points and rebounds and championships and all of the things, but that, I think, is the secret ingredient that she has.”

Younger players, including Atlanta Dream rookie Rhyne Howard and New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, recognize how Fowles and Bird have elevated the WNBA.

“It’s pretty remarkable, what they’ve meant to our sport and to everyone,” Ionescu said. “Where they came from and where they’ve left the game is absolutely in better hands. We’re excited as younger athletes to continue to pave the way for those to follow but they’ve done an incredible job and their career has been nothing short of amazing.”

For Howard, Fowles and Bird have provided footsteps to follow.

“They’ve set the stone,” Howard said. “They’ve been and done everything that young rookies like me want to do. So just to have them to look up to is big.”

Seattle Storm star Jewell Loyd sees in the retirements of Fowles and Bird a call to action for those still in the league and those to come.

“They’re what it means to be a professional athlete. To be a role model. To be a leader,” she said. “They are a generational talent. It’s sad that they’re leaving but they’ve left their mark and it’s our job now to carry that through.”

When Sylvia Fowles stole the ball from Jackie Young in the middle of the second quarter of the WNBA All-Star Game last month, she dribbled the length of the court with a full head of steam. No one was in front of her — just an empty lane and the basket. A second later, Fowles leapt and stuffed the ball into the net with such force that it sent everyone in Wintrust Arena into a frenzy.

Especially the players.

“I think I heard, like, my teammates and the crowd and I was like, OK, just go for it,” Fowles, 36, told ESPN’s Holly Rowe after the game.

While the dunk itself injected much-needed energy into the building, the moment was also symbolic. Fowles last dunked in her very first All-Star game as a member of the Chicago Sky in 2008. This season, her last in the WNBA, she did it again — and in Chicago no less — putting a stamp on her illustrious 15-year career.

In the years since Fowles went No. 2 overall to the Sky in the 2008 draft, behind No. 1 pick Candace Parker, she has spent seven seasons in Chicago and eight with the Minnesota Lynx, receiving accolades, winning awards and setting all-time records along the way. She is a two-time WNBA champion with Minnesota, a two-time WNBA Finals MVP, a WNBA MVP, an eight-time WNBA All-Star and a four-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year.

As the 14-20 Lynx fight for a playoff spot in their two remaining games of the regular season, Fowles heads into the final phase of her career as the all-time record holder in defensive rebounds (2,855), total rebounds (3,982) and field-goal percentage (59.9 percent).

“I feel like the impact that she’s had on the game and the league, I feel like, just as a post player — I mean she’s changed the game when it comes to posts being able to be big, strong but also mobile,” says New York Liberty center Stefanie Dolson. “Finishing around the rim, I feel like she’s one of the greatest at that. At rebounding. Just everything in general.”

Dolson still remembers the first time she matched up against Fowles in the post. She calls it her “welcome to the WNBA” moment. Mike Thibault, her head coach at the time with the Washington Mystics, told her with a simple shrug, “Do what you can.”

“I did, and she killed me. She just dominated me,” Dolson says. “I realized I had to get stronger because I figured if that was what all post players were like, then it was gonna be tough for me. It’s made me a better player, a better post player.”

Fowles’ overall impact on the game and accomplishments are evident. But what makes her one of the most beloved and respected players in the history of the WNBA goes way beyond the boundary lines of the hardwood.

“Sylvia has carried the torch unheralded for a long time in this league,” says Connecticut Sun head coach Curt Miller. “She should be mentioned with the all-time greats, in sentence one. She probably has never really gotten the credit that she deserves. That’s how good she’s been. But also, everyone speaks so highly of her. To listen to players talk about her is just a credit to what a great teammate she has been.”

Mama Syl. Sweet Syl. Big Mommy.

These are just a few of the nicknames players around the league have bestowed upon Fowles. And with good reason. Anyone who has teamed up with her, or even played against her night in and night out, will gladly tell you why.

“It’s my dream (playing with her),” says Lynx teammate Damiras Dantas. “I dreamed one day in Brazil I’d come to this league. I watched Syl on YouTube, like videos of offense and defense, and now I’m here and it’s a good opportunity to learn something, play together. I come here every day and Syl teaches me something new — on and outside the court.”

Dantas has played five seasons with Fowles in Minnesota. (David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Dantas describes Fowles as someone who’s always dancing before games, having fun and lifting up others.

“I feel like she’s my mom,” Dantas adds. “She does everything right and she dominates post play, defense, rebounds. So for me, she’s the best post player in this league and the world.”

Jessica Shepard is quick to agree. The Lynx forward comes in every morning and receives a hug from Fowles. And when they hit the gym, Fowles shares lessons she’s learned along her storied basketball journey.

“Syl’s one of the most amazing people you’ll ever be around. She’s so caring with all of her teammates, and every day she’s checking in on you,” Shepard says. “And then you get on the court and you watch the greatest really every night. It’s fun to watch, and just being on the court with her makes [the game] a lot easier.”

