Sylvia Fowles: The Journey To Becoming WNBA MVP

Mitchell Hansen
Web Editorial Associate
Twitter

The Minnesota Lynx and the WNBA announced on Thursday that Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles was named the league’s 2017 Most Valuable Player.

We take a look back at Fowles’ journey from being a No. 2 draft pick in 2008 to WNBA Champion, and now WNBA MVP in 2017.

From Chicago To Minnesota

Fowles broke into the WNBA in 2008 after spending four years at LSU when she was drafted by the Chicago Sky with the second-overall pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft.

In Chicago is where she began to assert her dominance and established herself as one of the top center’s in the WNBA.

Fowles ended up spending seven seasons with the Sky, until she was traded to the Lynx on July 27, 2015.

From the time she arrived in Minnesota, Fowles helped the Lynx take another step towards continuing to be a championship-caliber team.

But it wasn’t immediately the easiest of transitions for the center in joining a dominant team in Minnesota. She, along with her teammates, still had to figure out how to gel and work together as a unit.

“When I thought about coming to Minnesota (in 2015), they already had everything they could possibly need and I was just thrown into the fire,” Fowles recalled. “I didn’t want to step on anybody’s toes, I didn’t want to make anyone feel like I was trying to take over, I was just trying to fit in.”

After spending some time together, it’s safe to say things have ended up working out well for both parties. Fowles went on to be a huge part in helping lead the Lynx to the franchise’s second WNBA championship in her first season in Minnesota in 2015, earning her first title and being named WNBA Finals MVP for the first time in her career.

“It’s one of the reasons we got her in 2015. We gave up a lot to get her, but the organization and the team felt like that was important and it was. We needed her to come in and she was MVP of that series in 2015,” Lindsay Whalen said of Fowles. “That was kind of the start of it.”

From that point on, Fowles became one of the focal points in Minnesota. And her game only continued to improve.

Taking Her Game To The Next Level 

After having a full season in Minnesota in 2016, Fowles was ready to take her game to the next level in 2017.

In her 10th WNBA season, she did just that. And more.

Fowles began the 2017 campaign on a tear, racking up numerous Player of the Week and Player of the Month honors while gaining the attention of many people around the league.

“When Syl is locked in and she is being patient and she’s getting where we wants to go, I don’t think anybody can do anything with it,” Rebekkah Brunson said. “She’s an amazing player and I don’t think anyone in this league can stop her.”

She helped lead the Lynx to a WNBA-best 27-7 record during the regular season, forcing opposing teams to have to pick their poison when it comes to who they want to guard in the Lynx starting lineup.

“She has handled this season, the attention and the requests. She’s handled it. . . She’s gotten tougher and stronger. Which shows to her professionalism,” Maya Moore said. “What she’s been doing on the best team, it’s pretty unbelievable.”

In 2017, Fowles started all 34 games, averaging a double-double for the fifth time in her career, collecting 18.9 points per game and a Lynx-record 10.4 rebounds per game while averaging a career-best 1.5 assists, 1.29 steals and 1.97 blocks in 30.8 minutes per game.

She shot a career-high 65.5 percent from the field, the fourth-best field-goal percentage in WNBA history and second-highest by a Lynx player ever. Fowles finished the season leading the entire WNBA in field-goal accuracy, while ranking fifth in scoring, second in rebounding, second in blocks and 12th in steals.

Just take a moment to let all of that sink in.

Those numbers led Fowles to receive three Western Conference Player of the Month awards, which was most in the entire WNBA, and five Western Conference Player of the Week awards, which was the best in the conference.

“The way that Syl does it, that she’s so aggressive and pins you deep, there is just no other player that does that,” Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “As far as a dominant center, I don’t know if there is anybody that has been better than Sylvia in terms of her career. The sheer strength and force that she plays with around the rim.

“I think she is the best center that our league has seen through its 20-plus years.”

When Fowles arrived in Minnesota in 2015, she began to check career firsts off of her professional basketball bucket list, including winning a title and being named Finals MVP.

But there was one more thing she hadn’t accomplished yet. One more accomplishment she dreamed about since she entered the league.

Well, she can now check that off the list as well.

2017 WNBA MVP

With her numbers, accomplishments and everything in between, Fowles was clearly the most dominant player in the WNBA this season.

That was proven to be officially true.

The WNBA announced that Fowles was named the 2017 WNBA Most Valuable Player due to her historic season in 2017.

“I definitely want to say thank you to my teammates. It’s just a proud moment. All my hard work over the last 10 years has finally paid off. Getting the opportunity to work with my coaches, pushing me every day to be the best that I can be. I just want to say thank you guys for getting me to this point, because I couldn’t do it by myself,” Fowles said. “Thank you to the fans, I appreciate you guys here in Minnesota and across the globe for supporting me and just knowing what I stand for and what I do and all the hard work that I put in.

“Without you guys, I couldn’t do it. So thank you, it’s a proud moment for me to be standing here and to be named the 2017 MVP.”

Fowles received 35 first-place votes from a national panel of 40 sportswriters and broadcasters, which is the highest number of first-place votes received by a player since Elena Delle Donne had 38 in 2015. Fowles’ previous highest finish in MVP voting was third in 2011.

“We all know that Syl has been getting it done on both ends of the court,” Lisa Borders said Thursday evening at a press conference. “Let me round it out by telling you that sports journalists and broadcasters voted for all of our awardees, and in this particular case, Syl received 35 out of 40 votes. That’s an accomplishment in itself, which means there’s a broad consensus on who she is and what she’s done.

Fowles is the second member of the Lynx to win the WNBA Most Valuable Player award, with Moore being the first in 2014.

“It’s a body of work when you’re choosing MVP, I think,” Reeve said. “Although we live in a society of what have you done most recently, Syl was good for months before she hit some bumps in the road. And still, even through those bumps, she was still pretty darn good. . . The season she is having is one of the best in our league’s history.”

It’s been a long journey to get to where Fowles is today in Minnesota with the Lynx, a place and team she envisions finishing her professional career with.

The 2017 season hasn’t just hasn’t been a career year for Fowles. Now, it’s officially been an MVP year.

“I’m surrounded by a good group. My coaches and my teammates have helped me along this journey,” Fowles said. “I’m just going to continue to focus on the team and what the Minnesota Lynx are doing.”