Before Rachel Banham joined the Lynx, she spent four years playing against Fowles as a member of the Sun. Every time Banham had to run through a screen against Minnesota, she knew what was waiting for her on the other side.

“I remember we used to always double her and I was like, she doesn’t even feel me down here,” Banham says about Fowles with a laugh. “I was like a little ant. So that always made me laugh. I would tell her that after games and be like, ‘You didn’t even feel me down there, did you?’ I was a little rag doll.”

Now that they’re teammates, Banham has gotten to experience how the other half lives.

“It’s been really fun because she sets such good screens that I’m always open when I come off of ball screens,” she says. “And I can throw any kind of pass at her and she always catches it. I can throw it so high and somehow she always catches it. So that’s been fun. She just makes basketball easier.”

Danielle Robinson, Fowles’ former teammate with the Lynx and a current guard for the Indiana Fever, has nothing but good things to say about her. The two got to know each other during one WNBA offseason when Robinson was recovering from an injury. Fowles invited Robinson to come stay with her and train in Miami, where Fowles grew up and still resides.

“[She] welcomed me into her home and cooked dinner for us, and spent time. … This is her space, and you know how people love their space,” Robinson says. “For her to invite me down there — I think I was down there for like a week — just to see her regimen and how she trains and who she trains with. She took us to the beach and everything. It was just a cool moment.”

Once, when Robinson was holding an event in downtown Minneapolis to provide meals for the unhoused, Fowles volunteered to join her.

“She’s there for you and always willing to help,” Robinson says. “On top of that, she’s just the best person. Literally, you call her Sweet Syl for that very reason.”

“The first thing I think of is somebody with so much dominance and aggression that carries so much grace,” says Los Angeles guard Brittney Sykes. “She is an amazing human being. Like, I just love her so much. … She is the sweetest person ever. Like, the sweetest teddy bear.”

The Chicago crowd erupted after Fowles dunked in her last WNBA All-Star Game on July 10. (Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

In 2015, the Lynx faced the Indiana Fever in the WNBA Finals, and the series went to a deciding Game 5. Lindsay Whalen, former Lynx great and current head coach at the University of Minnesota, recalls head coach Cheryl Reeve drawing up four main plays. Three of them, she says, were for Fowles.

“And that’s why we beat Indiana,” Whalen says. “They just did not have an answer for Syl. She carried us. She really did. 2015 and 2017 are two examples where she just carried us to the championship.”

Whalen first connected with Fowles at Team USA basketball camp when Fowles was still with the Sky. The two had great on-court chemistry from the jump, fitting into their designated point guard-center roles seamlessly. Whalen knew exactly where to lob the ball into the post, and Fowles knew when it was time to screen and create a lane. Together, they won two Olympic gold medals at London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and naturally they became friends off the court as well. Once Fowles joined Whalen in Minnesota, their bond grew even stronger.

“She’s probably the kindest, nicest superstar that there’s ever been,” Whalen says. “I mean, she’s helping fold laundry after the games with the support staff and helping the managers organize the Gatorade bottle. She’s so down to earth, it’s pretty incredible.

“Our friendship continues even after our playing days. She’s someone who I’ll always look up to and admire. I’ll always consider her more than a teammate.”

Fowles and Lindsay Whalen won two Olympic gold medals and two WNBA championships as teammates. (David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

As the 2022 season winds down and Fowles’ retirement draws near, Whalen knows Fowles will miss the game but that new adventures lie ahead. And whatever Fowles goes on to do in her career — she earned her degree in mortuary science while playing in the WNBA — Whalen has no doubt in her mind that Fowles will be content.

“I know she’ll miss it, like we all do. You don’t get it back. And it’s such a big part of our lives for all of these years,” she says. “but I think she’s the type of person who will be successful in a lot of different areas and a lot of different things.”

For now, Fowles continues to excel at the highest level despite her age and the toll of running up and down the court for the better part of her life. If the Lynx are to make the playoffs for the 12th straight year after a slow start to the season, that road will likely go through Fowles, who is averaging 14.6 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 27.6 minutes per game.

“Nowadays, you’re seeing a lot of people spread the floor and shoot, but she dominates the block,” Banham says. “She’s a true five, and she’s so strong. She can rebound, she can score, she can block shots. She makes it really tough for people inside to figure out how to guard her and how to stop her.”

“Even now in her last year, she’s drawing double- and triple-teams and still finishing through that,” adds Robinson. “And I think that’s just a testament to how hard she works, honestly, and just the skill set that she has.”

Even before she set out on her farewell season, Fowles’ basketball legacy was firmly intact. But the impression she’s had on the players and coaches around the league will last far beyond her final game.

Lyndsey D’Arcangelo is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports, covering the WNBA and college basketball. She also contributes to The Athletic and is the co-author of “Hail Mary: The Rise and Fall of the National Women’s Football League.” Follow Lyndsey on Twitter @darcangel21.